Genre Introduction: Dystopia

Dystopian stories have become pretty popular recently. There are, of course, the well-known Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, but there are plenty of other messed-up futuristic worlds to explore. Dystopia worlds usually have the government trying to create a “perfect place,” that results in something far worse than today’s standards. Within different social/political structures, heroes face odds to change their world. There’s often some side romance as well. If you haven’t already started into this genre, here are some different types:

legend_coverLegend by Marie Lu focuses on class struggle.

Welcome to a world filled with plague. A plague, for some reason, only affects the poor people. When Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal, finds his family has been infected, he’ll do whatever it takes to find a cure. After a break-in at the hospital, Day is the in the prime suspect for the murder of  a commanding officer, June’s brother.

June is the Republic’s prodigy, with perfect academic scores, but is constantly in trouble, for things like scaling a building when she wasn’t supposed to. June swears revenge on her brother’s killer, only to find that the Republic has been lying to everyone the entire time.

maze_runner_coverThe Maze Runner by James Dashner targets post-apocalyptic aftermath methods of recovery.

Thomas arrives in an elevator. Everything is dark, and the only thing he can remember is his name. His destination is the Glade, consisting of only teenage boys, surrounded by an impossible constantly changing maze. Every month a new boy arrives and everyone goes along with life, as they have done for the last couple years. But everything changes when, just one day after Thomas, a girl arrives with a mysterious message. The Glade is no longer a safe place. And if they want to escape, Thomas had better start running.

unwindUnwind by Neal Shusterman asks what it means to be alive.

There are too many teenagers in the future. The solution is not to kill them; instead, the rebellious generation simply lives in a “divided state” with every part of their body still alive, but not making up them anymore. Connor is turned in by his parents rebellious behavior. Risa is an orphan the state can no longer afford, since she has reached her musical potential. Lev is a sacrifice, knowing since birth he was going to be unwound for religious reasons. Fate brings these unlikely teenagers together and keeps them on the run because what will happen if they are caught might be even worse than death.

There are plenty other types of dystopias, not to mention the ones I’ve named have multiple meanings and interpretations. That’s the cool thing about dystopias– you can see, from an author’s perspective, how the world might change for the worst. It just makes me that much more grateful it’s only a story.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Genre Introduction: Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance novels seem to be all the rage in the teenage reading world right now and, in this case, I am no exception to the norm.  I mean, seriously, what isn’t awesome about paranormal romance?  You get adventure, action, romance, fantasy, mystery, mythology, realistic fiction; pretty much all of the genres rolled into one!  Some series of this genre that have joined my ever-growing bookshelf are Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls series) by C.C. Hunter, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, and City of Bones (Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare.  All of these series are, as I like to refer to it, realistic fantasy.

born_at_midnightBorn at Midnight is the first novel in the Shadow Falls series.  If you can look past all of the grammatical and spelling errors, (and there are A LOT – she should seriously fire her editor) this series is a gem.  You’ll love the characters from the start and there definitely is a Team Edward, Team Jacob situation going on.  In this case, Team Lucas, Team Derek is the ongoing debate.  I consider these books to be a mix between The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan due to the supernatural camp setting and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer because of the romance triangle and similar paranormal creatures.  If you enjoyed either of these books or any of the books listed above, I am betting you will appreciate this series.

vampire_academyVampires.  These supernatural beasts seem to be filling the shelves and theaters everywhere.  From Twilight to Marked to Vampire Academy, vampires are everywhere.  Vampire Academy is the first in a series of six novels, all centering around Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir who is training to be her Moroi best friend’s bodyguard.  Dhampirs are half-vampire, half-human and walk the earth for one purpose; to protect the Moroi royalty from Strigoi and other evils.  Moroi are full vampires who are living.  Each Moroi develops their own form of an elemental magic while in their teens, with a few exceptions.  Strigoi are the evil form of vampires.  Dead, inhuman, impossible to kill, and willing to kill to survive, these vamps are made when a Strigoi drinks blood from a human, Dhampir, or Moroi and the human, Dhampir, or Moroi, in turn, drinks Strigoi blood.  A Moroi can also turn by choice if he or she kills a victim while drinking their blood.  These books take place at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for training young Moroi and their Dhampir counterparts.

city_of_bonesThe Mortal Instruments series is one of my absolute favorites.  I have read all of the books four times and am psyched that they are making a movie out of it (though I’m not so sure about Lily Collins as Clary.  I mean, COME ON, she is supposed to have flaming read hair! Not black).  The first book takes place in New York and at the Institute, an old, dilapidated church that was converted, to the oblivion of the mundanes (humans), to a Shadowhunter stomping ground.  Shadowhunters, also called Nephilim, are half-human, half-angel and are, like their name hints at, demon hunters.  They still bleed and die like humans, so they use a stele to draw runes on their bodies.  Runes are markings, some temporary, some permanent, that are somewhat similar to tattoos and give powers based off of the rune that was drawn.  This series centers around Clary Fray who was hidden from the Shadowhunter world by her mother and, until she has to get her mother back, knows nothing about supernatural creatures or demons.  When her mother disappears and she is attacked by a Ravener demon, Clary is thrust into the world of the Nephilium where she finds she should have been all along.  With the help of Jace Wayland, Isabella and Alec Lightwood, and Simon Lewis, she begins to study the Shadowhunter ways and searches for her mother, all while encountering what her life could have been like, as well as some romance along the way.

-Kaelyn L., 10th grade

The Fantasy Genre: Helpful or Not?

harry_potter_kazu_kibuishi

Cover art by Kazu Kibuishi for the 15th anniversary edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In an article published last month in The Telegraph, author Joanna Trollope declares the fantasy genre to be less “helpful” than the classics. I disagree with her assertion but I understand why she finds the fantasy genre to be less helpful than classic novels. A quote by another author, Neil Gaiman, summarizes what I learned from the article:

“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.”

This quote reveals the possible consequences of dragging children away from the fantasy genre. I believe that Trollope means well by wanting children to challenge themselves with classic novels, but forcing children away from the fantasy genre will only hurt them. Readers of all ages, especially children need the fantasy genre to show them that there is so much more to our world than it appears. However, regardless of what children choose to read, is important to encourage them to continue to read.

Yet, I believe that the fantasy genre can facilitate much more imagination and intelligence than classic novels are able to. I believe that the fantasy genre is, in fact, more helpful than the classics. While I love both classic novels and fantasy novels, I find that fantasy novels are much more helpful to me than classics are. To me, they are more relatable and frankly much more interesting.

A fantasy title that has helped me grow and learn is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. These novels have left such a profound impression upon me and they have become a part of me. They offered me an entire universe to explore and escape to. They have shown me love, hope, and even death. They have done more for me than any other novel of any other genres have.

The fantasy genre is quite commonly dismissed like the way we see in this article, but those who read the genre know that it is so much more than escapism. It allows the reader to see the world in a different way. A quote that exemplifies this is:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” – G.K. Chesterton

This quote is important because it emphasizes the very essence of fairy tales and the fantasy genre as a whole. They inspire and give hope to the reader. They make them believe in not only magic or monsters but in themselves. The fantasy genre provides a whole new world for readers of all ages. Through fantastical lands and creatures, they are exposed to new points of view and experiences that they are not able to gain from any other genre. The fantasy genre is essential for readers because it shows them that there is more to life than their own life.

-Sarah B., 12th grade