One interesting publishing trend that I have recently noticed in teen literature are traditional fantasy themes being paired with another genre. [For more “one genre plus something else” examples, check out our recent post, “Love Plus: YA Books with More Than Romance” –ed.] It is a trend I am really excited about because the books that are being published don’t seem like they are trying to capitalize on a single trend (vampires, werewolves, dystopias). In contrast, these recently published novels are the trendsetter themselves! Want some examples? Check out some of my top picks for recently published genre-bending teen fantasy novels:
Fantasy + Historical Fiction
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Hester knows that she cannot have children, since all the women in her family die shortly after childbirth. What she doesn’t know, however, is that her family is cursed. Told in alternating chapters, Monstrous Beauty tells the tale of how modern-day Hester discovers the truth of her ancestry while also unveiling the story of the mermaid Syrenka. Set during colonial time, Syrenka’s story is one of a gruesome and devastating love story.
Mermaids are a trend that seems to have been trying to be the next big thing in teen literature for a while now. One novel that I think really got this right was Monstrous Beauty. Fama uses the trend of mermaids, but offsets the current-day plot with a secondary plot set in the colonial era. The result is a complex and interesting story, alongside rich descriptions of settings both in and out of the water in both time periods. The incorporation of the historical setting definitely helps this mermaid novel stand out among the rest!
Fantasy + Dystopian
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Adelice has been chosen as a Spinster because she has the ability to weave the threads that make up the reality of her world. This title is usually welcomed as a highly esteemed honor, but Adelice’s parents have been teaching her to hide her unique gift. As a result, she is taken away from her family in a violent way. What follows is Adelice’s immersion into the new world of Spinsters — a world that is filled with opulence, deceit, and danger.
Dystopian novels are huge right now, and rightfully so. They are exciting and action-packed, and they provide an escape that allows us to question what would we do in the main character’s place. It’s easy to picture what it would be like to fight back against an evil government or dictator. However, what happens when in addition to the tyranny, you lived in a world like no other? That is what happens in Crewel. We are taken away to a world where reality is created by spinning strings into a weave of time and place. It is an exciting world and one that elevates the typical dystopian problem to that of a unique fantasy read.
Reality with a Touch of Fantasy
Every Day by David Levithan
A’s reality is this: each morning A wakes up in a new body. For 24 hours, A gets to inhabit this body and live the life of that person. A does not know why this happens, or how to stop it. This has how it has always been for A, and A has learned how to survive by a strict set of rules. When A wakes up in the body of Justin, however, something is different. A meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, and cannot let go of her when A wakes up in another body. A starts breaking the rules and starts falling in love with Rhiannon.
Every Day allows us to examine how gender dictates our actions, feelings, and decisions. Levithan uses just the right amount of the fantasy of A’s unique ability to change bodies to keep the novel reading like realistic fiction. The result is powerful, because we forget that A’s ability is fantastical and we begin to question: how do I feel about A, what would it be like to be A, and what is it that we really do love about someone else? Is gender definition necessary when it comes to love? Or do we love who we love? With his touch of fantasy in this love story, Levithan creates an affecting original novel.
I think genre-bending fantasy is a very exciting trend since some really creative novels are being published, versus a copycat novel of the latest big blockbuster. Seeing and reading novels like the ones I listed above gives me the a sense that we are coming out of the mindset that authors and/or publishers have to be capitalizing on the latest trend. What do you think? Do you have some examples of genre-bending fantasy novels?
— Colleen Seisser, currently reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
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