Have you ever seen Coraline? I’m sure you know it’s one of my favorite movies. I even did a full breaking apart post about it. It’s really good.
I also really enjoy Hunger Games, Divergent, Number The Stars, and my favorite book, The Giver. I’m sure you might have noticed a theme. These are all horribly dark books written for young adults.
Like, really really dark! I’ve never read a book for adults that is half as dark as the books people write for kids. I think that’s part of why I keep reading young adult fiction.
But why do we do this? Why do we write these dark, horrible things for young adults who are generally emotionally crazy to start with? I’ve given this some thought, and I realized it’s for one really simple reason.
It sells. It sells like crazy, man.
While I don’t think that you should ever write something because it sells well, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take a look at why so much of this dark work is selling to young adults. Because there are a lot of good reasons why they do sell well.
Kids are actually smarter than we treat them. By ‘we’ I mean parents and teachers. I’m a parent myself, and I can totally tell you that I do this all the time. I assume that my daughter can’t grasp large things, deep things all the time. I assume that I have to slow down and take a knee to explain the world to her. But I’m wrong. She’s fourteen years old, and she surprises me all the time with her incites. She watches the news with me, you understand. And she gets what’s going on in the world a lot better than some adults I know.
But, because we who are responsible for these little fledgling humans tend to treat them like they’re still nine, they will, of course, gravitate towards the things that treat them like they’re smarter than that. Like a dark fantasy book that isn’t afraid to talk about serious topics.
Dark work can also be distracting when you’re dealing with your own emotions. And, to be fair, teenagers are a huge ball of emotions. Greasy, angry, sad, whiny emotions. Okay, I know I sound flippant, and I’m only half joking. Teenagers have never experienced most of the bad issues in life before. We, as adults, are used to being burned. Kids aren’t, so all pain is new. When all of that pain is too much, a good dark fantasy can be distracting.
But here’s the thing, it’s not just kids that love young adult dark fantasy. As I’ve already pointed out, I love dark fantasy. And I’m happy to tell you why.
- I love dark fantasy characters because they have realistic reactions to life. No one’s ever as happy as a Disney Princess all the damn time. Wednesday Adams is a far more relatable character.
- The dark fantasy is often good at showing the good part of a bad day. Think about Series of Unfortunate Events. Think about the first book, where they show the Baudelaire siblings reading in their room in the evening. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest time, we can make moments of light for ourselves.
- Dark fantasies are unpredictable. In other books, you can generally assume that we’ll have a happy ending. Not so with a dark fantasy. Anyone might die.
I think that these are definitely things that writers can learn about any genre. What do you think? Do you like dark fantasies? If so, why?
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