Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Fantasy Trumps Contemporary (for Me)

Those of you who are familiar with this blog know that I love fantasy. Most of the books that define me as a reader are YA fantasy types. Today I thought I'd share with you the reasons why fantasy generally works for me better than contemporary novels.
"[The fairy tale] is accused of giving children a false impression of the world they live in. But I think no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression. I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like the fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories. The fantasies did not deceive me: the school stories did. All stories in which children have adventures and successes which are possible, in the sense that they do not break the laws of nature, but almost infinitely improbable, are in more danger than the fairy tales of raising false expectations." (Lewis 37) 
*Note: I am referring to fantasy & the fairy tale as one - prior to the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, "fairy tale" still referred to fantastic work. I would argue that fairy tale and fantasy, while having somewhat separate elements, at least function similarly, especially with regard to this quote.

1. Reading YA contemporaries as a teen hurt. I had a love/hate relationship with a lot of contemporaries, and one I particularly remember was The Truth About Forever. Most of you probably don't know this, but in high school I worked as a night cook at Uncle Ernie's Pizzeria. My experience there was nothing like the kitchens Macy worked in as a part of the Wish catering crew. The most I got were people who joked about sausages, about my age or where I lived. The workers were likable in their own way, but they were not the Wish catering crew. There was no Wes. There was no pretty, sensitive guy. In fact, when my friends bought me a Twilight movie ticket, I could not go with them because I was still working and I smelled like oil and crusted red pepper flakes... and when my teacher/mentor finally visited me, I could not even sit down with him because for some reason the phone wouldn't stop ringing that day! There were no quiet, happy moments of revelation. And that book, among others, made me long for them - made me hate where I lived, made me wish for things that while probable, are probably never going to happen. As C.S. Lewis wrote, those books raised my expectations of the life I was currently living; they are "more liable to become 'fantasies' in the clinical sense than fantastic stories are" (38). Even now I sometimes struggle with reading contemporaries because it can be easy to forget that it's fiction, that the story and characters ended with those final words. I'm happy with my life, but the longing persists. I do not long for fantastical worlds; instead I appreciate them for their creation. And that is the line that gets blurred in contemporary novels (for me).
"Do fairy tales teach children to retreat into a world of wish-fulfillment--'fantasy' in the technical psychological sense of the word--instead of facing the problems of the real world?" (Lewis 37)
2. Fantasies allow authors to explore concepts and aspects about our lives in a way that contemporaries cannot always. Many contemporaries which tackle tough topics are immediately dismissed as issue books, are they not? But if you had a fantasy novel with the same subject embedded into its world, people seem - at least to me - more likely to discuss the issue at hand, to not label that novel as "boring" or "unworthy" of their time.
"The major genre (perhaps nonsense verse is just as major) whose development is largely the work of children's literature is fantasy. Adult fantasies of a high order of course exist. But the form seems, for reasons we shall later examine, peculiarly suite to children; and children seem peculiarly suited to the form. Consequently we can trace a long line of fantasies, growing constantly in expressiveness and intricacy. MacDonald, Carroll, Collodi, Baum, de la Mare, Barrie, Lagerlof, Grahame, Ayme, Annie Schmidt, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Saint-Exupery, Rodari, Juster, Hoban--these are a few of the many writers who have found children's fantasy well fitted to statements about human life that are conveyable in no other way." (Fadiman 11)
Furthermore, fantasies are expressing these concepts in ways that few other stories can without eliciting eye-rolls or dismissive criticism on their "depth." In the beginning, Harry Potter was referred to as something deviant, and now it's got several analysts focusing on its post-modern and Christian themes. There is perhaps a sense of wish-fulfillment in slipping into that world, but there is no escaping the real-life messages that the metaphors of the deathly hallows and their ilk convey.
"...when we read a good fairy tale we are obeying the old precept 'Know thyself.'" (Lewis 36)
3. Fantasies are timeless. It's the fact that they are fantasies, that they are so clearly fictional that it's so much easier to consider these novels as timeless classics. Contemporaries are great at pointing out issues of the day, and fantasies, to some extent, will suffer from the same problem of being rooted in issues of the day, but since they involve a variety of symbols and fantastic metaphors to make their point, somehow I imagine their messages can be molded and reformed over the ages much more easily. And at the end of the day, do you remember the epic journeys facing dragons and unnameable creatures that have survived and been made into legend and myth, or do you remember the game Macy placed with Wes so that they could know each other better?

4. Fantasies are fun and engage your imagination. I mean, come on: dragons versus sensitive, tattooed boy. Who wins in the epic scale of imagination?

**Note: I do love my contemporaries (especially The Truth about Forever)! Even if I come across otherwise. (I would also like to note that I am being totally tongue-in-cheek with #4 because it takes a lot of imagination to come up with the characters, situations, places, etc. in contemporary too.)

References:

Fadiman, Clifton. "The Case for a Children's Literature." Signposts to Criticism of Children's Literature, compiled by Robert Bator. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983: 7-18.

Lewis, C.S. "On Three Ways of Writing for Children." On Stories: And Other Essays in Literature. New York: Harcourt Inc., 1982: 31-43.


There are more reasons, but I thought that this post was long enough. Your turn now! Why do you love fantasy? Why do you love contemporary? Do you prefer one over the other and why? Or perhaps your favorite genre is something else -- what and why?

