Originally posted on Great Stories, 24 July 2009
So, what is it about paranormal and urban fantasy that appeals so strongly to teenagers?
Bookstore shelves are groaning under the weight of these series – mostly involving vampires.
Of course, the better ones can be equally enjoyed by adults, but there’s no denying most of the bestsellers target the YA market.
Yes, there are the usual YA elements: the coming-of-age angst of finding acceptance, falling in love and finding meaning in life … but why are these aspects so much more appealing to teens when woven into a story about vampires and werewolves?
Is it a natural progression from classic horror stories (I certainly spent plenty of hours reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub as a teenager), even if most of the new breed of stories aren’t actually about horror?
Or is it a symptom of something else? A need to live – albeit fleetingly – in a world where there is more to reality than we can see? A place where greater forces are at work and ordinary teenagers can discover they have epic destinies?
Which leads to me to wonder if these stories are, in some bizarre way, replacing religion (there’s no denying the religious-like zeal associated with the Twilight series). I’m not talking about urban fantasy themes as a doctrine, but as an experience.
In these alternate worlds, there’s meaning in life, death and suffering, even if it all takes place as part of a narrative far removed from reality. For a while, teens can exist in a world where there are clearly defined rules (even if the characters break them).
Otherworld fantasy also offers this level of escape, but seems to be the domain of older readers, with teens more interested in stories taking place in worlds that resemble their own (happy to be corrected on this one).
Personally, I enjoy both forms of storytelling, but I’m curious to know if readers of these types of stories prefer one type over the other – and if so, why?
And do you have any theories on why teens (and adults) are drawn to this new genre? (see original post on Great Stories for past comments).