Virtual FantasyCon – An Insight into Young Adult Fantasy

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An Insight into Young Adult Fantasy

Young adult fantasy is a genre readily enjoyed by readers of all ages despite its name. Just look at recent books that have shot to stardom like the Harry Potter series, or The Hunger Games, or The Mortal Instruments. Books for teens have exploded into the limelight, turning adults into rabid fans as well. However, at the heart of the genre the themes relating to the lives of young adults, even in a fantasy setting, is key.

Like any genre there are pros and cons to it and those may differ depending on if you are a reader or an author, or both. A big pro would be the amount of material out there. There are a lot of YA fantasy books. Also, lot of variety if you add in the sub or side genres and then you have reading gold.  A big con… this also gives authors and readers a lot to wade in and through to either find the right book or have your book found.

Readers can expect a lot of variety and there are two different takes on what angle YA fantasy (or even other genres… mystery, horror, supernatural, you name it) can approach the reader. Both approaches work well on their own merits. Either you can make the characters teens, like Harry Potter, and have their coming of age antics spur character and plot growth,or you can make the book readable by teens (think age appropriate themes, pg13), but have the characters more mature…act, react, and behave in far more adult scenarios (Think The Hunger Games). Of course, there is no 100% black and white on this, but most if not all books I’ve read fall into eitherof these angles. The commonality between them, especially in a fantasy setting, appears to be the slower march along the plot and a lighter introduction of details. You won’t find ten pages describing a chair in a house in YA anything. Teens, and even adults, just might not have the patience/attention span. Even The Hobbit may be too wordy for some of today’s teens.

Meshing the young adult themes with fantasy themes is richly rewarding for both the author and the reader. Fantasy by definition, has no boundaries. If you can imagine it, you can write or read it. Zombies, aliens, angels, witches, dystopian society, you name it, are all accessible to YA readers in a fantasy setting (for clarity, fantasy can also be linked to science fiction! Think Star Wars). However, when I study the YA fantasy books popular today I’ve noticed another binding element, realism.

Realistic fantasy has nothing to do with the idea that everything in the book must be real. There are loads of people who’d love to pet a unicorn, but not seen that yet. Realism in fantasy has everything to do with taking that fantasy world, whatever it is, and making it plausible, a seamless integration of the reader into the unreal world. This means fleshing out a world/universe to great detail, yet getting it across to the reader in ten pages or less (remember the chair?). Culture, religions, environment, races, music, writing, architecture, science, history, you name it. This is a difficult job for a YA fantasy author. The good ones do it very well and the great ones make rabid fans out of everyone.

Realism must also apply to characters and sliding into stereotypes and clichés is a pit of no return. Is it out there? Yes. Is it avoidable? Yes. Is it always realistic to avoid it? Nope. It’s up to the YA fantasy author to walk that line and walk it well so that the stereotypes and clichés do not overpower the plot and characters to the point of eye rolling and mic dropping. A great example of a stereotype that worked well is Hermione in Harry Potter as the nerdy-fact-bookish geek. Her role in Harry Potter was obvious. Give Harry (and the other ‘good guys’) the means to an end. Rowling kept Hermione from being eye roll worthy by giving her other roles to fill and other needs as a character. She evolved into a strong, independent, woman that could kick serious butt as well as memorize all the spells Ron needed for class.

Another side of realism is just how real to portray teens when they are the main characters/focus of the story. Drugs. Sex. Alcohol. Abuse. Gangs. Lies. Foul language. Cheating,etc. No one, even teens, denies those exist in our world. Some read fantasy to escape those realities and some read those realities because that is what can and does happen with teens in our world. There is a subtle divide on just how far to portray reality, especially in other genres and it is up to the reader and author to decide where the line is to be drawn. Should realistic portrayals of cultural and societal behaviors exist. Yes. Should it be forced onto a reader or author who doesn’t want it? No. Know that including such realisms is a personal choice as an author, and depending on what type of fantasy you are writing, it might not even be an issue.

In the end, YA fantasy is a thriving, vital part of the bookish world. The genre fills a need of teens (and adults) for age, character, and plot appropriate stories in a fantastical, but believable setting.

Biography:   Cheryl S. Mackey

Cheryl lives in Southern California with her husband and 2 sons. Her books The Unknown Sun and The Immortals parts 1 and 2 are both young adult fantasy and available at Amazon.

She has a MFA in Creative Writing and enjoys games, reading and, of course, writing.  She currently has a flash fiction story published online at The Prompt Magazine.

Her favorite genres to write and read is YA Fantasy closely followed by YA Paranormal and she would love to dabble in Sci Fi, Steam Punk, and Dystopian.irtual FantasyC

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Dying Thoughts by Joey Paul

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Dying Thoughts is a young adult mystery at its heart, but Joey Paul has made it so much more. It is a funny and entertaining story of young Tara’s ‘gift’, though she doesn’t consider it one. The first person narrative is neatly done and takes us on this journey in a sixteen year old’s shoes remarkably well. Tara’s introspective conversations are witty and does not grate (I’ve found that if not done well, it can ruin a book for you. It has ruined quite a few books for me.) But Joey has done a great job. Tara herself is very endearing and her relationship with her father seems very real. The mystery itself serves as a backdrop to Tara’s journey of self discovery, but is suspenseful and keeps you turning pages.

I think this book serves as a great introduction to Tara’s gift and how she realizes that she could be in a position to help people. I see there are more books about Tara Leverton’s adventures. I look forward to reading them. Five stars, Joey Paul!

The dry by Rebecca Nolen

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I haven’t read a book that kept me glued to it, in a while. This one did! The Dry was like an exciting combination of Stephen King and Tolkein. It reminded me a lot of the “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King, but in a style that children and adults could understand and enjoy.

The setting of the book is fantastical and the description, detailed. You can visualize and feel “The Dry” ambience, which permeates the book. This is not just a quest, it is also a coming of age portrayal of Elliot Sweeney, and how he learns, adapts and becomes stronger with each new monstrosity that threatens him. His little fellowship is quirky and endearing and you can’t help but fall in love with each of the characters. Even the bad guys (bugs or worse) have well developed personalities.

I am in awe of the creativeness of Rebecca Nolen’s mind. To create a fantasy that is terrifying but believable is true genius. An exciting read and a wonderful adventure!

Gran-sdur: The Games by Jan Raymond

Yup, my second book. It’s time for another review of mine. This a favorite written by one of my favorite authors, Christoph Fischer.

“Gran-sdur: The Games” by Jan Raymond is the second book in her magical and beautiful Pha-yul trilogy. This book follows the well established circle of five youngsters from volume one to new adventures and more training of their superhuman skills. The series reminds me in some moments of Enid Blyton’s charm with its wonderful sense of adventure and the likeable and well drawn characters. Only, our heroes are part alien and have powers such as tele-porting and they have a man who trains them to master their powers.
As the title suggests, this instalment concerns a competition which is held at Pha-Yul. What starts out almost like a summer camp for teenagers turns into something more serious. The group of five have all quite different and well drawn family backgrounds. Then there are the individual friendships and some courting which brilliantly come into play in the changing group dynamics and character development. Mastering the games together and overcoming their issues at the same time is the dual challenge.

This is a great second book that can build easily on the solid ground work of its predecessor. Apart from the action and adventure there is a lot of emotional wisdom in the book that makes watching those youngsters and following their progress such a rewarding reading experience. Thoughtful and with some great messages about being your best this should be popular with young readers and their parents.

Highly recommended.