I follow a lot of book review/author/agent blogs, and I'm finding that book challenges seem to be "in" right now. We have challenges to read a certain number of books during the year, challenges to read dystopias, challenges to read indie books, challenges to read debut authors.
These are all fine, but they seem to be mostly (the indie books excepted here) perpetuating already over-done things. Folks, the YA book market is GLUTTED with dystopias right now, and more than half the new books I see have strong romantic themes and are geared for girls. It seems the message everyone is sending kids right now is that you either have to read romance or destruction. Yes, there are some exceptions: Shelter by Harlan Corben was a good, old-fashioned boys' spy/thriller. Plain Kate by Erin Bow was fantasy without a hint of romance in it.
Here's the challenge I'd like to see: If you're an author, try writing something that's not a dystopia or a romance if you're writing for YA. Try showing friendships instead of romance, or try showing that teen romance rarely ever works out (because it usually doesn't). Try some unrequited love. And how about a mystery or a historical book instead of more dystopia? If you're a reader, how about finding and promoting good YA fiction that doesn't follow what everyone else is doing?
Sure, yeah, it's easy for me to say this. After all, Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire is a boys' book that's not about romance or dystopia. I'm sort of promoting my own book.
But the reader and teacher sides of me (rather than the writer portion) are getting bogged down by sameness in YA. I'd really, really like to see more fresh stuff rather than dystopia ad infinitum and yet even more books wherein some girl tries to choose between the good-but-boring boy and the rebel-without-a-clue boy. (Oh, look! I just summed up the entire plot of Matched! And Enclave!) Let's shake things up a bit. How about a boy who has to choose among 3 girls and who lives in a utopia but can't stand the monotony of the place? How about a historical thriller or an alternate history that does not involve dystopia? How about a modernized version of an alien invasion? Something fresh? Something different?
Now, I'd don't have scads of followers at the moment, and this blog still only gets 30 or fewer hits on most days. But if you're a reader or a writer of YA fiction and you see this, will you take my challenge and either create or promote something different in 2012? Yes, I'm going to do it myself and keep working on my WIP, The (Dis)appearance of Nerissa MacKay, making sure it does not develop into a predictable romance (girl decides between two boys), and it's most certainly not a dystopia! And I promise to keep hunting for good YA that's not dystopia or romance.
Is anyone else up for this challenge?