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YA Contemporary Fantasy?
Michael Guarneiri
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 2:48 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 29

I've recently uploaded a few chapters of my YA novel: Solomon Pierce and the Seven Vials of Armageddon (as you can probably tell, still working on the title). I'd love some feedback on the story itself, but more importantly, I'd love to hear what you find effective in such works. What contemporary fantasy elements work in YA novels? What don't? 
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 3:04 AM
I'm about to check your work out and review. Would appreciate a review of mine in return!

As for contemporary YA fantasy elements... really tough call. I've been in a teaching reading class that worked with a number of YA novels... one of them was Finnikin of the Rock. Supposedly, it is a very successful YA fantasy book... However, I found the characters to be stock and plot relatively predictable... She did do a great job of emphasizing her theme of family throughout the novel though. It's hard to say what works... I think in the end it comes down to your original idea and the creativity with which you present it. If your target is YA, then you have to find a way to appeal that level through said creativity.
MB Mulhall
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 3:48 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 81

I will read and review soon for you.

I think when it comes to YA in general, there needs to be some kind of coming of age of the characters. Kids are learning so much about themselves at that point in life that it's kind of hard not to have that growth. It doesn't necessarily have to be a good growth, maybe they learn that they're not like everyone else and it's not a good thing. Or they learn that they can accomplish things if they put their mind to it, etc.

Make sure the dialog is age appropriate, unless you have some super intellectual character, they will probably use slang and fragments and whatnot.

If they have some kind of power, it's probably not going to be as developed as a teen (unless they are some special kind of case). It's another thing for them to learn about. Also as teens they're probably not going to win every scuffle or debate due to lack of experience.

Christie Renzetti
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 7:43 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 7

I really enjoy YA fantasy.

Rick Riorden (I probably butchered the spelling of his last name) who does the Percy Jackson books is one of my favourites.

I'm also partial to Cassandra Clare, she did The Mortal Instruments series and her new series starting with The Clockwork Angel.

On the fluffier side is Richelle Mead and the Vampire Academy books.

There are more I like, but I picked those three, because I honestly feel they are the strongest of what I've read (barring the 800 pound gorilla of JK Rowling).

What they all have in common and really keeps me reading is relatable characters. Yeah, sure, they're teens in some really unusual circumstances, but they still care about the things that teens care about. School, boys/girls, bullies, getting teased, insecurity, and the ever important question when growing up: Who am I?

On top of all that, they have to struggle through some additional difficulties that your average young adult (okay, so I'm not that young, but please don't remind me!) never has to deal with.

Sure, they make mistakes along the way, but they are always learning and growing. They figure out what is important to them and they act accordingly. They're believable and you care about them.

The above authors also did a great job of capturing the newness of all these experiences. I remember how intimidating it was to go to my first school dance (traumatic!) and sure, now *cough* many years later, it's no big deal. But then it was HUGE. The nervousness and constant questioning - what if I do something wrong, what if my hair is bad, what if I look dumb when I try to dance, maybe I shouldn't try to dance - is something that we lose site of when we get older.

I think it really makes the story live when that feeling can be captured, and more importantly overcome while the main character learns to take themselves a little less seriously and accept that they won't ever be perfect and that's okay.
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 8:12 PM
I loved MB's take on YA literature... mainly because it doesn't mean that YA HAS to be about vampires and hot shot heroes, but can go back to a Tolkien framework if the proper things are emphasized about the main character....

1) coming of age for characters- it happens in Tolkien and high fantasy, it can happen in a more contemporary YA even if we want to have elves and dwarves.

2) dialogue being age appropriate- i think if your main character is a kid, you can easily accomplish this (as their reactions to more intellectual statements might also dictate the voice of the YA novel)

3) Powers not as developed- I think we dream of making our heroes untouchable... but look at any good fantasy book that has appealed to a YA audience... A part of why we love Harry is because he gets hurt, his feelings, physically, he messes up, he gets angry with his friends... etc. A good YA, high fantasy novel can incorporate a character that is lovable, but a far cry from perfection with plenty of room to grow.

I thought those points were a great breakdown, MB.
Michelle L Ross
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 12:43 PM
Joined: 5/8/2011
Posts: 9

I, too, enjoy a more Tolkien like framework. And one only has to spend time with teens to pick up on their dialogue and the fact that they do mess up a lot. Put in a manuscript real life problems that they face, such as a boy whose voice is changing having his voice crack just as he is talking to the girl he really likes, and it's going to resonate with that crowd. I also like how Tolkien and Rowlings made their main characters need outside help. They were not so powerful that they could do everything on their own.

Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011 9:18 PM
Joined: 6/15/2011
Posts: 10

I think you all make some good points about YA books - as a writer of YA contemporary fantasy myself there is some stuff there I want to consider.

But I think that one interesting thing someone said is about the characters not being so powerful that they can do everything on thier own, and needing help.

For me I think that is the starting point - but I also think that a good YA book has that to start with - but by the end the character should be able to stand alone - because that is part of the 'growing up' - it is that moment of moving from being a child to being a young adult and standing on your own two feet.

The best YA books do that I think. Take Harry Potter - throughout the series Harry always has people helping him, but in the end he must stand alone against Voldemort.

Just my two pence.

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