One would have to have been in a coma to be ignorant of the serialized “dangerventures” portrayed in the Harry Potter (witches) and Twilight (vampires and werewolves) books. Go into any book store these days, and you will see that not only is the Young Adult (YA) fiction market huge, it is also, for the most part supernatural. I walked into our local book merchant and found that many of the books facing me on the new arrivals shelves sported dark covers with titles in Gothic font. There were provocative titles such as Last Sacrifice and Torment that beckoned with a picture of a defiant-faced damsel on the first, and the disturbing image of a girl who appeared to be in distress with her back to us on the second. Torment also informed us that it was “a Fallen novel,” indicating that it was one in a series of books.
Scary books were always fun—even in my YA reading day. I have to admit to reading Lois Duncan, who occasionally dabbled into the paranormal, especially with the Down a Dark Hall. And I enjoyed The Witch of Blackbird Pond , although the witch wasn’t really into the dark arts. She was just a harmless, old Quaker woman who was an outcast from her Puritan community in Massachusetts. And, yes, I had the option of reading those brooding books by V. C. Andrews, whose novels portrayed family intrigue and taboos. But in the YA fiction books we BB’s had at our disposal, evil was always evil, and good would triumph to see another day.
It would seem that with the newer genre of Gothic YA, the roles of good guy/bad guy aren’t as clear. Harry Potter had fits of rage throughout the series and even questioned his own possible alliance with the evil one. The heroine in Twilight is irresistibly drawn to an admittedly sexy guy, but one who still has to fight his natural attraction to her blood. It is hard to keep the good/evil thing straight when the “hero” from the dark side is usually the most attractive.
Try my little experiment. Walk into the YA section of your local bookstore and investigate an interesting scenario. Eerie books with titles like Vampire Kisses and Blood Promise will beckon as you scan the shelves. As with the aforementioned Torment, you will find that most of the novels are a member of a series, and as most of these tomes are quite hefty, it guarantees that the “fairy tale” will go on for almost 3,000 pages! And that’s big bucks for the publishing world.
So what is the appeal of this type of literature? Admittedly, these are dark and scary times we live in. Teenagers were barely out of diapers when 911 turned our world upside down; and now, 11 years later, we certainly don’t feel any safer. Perhaps these books are a reflection of the disquiet that is a part of a young adult’s life. I asked a certain teenager what he thought was the appeal of this popular Gothic genre. He replied: “Kids like fantasy.” “Yes, I know,” I pushed, “But why?” His answer: “Well, maybe because in fantasy, you don’t have to die?”
And I guess that is it in a nutshell. Yes, if the scary world is encapsulated within the bound pages of a book, you, the reader, can simply close it and walk away. If only we could rid ourselves of some of the bogey monsters in our real world in the same manner.