Sunday, August 31, 2008

A nice idea, but you're late for the funeral

An article in today's SF Gate does quick reviews of three YA novels involving dead main characters, or those who can speak to them: Zombie Blondes, ghostgirl, and Dead Connection. It cites Twilight, of course, as a big factor in the popularity of dead characters in YA lit.

It's not a bad article, but I have to wonder: Where has this writer been for the past three years of YA lit? Dead characters have, erm, risen in popularity over the span of a few years and even if Twilight had never been written they'd still be around. One of the discussions the "Dead, Dying, and the Undead" Popular Paperbacks subcommittee had at Annual was the shaping of the list. Did vampires and zombies belong on the same list as books like Dead Connection and Looking for Alaska? Did we want books that explored how people died, or just what they did after they came back to life? How could books about vampires compare to those about losing a friend? Do we want them all on the same list? I think it's really easy to look at the genre superficially and say, "Books about the dead/undead are popular because of Twilight," but that's way oversimplified. There were, are, and will always be popular vampire books in YA. They're probably an easier sell now because of Twilight, but that's not the only factor.

In YA, teens have been dying for decades for one reason or another. Despite this article's narrow view, there's a huge range of books about dead, death, and the dying in YA fiction these days. (In fact, that will be the featured October BCCLS Book Bonanza list.) Watch for a review of one coming shortly.

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