I spent two hours at a local Barnes & Noble the other day, and of course I ventured over to the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. And I noticed that the Paranormal Young Adult Romance section was sitting right up next to it. Granted, it had been a long time since I had gone into a big book store. But what struck me was the amount of books in that genre. The second thing that caught my attention was that a vast majority of them were marketed to females.
But just on the other side of the book display was the regular Young Adult stuff, and even that area was pretty full of more paranormal books. Now I'm not going to tackle teen paranormal romance right now, as that deserves it's own post. But I did want to talk about the popularity of everything paranormal.
As you probably know, paranormal is hot right now. But why?
Stories dealing with the paranormal is nothing new. X-Files, Stephen King, all the super hero movies, The Twilight Zone, The Ghost Whisperer, any of M. Night Shamalamalammading-dong's movies...dealing with things that go bump in the night is nothing new. Authors have been writing about vampires, ghosts, werewolves, UFOs, people with powers, etc. since forever.
The big shift is that the paranormal theme is hot among teens. Growing up, I read Goosebumps. Those in their upper teens/20s grew up with Harry Potter. And of course, the book that really propelled Paranormal YA Romance, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series and the billions of copycats that have followed it, has put paranormal subject matter up front and center.
This world is just full of all kinds of tragedy. On September 11th, America had lost its "innocence" like no one had ever seen since the attack at Pearl Harbor. Our country has been in an economic tailspin going back to 2007. Mom and/or Dad has lost their job. Houses foreclosed on, forcing families to vacate homes and move to a new town. In the information age, eyes and ears are everywhere - so we know about more murders, beatings, and heroes that have fallen and let us down. All in the blink of an eye.
We live in a very uncertain and oftentimes cruel world.
The paranormal strikes a deep-rooted nerve within many of us in our thirst to understand the unknown. To try to make sense of the senseless. Geez, adolescence is already such a difficult and trying time when young adults are trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, what the world is like, and what their future holds. For a teen, the world is one big uncertainty where bad things can happen to good people. And that's scary as hell.
In many of these books, the protagonist has powers and is able to use those powers to save the day. Often, that main character is an outcast or was quite ordinary until the powers manifest themselves during puberty or something. Or maybe the protagonist falls in love with someone with powers. The common denominator here is that you have teens coming to terms with maybe being different, or dealing with change and the unknown, and in the end coming out ok. Maybe even end up being a hero. Or being loved. Or being accepted. Or at the very least, understanding a little bit more about life and learning about some of the things that we, in fact, can control. The unknown isn't so scary.
Stories dealing with the paranormal is not only appealing, but it's therapeutic. Reading these books might give teens a sense of empowerment, maybe help them gain a little more insight into this crazy mysterious world.
And that is quite normal.
*I took a lot of adolescent psychology in college, and then I was a high school English teacher for five years. On top of that I coached sports. I even coached the girls tennis team where the truth of female adolescent behavior and attitude slapped me across the face. Hard.
Blogging since 2005.
Medical sales warrior by day, writing ninja by night...
I am the author of The Mechanica Wars series. The first book, Dragonfly Warrior, will be published in January, 2014 by 4 Wing Press.
I love science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, biographies, and chocolate chip cookies.