Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Light Confessional: Hallelujah, I've had a breakthrough!

You guys! I've had a breakthrough! Ever since I started reading YA, I've vastly, VASTLY preferred contemporary over paranormal or dystopian. I like some fantasy here and there, and there are the occasional dystopian or paranormal I really enjoy ("Divergent," the Vampire Academy series), but by and large, contemporary is where it's at for me. But I could never quite put my finger on why I like contemporary better than the other genres. When trying to explain this preference to others, I always fumbled for a response and settled for 1) I feel like I can relate to the characters more, and 2) There's less insta-love. Which are both very true for me, but I never felt like I was getting at the heart of the matter.

So flash forward to now. Last night I finished reading a paranormal YA/myth retelling, and as I was mulling over my thoughts on the book, trying to pin down my feelings about it, I finally hit on just what it is I prefer about contemporary YA: They take time to explore the relevant issues.

I'd been getting frustrated with more and more YA dystopians/paranormals recently without quite being able to express why I was dissatisfied. But now I've realized that it's because I feel like they pass up so many chances to more deeply explore the underlying issues or make a character more layered, all in favor of going after the more exciting plot twist. And I realize that not all dystopians/paranormals are this way (why hello, "This Is Not a Test" and "The Scorpio Races") and that there are plenty of contemporary YAs that only skate over the surface. But as a generalization, I find that contemporaries are more often willing to dig deeper in to motivation and character growth and all that jazz, where as dystopians and paranormals are more about being exciting and throwing plot twists at you and having everything be super dramatic and life changing. And that's fine. That's the genre. But it's not what I prefer.

I'm not trying to knock dystopians or paranomals here. Everyone has their opinions and preferences, and they're welcome to them. But when I read, I want to come out of the book with a sense of emotional satisfaction, and I find I get that much more often with contemporaries than I do with the other two genres. I mean, do I need to say anything more than "Jellicoe Road" to prove my point?

Any thoughts about why you prefer one YA genre above the others? Or think I'm totally off base here and have got tons of YA dystopians and paranormals that prove me wrong? 


  1. I also prefer reading contemporary YA. The characters feel more real to me, and I like reading about real life situations. I would choose character development over plot twists any day.

    I'm not really into dystopians because the characters and situations (and settings) are so made up that I don't believe them. If I don't believe it, then I can't feel any connection to what is happening.

    For me, it all comes down to me being able to relate to the characters and situations, and contemporary does that for me.

  2. Heh. I tend to list the other way for the same reasons!

    I just finished a third contemporary in as many weeks that left me downright mad at the lack of exploration and the missed opportunities. For some reason, when I finish a contemp less than satisfied it's more enraging than when a spec fic title leaves me cold. Go figure. It may have something to do with basically cutting my teeth on fantasy/scifi, but there it is.

    JELLICOE is, of course, brilliant. As is SUCH A PRETTY GIRL, RAW BLUE, MY HEARTBEAT, and HONEY, BABY, SWEETHEART. To name a few. :)

    But for better or worse FIRE, SCORPIO RACES, HOW I LIVE NOW, and THE DEMON'S LEXICON own a bigger chunk of my heart at the end of the day.

  3. I think it might all be in the realm of personal preference. What you call taking time to explore the relevant issues other would call slow pacing. Both genres have their strong points. I think with paranormal/dystopian they have to spent time world building so there is less space for character development whereas contemps don't have the same constraints. I love both genres so no complaints from me though. Glad you finally pinned down what was bugging you.


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