Monday, 15 August 2011

Guest Post: The Normality of The Paranormal

Following on from all the blogger love I'm feeling at the moment, I've decided to ask a few of my favourite bloggers to do some guest posts for a bit of fun and some well deserved exposure. Given that I recently did a rant about the YA bashing I've encountered, I thought the first cab off the rank should be Nick from For Starved Novelist and Book Bingers. Nick's blog is hilarious and though his rapier wit isn't for everybody, I love that he's brave enough to put it all out there. And he does it respectfully which I can appreciate as opposed to just flipping me off without knowing a thing about the books I read. Take it away Nick!

Hey all,

If you were followers on my blog, I’d call you “loves,” but you’re not my followers. You belong to Lan. It’s very True Blood. She’s Bill, you’re Sookie, and I’m Eric. Although, who’s been watching this season? Looks like Lan might have some competition, but this is only a metaphor and alas I have not lost my memory to witchery thus you’ll probably stay Lan’s followers. Then again, this isn’t True Blood, so you could become my followers too. Oh, I don’t know if any of that made sense and nor do I care.

Here’s the point about the above: True Blood is a paranormal television show. I love it. I do not love paranormal literature, but I hear you do. I thought a good way to get more followers would be to savage their most prized reads. No?

Here’s why I don’t like Paranormal lit: they’re normal to nausea, especially YA paranormal. Put down your spell books and silver bullets. I have reasoning. It seems every paranormal paperback I pick up is more of the same. The cover features some pale female with glitter smacked lips or batted eyelashes or maybe she’s turned away, because her life is just so stuffed full of phantom turmoil/erotica. The story usually consists of someone coming to a new town and in said new town there are hidden supernatural beings or a supernatural being is the one coming to town. The supernatural one has an air of danger, but is irresistible (on a side note, that last sentence would accurately describe my affair with Lifetime’s Dance Moms). A romance ensues. I can’t love you. But you must! Yak.

You’re playing to stereotypes! Okay, maybe I am, but this is the impression I received from Twilight and Shiver and Blood & Chocolate and Paranormalcy and Hush Hush and Beautiful Creatures and Nightshade and Wicked Lovely and The Vampire Diaries and Wake and House of Night and Vampire Academy and blah blah blah.

I’m not pegging every paranormal book as following this formula, because I do love some paranormal lit. Breathers, a zombie love story, is one of my favorites. The difference between Breathers and the other titles listed above is that Breathers is smart. It doesn’t use the paranormal to dazzle, but to reveal truths about society. This includes the undead anonymous meetings, a rotting corpse obsessed with cosmetics, and the big question: do humans find success and progress in eating each other alive? Other favorites include Let the Right One In, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Southern Vampire Series.

So what do you think? Am I an idiot? Am I judging the listed books unfairly OR do you simply enjoy what I find redundant? Got any other titles to help persuade me… to the dark side? Yeah, I said it. Sorry! Let me know all this and more in the comments! Follow @ .For Starved Novelists and Book Bingers

Thanks for reading,

There you have it guys, Nick's take on Paranormal YA. I know you're all itching for a rebuttal and I don't want to stifle anyone, but since we're all friends here, I only ask that you play nice :)


  1. I'm going to kick off this discussion by saying, you seem to know a lot about paranormal YA for someone who doesn't care for it Nick, purely for research though right? I agree that paranormal YA does have a very formulaic pattern and sometimes it's hard to tell one book from another, but it's these similarities that are often appealing. If I pick up a paranormal book, I know I'll be in for some kind of adventure and if it happens to be a bit different and surprise me then all the better. I've been reading too much dystopian and contemporary lit to be able to recommend anything to you and you've already bagged and tagged Vampire Academy as not to your tastes, so no help there. But c'mon, you have to admit that paranormal YA makes some good TV. If not for the paranormal drama then at least for the hot guy potential. I know you're not immune to that Nick my love.

  2. I agree with Nick that a lot of YA Paranormal, post-Twilight, is more of the same. Usually you can tell by the covers that look similar to the Twilight covers and the blurb that says "For lovers of Twilight!" There's hundreds of them, it seems. However, the books/series that Nick listed are the most popular ones in the genre and I think part of the reason they have become popular in an over-saturated market is because they have something different or unique to recommend them. I haven't read them all, but of those I have, I would say:

    Shiver: is beautifully written, almost lyrical and creates such an atmospheric setting. The story/plot, I agree, is not ground-breaking, but the writing makes it special.

    Vampire Academy: is unique among YA Paranormal series as there are no humans involved; it is purely about a supernatural society. The world and the rules of the moroi and the dhampirs is complex and interesting and does pose difficult questions. And it has Rose, who is a strong heroine, bratty, but brave and self-sacrificing, too.

    The Vampire Diaries: OK, so this one was written 20 years ago and it shows (it has more in common with Sweet Valley High than the kind of YA written today) but there's the nostalgia factor for many and, well, it's not necessary to read them, but it did inspire the TV show which is not to be missed!

  3. Great post! The paranormal YA genre is rather over-saturated at the moment, and I'm not thrilled about it - but not because I dislike the genre; I love it. It's just an unfortunate reality that the overall quality gets muddled by the sheer quantity. Point being that, out of the list you mention, I'd only recommend Vampire Academy and Nightshade. I didn't like any of the others; in fact, some of them made me want to take a spork to my eyeballs.

