It’s the beginning of the end, folks–for the Twilight series that is. As any Twi-fan knows, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 premiered last weekend, and it’s only a matter of time until “Part 2” wraps up the series in a happy little bow. Whether they like the Twilight saga or not, astute commentators must agree that those books changed the shape of teen literature, propelling paranormal romance, and vampires, to the top of the charts.
But have the blood-drinking sophisticates started to overstay their welcome? November 14th’s Hub poll determined that of all the trends in teen literature, “Vampires” was the one most Hub readers wanted to see go. So The Hub is here to ask the question “What next?” Towards which creature should we direct our adulation–or mockery? Who will put the stake in the vampire trend? Let’s examine the options.
Pros = Anyone who was a Team Jacob fan is already primed to accept werewolves with open arms. It’s no surprise that Maggie Steifvater’s Linger (Best Books for Young Adults 2010, Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2010) leaped onto the scene soon after Twilight, to great success. Werewolves as characters tend to have an automatic connection to the natural world which is very appealing for the environmentally-aware reader. Additionally, unlike vampires, the modern werewolf is not undead and does not have to feed on humans to survive, avoiding some of the disturbing elements about vampire/human romance.
Cons = Second-child syndrome. In books and films containing both vampires and werewolves, werewolves often come out looking like the uncouth little brother of the paranormal family. Vampires are cultured and sophisticated, with lace cuffs and large vocabularies, while werewolves are scruffy and disreputable. Can werewolves shake off this image to become charismatic lead characters in their own right?
Vampire-Staker Rating = Moderate
Pros = Unlike vampires, or even werewolves, mermaids and sirens of all types have not had enough exposure in pop culture to generate the familiarity that breeds contempt. Despite a rising number of books involving mermaid characters, they are simply not high-profile enough to create a movement of kooky fans. Books featuring mermaids get to feature beautiful oceanic settings, and may choose to exploit the automatic star-crossed-romance of characters coming from different and often physically incompatible worlds. For some great merman romance, try out Sea Change by Aimee Friedman.
Cons = Mermaids are the objects of fantasy, not for teen girls, but for elementary school girls. Hands up ladies–did you ever pretend to be Ariel when you went to the pool? Exactly. It may be hard to scrape the Disneyfied, jejune patina from the concept enough to make it edgy. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I don’t find scales sexy.
Vampire-Staker Rating = Low
3. Angels and Angel Derivatives (Fallen Angels, Nephilim, Demons, etc.)
Pros = Having angels and/or demons for protagonists automatically ups the potential drama level of any book by, like, 500%. Why? Because of awesome cosmic powers at war with each other! Angels (and some demons) also share some of the best characteristics of vampires: they are edgy, immortal, powerful, intelligent, and have great fashion sense. Plus, wings. I don’t think I need to say anything else. Try out Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (who got on the Teen’s Top Ten this year for Crescendo), and The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (among YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults 2010 and one of my favorites) for an intro to the angels/demons genre.
Cons = Cosmology confusion. Many religious traditions have their own–strong–beliefs about what angels are and what they can and cannot do. Messing around with the mythology of angels and demons can lead to reader alienation, cries of “but that’s not how it works,” and the feeling that writers don’t understand your religion. Not fun.
Vampire-Staker Rating: High
Pros = As we have mentioned before, more than once, zombies are hot right now. Maybe even hot enough to displace vampires in the pop culture arena. All you have to do is open up a computer to find zombie literature, television, film, events, products, art and fans. You may even have a zombie walk going on in your community right now.
Cons = As awesome as zombies are, they lack a certain … charisma. At heart, zombies are just shambling corpses out for your tasty brains. Mess with that, and things start to get weird. I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, but the idea of zombie/human romance gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies. If you don’t feel the same way, try out Generation Dead by Daniel Waters or I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer. Or, if you like your zombies bloody, read Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011) or Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee 2012).
Vampire-Staker Rating = Culture: Heck yes!; Romance: A thousand times no
Pros = Anyone who writes about the Fae has a huge well of folklore to draw on for inspiration. Many old fairy tales are obscure but awesome, deserving to be dusted off and brought out for admiration. The original faeries are more than just pretty flower ladies and elves who speak in rhyme–they are as capricious, violent, beautiful, and terrible as the forces of nature themselves. Wonderful candidates for a teen novel protagonist! For a cool faerie read, try The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (Teens’ Top 10 2011) or Tithe by Holly Black.
Cons = Sometimes tales of the fae adapt well to modern resettings, and sometimes they don’t. The original tales tend to gloss over detail and characterization, and an author who doesn’t work to add some meat to the story can risk some serious writing fumbles like characters falling in love for no reason.
Vampire-Staker Rating = High
Ready to stake the vampire trend? Check out this YALSA Popular paperbacks list on Zombies, Werewolves and Things With Wings.
Did I forget a key paranormal creature? Is paranormal fiction itself on the way out? Am I a horrible vampire-hater? Tell us in the comments!
— Maria Kramer