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Tag: genre-blending

Is This Just Fantasy?: Defying Genre!

Just Fantasy defying genreGenre is a funny thing.  While it’s often easy–and frankly helpful– to divide novels into their neatly labeled slots based on basic characteristics such as setting and plot.  However, stories–like human beings–resist being placed into boxes and novels that blur the lines between genres consistently bring something unique to the table.

Today I wanted to highlight recent titles that experiment with two genres often perceived as polar opposites: contemporary realistic and fantasy fiction.  Frequently, such titles are classified as magical realism.  This category is fascinating and tricky to define but generally, it includes novels set in a world like ours but with certain magical elements as a natural part of that world; magical realism usually does not include world-building or explanations of its magical elements.  For a larger overview of the genre and its place in young adult fiction, I recommend this excellent post by Kelly Jensen & Kimberly Francisco over at Stacked.  For further explorations, check out Hub bloggers Julie Bartel and Alegria Barclay’s posts in memory of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the authors most often identified with magical realism.

While I’m not sure that all these titles fit the generally accepted definition of magical realism, they all use strategic fantastical elements to illuminate contemporary stories about young adults’ coming of age in a world like ours.  Each title defies common genre expectations and none fit comfortably into a single category.  Instead they bend, reject, and flirt with multiple genres to create something unusual and compelling.

afterworldsAfterworlds – Scott Westerfeld

In between final exams and college applications, Darcy Patel wrote a novel and sent it off to a publisher on a whim.  Now, she’s moving to New York City with an amazing book deal but without an apartment, friends, or any idea what’s waiting for her.  As Darcy navigates the thrilling and overwhelming new world of professional writing & publishing, she also attempts to ride the ecstatic highs and heart-crushing lows of falling in love for the first time.

Meanwhile, the protagonist  of her paranormal thriller, Lizzie Scofield, deals with the strange new abilities she’s gained since surviving a terrorist attack by playing dead and slipping temporarily into another reality known as the Afterworld.  Told in alternating chapters, Darcy and Lizzie’s stories intertwine as both young women venture into adulthood and face unfamiliar decisions.

This intriguing novel could be classified as contemporary fiction with an embedded paranormal thriller but I prefer to think of it as a form of metafiction; after all, it’s a story about a writer beginning to sort out her emerging identity by writing a story about a young woman doing the same–just with death gods and ghosts.

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Is This Just Fantasy?: A Magical Mystery Tour

Just Fantasy icon magical mystery tourYes, I went there–I titled my reoccurring feature on fantasy fiction with a lyric from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  But, I swear I have a reason beyond a personal enjoyment of seemingly random pop culture references.  Allow me to explain.  I love fantasy fiction; it’s one of the few genres I’ve faithfully read from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.  Since my first journey into Narnia guided by my mother’s expressive reading voice, I have consumed fantasy fiction of practically every type, style, and sub-genre.  I have dressed up as Hermione Granger, nearly hyperventilated upon meeting Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, and Kristin Cashore, and disappeared for hours at a time into a faraway fictional world, only to emerge simultaneously invigorated and exhausted.  And that’s all just the last five years.

However, my deep affection and passion for this genre is not shared by everyone.  Last week,  I co-wrote a post with brilliant fellow fantasy fan Chelsea Condren in response to British novelist Joanna Trollope’s disparaging comments about fantasy fiction.  While we worked to counter Trollope’s specific arguments, rushing to the defense of fantasy is sadly not a new personal experience.  This genre–and its many offshoots–is all too often viewed as ‘merely escapist,’ ‘unconnected to the real world,’ or ‘lacking in substance.’  But as Chelsea and I tried to express, the depth and complexity present in fantasy fiction cannot be so easily dismissed.

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Wait — What IS This Book, Anyway? Genre Blending in YA Lit

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

Mysteries. Science Fiction. Historical Fiction. Steampunk. Paranormal Romance. Action-Adventure. These are some of what we in the book and library industries call “genres.” Genres help us organize and identify books for readers. If you like an author or a series of books in a certain genre, chances are you’d like other authors and series in the same genre. Easy, right?

People, and not just librarians, organize like things together for one simple reason: It makes them easier to find. “Where are your mysteries?” is a question I am frequently asked when I am working the information desk. “Where do you keep the historical fiction … and what is that anyway?” is another. (What is historical fiction — that’s another blog post entirely!) Up until recently I’ve been able to point to a label on a book and say, “Look for these on the shelf,” or point to a whole shelf and say, “They’re all right there,” or hand over a list that has been painstakingly created and edited by a team of librarians who know mysteries or historical fiction or fantasy or paranormal romance better than anyone else because that’s their favorite genre. But lately I’ve been noticing that many young adult novels don’t exactly fall neatly into one genre or another, and this has been both confusing and exciting.

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