Living in a dystopian wonderland. Is futuristic discontent replacing the vampire?

 

Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Blue Bloods are just a few of the many, many YA series based on the supernatural creature that have glutted the market. Publishers and agents everywhere swore off wanting to see any more Twilight-type manuscripts, and yet, it seems that these books kept popping up everywhere.

But although vampires themselves boast immortatilty, their characters may be reaching the end of their life-span as the go-to YA theme. Enter dystopia.

Hunger Games. Matched. Delirium. These are just three of the popular series that feature a dystopian society. If you don’t know what Hunger Games is about, you must have been stranded on a desert island for the past few months. As for the other two series, they both focus on a controlled society that makes decisions for the population about love and marriage. And for what it’s worth, they’re both beautifully written.

I love all three of these series (well, I’ll admit some disappointment in the Hunger Games ending, but I’m one of a few). I guess the books feel so different from all the contemporary and paranormal series out there.

The question is, do editors want more of the same? Or something else? The million dollar question is, what’s the next big thing?

I’m hoping it’s mobsters😉

Racist comments from fans of Hunger Games a big disappointment and begs the question – are we addressing race in YA novels enough?

I have to say, I was shocked to read some of the Twitter comments by fans who watched the Hunger Games movie and disapproved (and that’s putting it nicely) of Rue and Thresh being cast as African American (see story here). I was stunned for two reasons – I never pictured them as anything else (Collins clearly describes them as dark skinned in the book), and secondly, and I really thought we were better than this! We have such a multi-ethnic country, and because Panem is based on a futuristic North America , the fact that so many of the characters are white should be more surprising.

This opens the door for discussion of larger issues. Are teen novels doing enough to integrate race (and especially interracial relationships) into the mainstream? Is describing someone as dark skinned enough? How else was Collins supposed to emphasize that these characters were not white (because in a futuristic society, the term African American might not be a racial designation)? How clear do authors need to be?

In my new book, Danny’s best friend, Reggie Allen, is black. I try to clarify this on several occasions. This creates some uncomfortable situations throughout the trilogy. First of all, the mob is not known for its lack of racism, which makes the relationship between Reggie and Danny’s godfather, Gino, pretty strained. I don’t try to sugarcoat it, although I probably could have explored it even further. Also, Reggie has the biggest conscience of Danny’s group of friends, always reminding Danny of the “right” thing to do. In fact, when Danny wonders how Reggie knows who the district attorney is, Reggie first jokes that it was because he got in trouble, and then when Danny takes the bait, he then explains he actually met him through a debate competition. In this way, I had hoped to shed some light on how our minds work. Stereotypes can only survive as long as we let them. And apparently, people are still letting them.

Long story short, the comments on Twitter were a deep disappointment for me. No one can argue that racism no longer exists in this country if people are still saying things like this.

Speak out.

Isn’t she beautiful? Amandla Stenberg did a bang up job as Rue!

Shelter – Harlan Coben’s first Mickey Bolitar Novel thrills, captivates, and charms

Okay, so I have a soft spot for the paranormal, but because I enjoyed writing a series based on reality (check out www.teenmobster.com), I knew I had to expand my reading to include books that go beyond vampires, ghosts, and time travel. I can only tell you that reading Shelter by Harlan Coben was definitely a step in the right direction.  I’m happy that it sounds as though he’ll be using the same cast of characters he developed in this book for an entire series. In fact, I’m so impressed with Coben’s ability to create a suspenseful page-turner that I may even check out his mainstream novels. That is, if I ever get through the pile of YA still sitting on my Kindle!!!

If others have read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the the characters. Another thing I liked is the trailer for this book (check it out on http://www.harlancoben.com/). As a former recording arts major, this nailed it for me.

Okay, so it’s a bit of a lovefest for this book, but I’m a novelist, not a critic. Happy reading!