Gritty teen reads dominate Waterstones children's prize shortlist
The fall from fashion of vampire romance and fantasy in favour of more gritty reads is nowhere more evident than in the teen shortlist for the Waterstones children's books prize.
Divided for the first time into three age categories – picture books, 5-12 and teens – the prize's young adult section features titles covering a range of hard-hitting issues from class and date rape to terrorism and refugees.
Annabel Pitcher's debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, which was longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize, focuses on 10-year-old Jamie Matthews and his family as they try to make a new start following a family tragedy. Phil Earle's Being Billy, meanwhile, features Bill Finn who has spent eight years living in a care home after being given up by his mother. You Against Me, Jenny Downham's follow up to her tear jerker Before I Die, tackles teenage love across the class divide against the backdrop of a sexual assault court case, while debut novel Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys looks back to 1941 and a 15-year-old girl who is deported to Siberia by the Societ secret police. The teen list is completed with a dystopia, Divergent by Veronica Roth and a road trip romance, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.
According to Sarah Clarke, Waterstones children's buying manager, the teen shortlist "demonstrates how young people today are not afraid to talk about serious subjects, in some cases, more so than adults." ((Full Article))So, I had to do a little bit of research on what the Waterstones. It is apparently a book specialist in England that has been around for a long time, since 1982. What really caught my eye was how in the article, it talks about how the trend in YA lit is moving from vampires and werewolves to more real life, darker, 'gritty', topics.
I have read plenty of wonderful paranormal YA books but I have also read other books that tackle real life issues such as Ashfall by Mike Mullin which deals with how a teenage boy survives after a volcano erupts and changes the world in ways more horrific than anyone could have imagined. This book tackled many darker situations and did so in a way that made the reader think about how they might react in such situations. At least, that is what it did for me! I don't want to give away too much of the book but if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It's not a light read but definitely a worth while one.
Also, I recently read Nothing else matters by Leslie DuBois which dealt with racial tension in a high school, a football player with a secret illness and the difficulties of an inter-racial relationship. It was also a tough read that dealt with very real issues, though they were ones that I may have never thought about myself if not presented in the book.
In my opinion, a change in pace is never a fully bad thing. I like something different every now and then but I also adore my paranormal romances with their alpha males and kick-ass heroines. I did very much enjoy the above mentioned books and wouldn't mind reading more like them. In fact, I am anxiously awaiting the sequel to Ashfall! I am curious though as to what brought about this change in popularity and if the author of the article is correct, that the flavor of YA is shifting.
Is this change in the types of stories being written the influence of the Hunger Games? One of the finalists in the awards is Divergent which is another (awesome, imo) dystopian novel. Have you noticed a change in popular YA fiction? Do you think that authors are moving away from the twilight-esque vampire romances and into darker, more realistic tones? Have you read anything lately that fits that category that is also YA?