Last week, I touched on current themes in contemporary YA. This week, it's sci-fi/dystopian:
- Genre-blending is on the rise. Dystopian mixed with fantasy or paranormal elements (or vice versa) seems to becoming quite popular. Examples include: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, Above by Leah Bobet, Glitch by Heather Anastasiu, Renegade by J.A. Souders, and Crewel by Gennifer Albin.
- The dystopian premises keep getting weirder and weirder. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the premises are becoming more far-fetched as writers desperately try to come up with scenarios that feel "fresh" and haven't been done before. Sometimes "thinking outside the box" leads to great creative pay-off, but it can also lend itself to "what were they thinking?" moments on the reader's side. (Not going to list examples here!)
- Post-apocalyptic is coming into its own, with darker and grittier being the order of the day. We're talking Enclave by Ann Aguirre, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari, Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts, The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker, Pure by Julianna Baggott, and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. I wouldn't say, though, that it is yet overshadowing dystopian, and I'm not sure it's going to get there. Right now I think this category needs to work on distinguishing itself from dystopian, in order for it to trend on its own somewhere down the line.
- Space is the final frontier...and it's finally getting explored. Examples: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans, and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund.
- Artificial intelligence, genetic modification, bioengineering and the like seem to be getting more popular. I think sci-fi overall is getting a boost from the dystopian fascination, so while stories with these elements aren't new to YA, it's getting easier for them to sell. Upcoming books with these themes include Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza, Beta by Rachel Cohn, Cybernetic by Laura Riken, Altered by Jennifer Rush, Glitch by Heather Anastasiu, and False Memory by Dan Krokos.
Just generally, sci-fi/dystopian is "hot" right now in YA, and I don't think that trend is going to die anytime soon.
Interestingly, you might think that of all genres, sci-fi/dystopian would have the most appeal to boy readers...but take a look at those covers! *points up* Those are definitely being marketed to girls. I think most teenage boys wouldn't want to be caught dead holding a book with a butterfly on the cover. While I'm happy that this genre is no longer being viewed as a "boys only" domain, I find it pretty sad that teenage guys don't seem to be reading anymore...even what used to be considered a genre for their gender.
What do you think? Spot any trends in this genre I missed? Agree/disagree with the ones above?