Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Teens Love Paranormal Stuff

Harry Potter, Twilight, I Am Number Four...werewolves, vampires, angels, demi-gods, and even teens that have bird DNA in them that allow them to fly.

Why do teens (and adults) love these fantastic paranormal stories? Go into a bookstore, and it looks like Strange City all of a sudden. What's going on? I worked with adolescents for several years, and I think I have some good guesses as to why teens are drawn to the mystical and impossible world of paranormal fiction.

1) I've Got The Power! Because they straddle between two worlds, teens often feel powerless, and I think paranormal stories with super-human characters make readers feel more in control. Give them a sense of empowerment. To escape powerlessness, read about teen characters that are powerful.

2) Outcast Syndrome. Often these books center around an outcast. A main character that is special, but is often feeling alone because of their abilities. They have to keep their distance, out of fear of others finding out about their secret. These paranormal books feature outcasts that eventually shed their loneliness and use their powers for good. Outcasts can be heroes. They're not normal, they're PARAnormal. Get it?

3) Friends In Low Places. The opposite of Outcast Syndrome is how the outcast finds other outcasts. Then they can be outcasts together. Like a little club. (Think The Lost Boys). Birds of a feather and all that. The main character is able to over come their loneliness by seeking others with the same paranormalities!

4) I Don't Need Adults. Teens struggle for independence from their parents, from adults. They are tired of being treated like children. These books feature characters that deal with and solve their own problems without adults coming to the rescue. Independence indeed!

5) Escape. The real world can really suck, especially for an adolescent. Too old for kid stuff, too young for adult stuff. Family and school pressures, drama, and trying to figure out your identity are all stressful things. Teens can read about an imaginary world with fantastic characters that have abilities we all wish we could have. These books offer an escape - away from the crappy real world.

6) Standing on The Precipice.  Adolescence is sort of like looking over the edge of a cliff. You can't see what's down there, and everybody is telling you to jump. It's fear of the unknown. Paranormal and fantasy books allow a teen to explore the unknown, but from a safe distance.

Young Adult Literature is experience a nice ride of popularity right now, and there's so much out there. Adults are reading it too, probably making up half of those that read YA paranormal stuff.

20 comments:

Mark Andrew Edwards said...

All good insights, Jay. I think YA paranormal fiction is the literary verison of comic books. Both are power and sex fantasies where the main characters either are authority figures (without earning that status) or are fighting against mysterious authority figures (and thus adult reponsibility).

Laura Eno said...

I love to write and read YA as well. I think that means I'm an escapist who never grew up. ;)
You have invaluable insights here for anyone writing YA.

T. S. Bazelli said...

I'm not a YA reader or writer, but I think a lot of these concerns cross over to adult genre fiction too.

angel, jr. said...

You are right, this stuff, as creepy as it is, is taking over. I'm still a yellow bellied scardy cat!

Jay Noel said...

Mark: That's a good analogy. It seems people (young and older alike) are just gobbling up these books. It's rebellion and power at its core.

Laura: Thanks! I think we read it because we ARE still young at heart.

Jay Noel said...

T.S.: They certainly do. But it seems adult fiction is much more splintered. It seems in YA, it's either paranormal romance or non-paranormal romance

Jay Noel said...

Angel Jr: Just go turn on the lights already!

Tiyana, aka "Yoyo" said...

Interesting! I think these are all things that almost anyone can relate to, but I can see why they'd especially resonate with the young crowd. Good points to keep in mind for building reader empathy.

(Btw, I almost got up and started dancing when I saw "I've Got The Power!" Seriously, haha.)

Jay Noel said...

"So please...stay off my back, or I will attack. And you don't want that!"

Phats said...

One of my all time favorite series is YA The Hunger Games, I can't wait til the movie comes out.

I was thinking the same thing as that above commenter on i've got the power haha

Jay Noel said...

I finished the first book not too long ago. I'll be starting Catching Fire shortly. I hope the movie doesn't suck!

h3roicwrit3r said...

The paranormal...wow, this subject can really go into the deep end fairly quickly. I will say that Harry Potter and Twilight opened the doors for many more to come.

In closing, here is a video that you must watch...you have been warned, Jay:

http://youtu.be/_BRv9wGf5pk

- E.J. Apostrophe

Jay Noel said...

On Just Dance 2, they also have that song. Can't help but jam out to SNAP!

Milo James Fowler said...

So far, the only YA series I've read is The Hunger Games and its sequel. I'm planning to read the finale this summer. Whilst not "paranormal" it's still good stuff!

Jay Noel said...

I'd put Hunger Games in that YA adventure/dystopian genre. It's awesome, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they make it come to life on the big screen.

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