Monday, January 24, 2011

How Normal Is Paranormal?

I will be the first person to admit that I spend a bit too much time on Facebook. Mostly I just mindlessly scroll, toss out the occasional comment and hit the like button (often immediately after wondering, “WOW, did I REALLY just like that?!?!”). The other week I saw a status update from a guy my age agonizing about the fact that Barnes and Noble now has a “Teen Paranormal Romance” section. Within minutes, I was livid. How dare he degrade all YA paranormal novels! I bit my tongue at the time, because I didn’t want to cause a stink. Instead, I saved my rant for you guys.

Paranormal novels have been blowing up the world of YA literature ever since the release of a certain vampire book (hint: it starts with Twi and end with light). And is true that whenever I visit a bookstore, the paranormals take up their fair share of space. Some I’ve loved, such as Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Need by Carrie Jones and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, while others I haven’t been so found of, like the Twilight saga or Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I think every genre of literature has books that fall on every end of the spectrum, from rocking my socks off awesome to so unenjoyable that I don’t know whether to laugh or throw the book at the wall. Each one deserves a chance, but it’s also really easy for the same thing to get old quickly. While discussing trends in YA literature on Twitter, Andye of Reading Teen said something very intelligent about the YA genre.
I agree about paranormal, they’re all the same and getting old. It's rare there's a really good one!
I totally agree with this statement. It seems like we see the same few creatures over and over and a lot of similar formulas, like the classic murderous boy and girl who knows this but is drawn to him nonetheless. I spread out my paranormal reads so I don’t get sick of the genre, but by now, I can totally see why some people might resent the genre or go cold turkey. However, I think paranormal has its merits, especially among readers who might not pick up other genres.

For some people, Twilight isn’t just a novel, but something that encouraged them to check out other books. I believe Alex of Electrifying Reviews has said that this was the case for him. While most people learn to read at an early age with the help of board books and picture books, not everyone picks reading up as a hobby immediately, but for some people this changes once they find the right book. Jackson Pearce recently made a video about the Boxcar children and how “huge series books” can sometimes serve as training wheels for other books.

I love this video because Jackson talks about how engaging Boxcar Children was for her. I think for some people paranormal novels can serve a similar function (although admittedly, the paranormal novels are likely more substantial). Paranormal genres probably work for a lot of teens because many of them have characters their age in a contemporary setting, but also throw in a little bit of escapism. Some of us may be sick of them, but for a lot of readers, finding one book they enjoy, whether it’s Twilight or Crime and Punishment or something else entirely can be a springboard, and could get them experimenting with other genres and titles, which is totally awesome. Of course, it’s possible that the exact opposite can happen, which is where things get ugly. I will say that at least in the case of Twilight, my experience is that friends of mine who didn’t like it were already avid readers anyways.

Sure, a lot of us will probably dropkick the next fallen age, vampire or werewolf that comes our way, because we want something a little different. We’d like our bad boys non-murderous please, we want something original. But before we pull out our awesome ninja moves, let’s not forget the impact that a book we might wave off as a trend could have a very different impact on another reader.


  1. Awesome post, Liz! I myself am getting a bit tired of the paranormal (mostly vampire/werewolf/faerie) trend, but I don't think that people should hate on the genre just because of a few bad experiences with them.

  2. There's is a new indie publisher called Bitten Fruit Books working on bringing you original stories that will still appeal to mainstream readers - here's an upcoming YA Paranormal title by new author, Jane Dudeney

    Thanks for your very interesting blog post - a lot of food for thought :-)

  3. Interesting post. I still read a lot of paranormal, although I switch up my reading by reading other YA and adult books. I am a little tired of reading paranormal books that just focus on one thing - like just vampires. In my head if vampires exist then lots of other things can exist.

    I have to admit that Twilight did open up my Dad to reading. But Twilight isn't my number 1 recommended.

  4. I agree, for the most part. If the kids want to read paranormal, let them read paranormal. It's gateway reading, and may open up the world of books for them.

    As for paranormal, I can only read so much before I get bored with it.

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