    Other excellent YA:
    - The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong. Great characters, crisp writing, and not your typical plot.
    - Misfit by Jon Skovon. Starts out a bit slow, but evolves into a solid, unique story with enough layers to keep a jaded philosopher like myself intrigued. Plus, best YA love interest I've read in ages.

  4. As someone knew to reading YA- I thought the same thing at first. What intrigues me about it is how unrealistic it is. Sometimes, the book I'm looking for is purely for escapeism and nothing fills that better for me than some YA.

    That being said, I am not hardcore yet, and haven't read as much YA as probably every other follower Lan has, but there's just a little magical something about it that persuades me to order books like Iron Knight into my local library.

  5. Wow! What great responses!

    As a writer, I have to make myself aware of trends and what's hot in the various markets in order to make myself marketable when I do start to query again. Perhaps this is why I have a distaste for the YA Paranormal? It is SO over-saturated right now, as BJ said. It's to the point where some literary agents are putting "don't send anything with vampires" in their submission guidelines. Hopefully this dying down will make way for only the best paranormal to be published for some time until the trend rises again.

    I'll definitely check out all your recommendations! Might not be my thing, but my mind is closed to nothing.

    Thanks again for reading!

  6. Yeah, I can't say much because despite the fact that I'm sick of reading the same formula in practically every YA paranormal book these days, I keep reading them! However, once in awhile, I find some great reads amongst all the crap. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready was amazing! So, you just can't give up.

  7. Haha loved this post, so I started following Nick on his blog :)

    Completely agree with him about the paranormal books, in YA at least (I don't really read any 'adult' paranormal books). Most of them are mildly amusing (which is the reason why I can't seem to stop reading them ... that and the fact there are *some* that are just complete trainwrecks that I *have* to read them, haha), but they all seem to follow a formula that YA paranormal authors don't normally deviate too far from, which Nick has already described. When I read YA paranormal these days, I don't set my bar too high anymore ... not sure if that's good or bad.

    But oh well ... who was it that said that authors have to read all kinds of books in all kinds of genres in order to become a better writer? I think it was Stephan King or something, but I'm probably wrong. Anyway, I agree with that -- gotta read a bit of everything (it's why I don't really understand people who pidgeon hole themselves to one genre but that's their choice).

    I'm curious as to Nick's opinion on the new dystopia phase in YA as well. Most of the ones I've read range from awful to "this is okay". I think dystopia is becoming the new paranormal :X I *do* read 'adult' dystopias, so when I read a YA dystopia that disappoints, it feels ... extra disappointing.

    Anyway, LOVE this discussion, it's awesome :) Keep it up!

  8. Thanks so much for following, Jenny!

    Yes, Dystopia is the new black. I love books like 1984, Never Let Me Go, and Brave New World. I like Dystopia more than Paranormal via personal preference and in that while under the same genre, the stories do differ quite a bit. I have yet to really divulge in YA Dystopia. Haven't even got to The Hunger Games yet! I gotta read that and I've also heard good things about Matched, Divergent, Wither, and the upcoming Shatter Me.

  9. Nick: Read The Hunger Games! I would love to hear your take on it. We've had quite the discussion about the ending and I always welcome more HG talk.

    I love how we all say this genre is the new vampires and so on, but really, there are cycles of popularity in book genres all the time. It just takes one hugely popular book to propel a genre into the limelight and a swag of imitation authors to cash in on that success, thereby producing a glut in the market and ensuring genre fatigue. Let's just hold out until something else takes the vampire and dystopian book's place. My bet is steampunk!

  10. Steampunk makes sense! It would be a nice easing from Dystopia as they are somewhat similar.

    I'd like more dramatic works to rise up again, stuff like Speak, Looking for Alaska, Thirteen Reasons Why, Before I Fall, and If I Stay. Although they're more literary and I don't think literary ever really goes out of style, but is just hard to accomplish. There really isn't a formula for poignancy.

  11. I'm with you on Steampunk being the next trend. It's fun, creative, and the man and machine themes are very relevant. Plus...clockwork. Corsets. Wicked cool gadgetry, a dash of dystopia, the occasional werewolf... Yep. Lots to love. :)

  12. I agree, but for different reasons. I am a fantasy/dark fantasy lover first. I don't mean the urban vampire fantasy that is called dark. I mean epic bloody battles with anti-heroes who are deep. That being said I still like, sometimes love my urban fantasy, and anything... different.

    That being stated I think YA Paranormal is far too simplistic. Teens, at least I always wanted more. It always felt like it scratched the surface of what it could be. However after reading a huge tome of something very deep I usually pick up a quick read, like a YA novel.

    I would like to see more books for twenty somethings.

  13. Hey, I LIKED Beautiful Creatures and Wicked Lovely(the first two, anyway, I gave up after the third, which was getting into Faerie politics). BC has humour unusual in this sort of book. The Deep South town run by the DAR and everyone over sixty still reliving the Civil War (whoops, the War Of Northern Aggression). I liked that the whole curse was because someone did something stupid a long time ago, that the heroine doesn't know whether she's going to be naughty or nice after her birthday, that it's seen from the boy's viewpoint. Wicked Lovely was well-researched, I knew those folklore books she read, I used many of them for my own research for Wolfborn. I liked the tattoo culture among the Faerie, which may have been because the author is a tattoo fan, but worked, somehow. I liked the fact that the Summer King was a pain in the rear end who didn't automatically get the girl.

    I do agree about the rest of it.


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