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drop everything and help me with my homework! yes? - YA fantasy and SF
...for adult readers!
drop everything and help me with my homework! yes?
Wow, it's a bit quiet in here. Uh. *feels awkward*

So I'm doing a research project on young adult fantasy and how it might compare in theme, style, and content to adult fantasy. The idea is to pick two YA texts and one adult text and use these as tools of comparison. I'm using Holly Black's Tithe, and Charles de Lint's The Blue Girl (YA text) and The Onion Girl (adult text). (Yes, I am taking the most awesome class ever!) All of these texts are, to one degree or another, really concerned with violence against women and violence against girls/children - chiefly, but not limited to, rape and child abuse. At any rate, both the YA books - if you've not read them, I recommend, although I think de Lint's adult books are in some ways superior (and I say that as an egalitarian reader) - and the adult book are fairly graphic and similar in theme. (There's some sanitisation and I'll get into that - they're great texts to use because of their similarities, because variations stand out and are significant.)

HOWEVER, both the books are fairly recent - 2002 for Tithe, 2004 for The Blue Girl. I think urban fantasy generally is interestingly concerned with violence against women - perhaps because de Lint is so influential in the genre - but I also think that Tithe and The Blue Girl represent new levels of willingness to be graphic and honest with it in YA novels. I also believe they represent the move towards female protagonists for YAs as being as sympathetic as male protagonists, and also a broad tradition of women in faerie literature (I have so many ideas, guys, they're coming out of my ears, this essay will be a zillion words long - but the idea for me is that teenaged girls (and sometimes gay boys) are supposed by some authors to have special knowledge about faerie.) ANYWAY! My question to you is: am I right about the trend? I've read a lot of YA fiction but my knowledge is not enclyclopedic and I'm only 20. Do you remember YA fantasy, especially urban fantasy, novels published in '99 - '95 - '90 - '85 that deal seriously with child abuse, drug use, sex, violence? That feature girls or gay boys, especially "alternative" (rebellious, wrong side of the tracks, dealing with class prejudice, whatnot) types? That deal with faerie? How? Is faerie an escape, a dangerous place, a neutral location?

(Side paragraph: There's an argument that in YA fiction gay girls and boys are usually in similar positions to these alternative types - they find themselves feeling as if they're on the fringe of their school's society because they don't conform to heteronormativity, rather than because they don't conform to expectations about appearance, class, intelligence, committment to education. The difference is that these characters have little to no choice in this feeling of being different (although they may "pass" somehow) whereas other alternative types often speak of embracing their difference, or choosing it, and can point to significant moments that made them choose this kind of behaviour.)

Anyway, after all that blather - ladies (& gents?), I'm really interested to hear your opinions as well as your book suggestions. Hit me with it!
8 comments or Leave a comment
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: June 1st, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll give this some thought, though I admit that urban fantasy has never been my favorite side of the genre. The one author who leaped instantly to mind was Francesca Lia Block, whose publishing history (of YA urban fantasy specifically) goes back to at least 1992 with Witch Baby. I believe she does deal with drugs, sex, gender issues, violence against women/children, although I haven't read nearly all of her work yet.
labellementeuse From: labellementeuse Date: June 1st, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Funnily enough, FLB's The Hanged Man was one of our core texts! And I probably will be referencing it. (I did think it was interesting that the lecturer chose this relatively straightforward text by her as opposed to one of the elaborate and opaque Weetzie Bat books...) But yeah, FLB is a very good example. Thank you!
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: June 2nd, 2008 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Mercedes Lackey has written a number of Urban Faerie books, which on the link are down under "Elves on the Road". The Diana Tregarde mysteries are more witchcraft, the Bedlam's Bard and Serrated Edge books are dripping with Elves, runaways, and abused children. There are gay characters in several of the books.

Her Valdemar books include one of the best known gay characters in fantasy, whose story is told in "The Last Herald Mage" trilogy. Not urban fic though.

Not so much YA, but you might also want to look for "The War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: June 2nd, 2008 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and as for children who feel different escaping to different worlds, that one goes way back, even though it's not all Faerie. Heck, if you think about "Escape to Witch Mountain" falls into the category, and that was published in 1968.
labellementeuse From: labellementeuse Date: June 2nd, 2008 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! (and yeah, I know the escaping theme isn't a new one, but I do think it's, if not particular to YA fiction, particularly significant in it.)
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: June 2nd, 2008 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Don't forget the upper edge of juvenile lit, as well as the stuff with the YA labels. Discovering that you are a hero/princess/special at adolescence or that you have access to a secret world is a fairly common theme in "coming of age" books.

If you can find them, and you're willing to go beyond "urban" hunt for Katherine Eliska Kimbriel's books "Night Calls" and "Kindred Rites" for a strong female character.
meepa From: meepa Date: June 2nd, 2008 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was going to mention her SERRAted Edge books, which are expliciyly about sex, violence, and child abuse.

For the original poster, the basic idea of this series is that elves love children, and intervene in a few, abused children's lives.
meepa From: meepa Date: June 2nd, 2008 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
McKinley's Deerskin is not urban fantasy, but is fantasy, and deals with molestation and emotional abuse. I'm sure I'll think of others in a few hours.
8 comments or Leave a comment