The Changing Landscape of YA Fiction: Good or Bad?


Over the last few years—perhaps a decade—there has been a noticeable shift in fiction, a shift for the darker. Fantasy fiction saw a rise of the genre known as grimdark, with similar trends reflected in science fiction. Dark romance has come out of the closet and become far more mainstream. Horror and dark thriller fiction are on the increase due to the rising interest in true-crime stories and serial killers, made popular on streaming channels like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Even young adult and new adult  fiction have been affected, with authors crafting stories that deal with the real-to-life struggles that teenagers and young adults today face, from drug use to depression to bullying to increased sexual activity to the dangers of social media.
Is this a good thing?
Should authors consider including darker themes—even if they are real and common to today’s youth—or should they steer clear?
Why to Steer Clear of Darker Themes
Young adult and new Adult stories are intended for younger audiences—typically between 12 and 18 for YA, and 18 to 30 for NA. Fiction targeted to such a young crowd will be reaching audiences who are still growing and developing—physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically—and learning about the world around them.
Writing darker stories has the potential to affect those younger audiences negatively. Twelve and thirteen-year olds have more than enough to worry about in their own lives without facing questions about drug use or increased and overt sexual activity if they are not a normal part of their lives. Sixteen and seventeen-year olds are definitely already struggling with problems like obesity, peer pressure, academic difficulties, and bullying, and reading about additional challenges may make them feel overwhelmed by the life ahead.
Fiction can be an escape, a way for people of all ages to step out of the darkness of their world and into someone else’s world for a few hours. If their “escape” is filled with the same darkness they wrestle against every day, or worse darkness, it is no longer a way to distract their minds and calm their anxieties. If anything, it may only make things worse.
Why Darker Themes May Be More Appropriate Now Than Ever
On the flip side, it could be argued that children need to be exposed to the truths of reality now, more than ever.
The average teenager has instant access to literally all the information they could possibly want. In fact, they’re overloaded with it, thanks to social media. All of the apps, channels, games, and platforms where they spend their time will bombard them with more information than they might be ready to process.

Read the entire article in the March 2020 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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