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Tag: gary Ghislain

They’re Out There and They Look Like Us: Aliens in YA Lit

Photo Aug 05, 11 00 29 PMWhen I hear the words “space alien,” I admit I immediately think of little green men. Stereotypical, I admit. I’ve read many teen books where you know from the get-go it’s an alien because the alien doesn’t look human. He/she/it is often an exchange student or visitor from another planet, and the action takes place on Earth or on other planets. Kate Gilmore’s Exchange Student, Allison Goodman’s Singing the Dogstar Blues or Annette Curtis Klause’s Alien Secrets are examples.

I prefer books where the aliens pass for human and the characters don’t know that there’s an alien among them.

To quote from I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore:

We look like you.
We talk like you.
We live among you — but
We are not you.
We have powers you dream of having.

Quirk Works!

Quick! Pop quiz! The Princess Bride, Holes, The Phantom Tollbooth, and anything by Roald Dahl. What do these books have in common? They’re quirky! Witty, clever, strange, and wonderful. If you look up quirky in the dictionary will you not find The BFG, Willy Wonka, Inigo Montoya, Stanley Yelnats, or The Dodecahedron? I’ve already talked about how I love funny books, but I also love me some quirk. From kids’ picture books (hello Punk Farm!) to graphic novels to adult non-fiction, I appreciate some far-out weird in my stories. I’m looking to escape to different worlds with unusual, interesting people — and bonus if they’re funny and quick witted.

I think that modern YA fiction has become increasingly sophisticated. We’ve got a lot of the heavy and serious, the dark and foreboding, and, of course, the seriously romantic. This is not a bad thing. Perhaps as a result, though, newer YA books have less whimsy than, say, the books mentioned above. For that matter, they seem to be written to appeal to an older audience. Do YA books nowadays skew to more mature topics and sensibilities? I can imagine that writers, editors, and publishers are really trying to capture that older teen, knowing that they will still get that younger reader because many kids tend to read up. Those in the book biz are also doing a good job of capturing the adult reader these days, which might be further evidence of my assertion. So they’ve got tweens, the older teens, AND the adults. Great for business! Despite this, since there are roughly 5,000 YA books published every year, quirky and funny books are definitely in the mix somewhere.