56 comments:

  1. I adore fantasy but I also love contemporary, I can see why people don't like contemporary but I've always been curious as to why so reading your post was very informative.


    1. Reading contemporary as a teen did give me unreal expectations but since living in an entire different country from where contemporaries were usually set in, seldom did I relate to any contemporary I read so this never affected me as it was always fiction to me. But I can definitely see why it would be painful *hugs*


    2. Oh absolutely, for me as a writer, I wouldn't venture into contemporary because of how restricting everything is. I don't do well with restrictions and having to remember that I need to make it realistic and so on is difficult to me. Fantasy lets me branch out and provides limitless possibilities (well depending on your setting and the world your book is set in). As a reader, well I'm an escapist and fantasy books always provide me with the pleasure of being able to escape real life for a while and just be immersed in that other world. It's complete escapism.


    3. Yes, definitely. Years from now, people are going to remember Harry Potter but it is not going to be likely that they will remember contemporaries such as Anna and the French Kiss and The Fault in our Stars. It is possible there will be some that are memorable and I guess we could say classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were contemporaries during the time they were written but despite being classics in our present day, the changes in language and how people lived does deter many people. (I hope that made sense haha) That wouldn't be such an issue if it was a fantasy classic, putting the language aside, they wouldn't need to understand anything about the period that which the book was written in. It would exist on its own world, there would be no reliance on the present time period.


    A fantastic post Christina! Love it :)

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  2. I'm also more of a fantasy person especially when it comes to YA. As a fantasy/scifi lover in general I feel YA is exploring very interesting ground when it comes to these genres, and is more free of the tropes that adult genre can find itself entrenched in (though it's possibly inventing new ones). There's also an interesting coming of age factor inherent in YA. You made some good points about fantasy's ability to codify issues and slip them in.
    Upon reflection, I read a lot more contemporary than I thought, but it's because so much of it comes highly recommended or addresses social issues I want to read about. In general I don't seek out contemporary, because reading about the high school experience for its own sake is not my flavor of tea these days but I can't deny there is some great writing there.

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  3. I enjoy both and I can't put one above the other. I love my contemps--The Sea of Tranquility (I never get tired of saying this book's name:) mwhahahahaha :D), Hopeless, Easy, Slammed, True Love Story, Catching Jordan, If I Stay, Where She Went, Charade etc etc etc--I love them all so much and they have managed to make me feel so many intense emotions, live my heartache and frustration out on the characters or their situations, make me have hope in a better future etc. I love the writing and the characters--everything is perfect! I don't love most of the New Adult books trending right now since they're all the same and I agree with you, there's usually a phase where contemporary genre carries the problems or taboos or likings or whatever it is that is trending to the readers and after some time it isn't the same anymore, but fantasy is almost always fresh, timeless and consuming time and time again. I can't ever say and will probably never say that Harry Potter was just a phase. NO! It will stay with the world for a long long time and it's a timeless classic already. I am sorry for the sucky job you had to do:( I appreciate my HEA-s and all my cute-sweet-with-a-lovely-on-top-of-them books, but even more, I'm a fan of realistic vision of the characters, situations, relationships and that's one of the reasons I like fantasy more--they are what they are supposed to be--fantasy. When I go for a contemporary book, I usually look for a way to relate to someone or their situation and sometimes it's so hard to relate to a character whose life is nothing but perfect or sweet. They make the perfect escape novels, but that's what fantasy is for. OK, I am pretty sure I don't make any sense anymore, soooo.. I'm just going to go and read Lola because I AM FREAKING ENJOYING THIS PRETTY!!! :)

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  4. Fantastic post, Christina, and I love how you back it up. :) For the LOOOOONGEST time, I wouldn't even read a contemporary novel. I always complained that if I wanted to read about real life, I'd read my journal. (Same reason I dislike reality tv.) But now that you've enlightened us with your reasoning, I have to agree...I think I was unfairly judging my life based on those of the characters in these contemporary stories because my life was far from the normal they projected.

    Now, being older and quite a bit happier with where I'm at in life, I've given contemporary novels another shot, and I've found several that resonate with me or at least don't make me feel like less because their story is so much more. Some of my newer favorites are even contemporaries.

    That said, I will always, ALWAYS be a fan of fantasy. There are exponentially more fantasy novels in my collection than contemporary stories. I love the impossibility of them. And most of all, I love the lack of unreal expectations I feel when reading fantasy novels. I expect too much out of myself already...I don't need a book making me feel worse about it. I do like that fantasy novels often show us that one person has the potential to make a huge difference, but it's on a much larger scale and usually beyond the realm of possibility in our own world.

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  5. Very insightful post. Thanks for sharing :)


    new follower

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  6. This is a really insightful post, Christina! I think if you had asked me two years ago, before I started blogging, if I preferred fantasy or contemporary, my answer would have definitely been fantasy. I was especially into urban fantasy at that time.I love YA fiction, but I used to feel like I was just too old to get into a contemporary book. I felt like I wouldn't be able to relate at all. But then I was introduced to John Green. And Stephanie Perkins.And Jandy Nelson. And Melina Marchetta (though my GOD, that woman writes incredible fantasy too!) and a few others that totally turned my thoughts about contemporary YA right around. I think the reason I gravitate towards Contemp these days is because, more than anything, I love well written characters and character development in books. Not that there aren't great examples of outstanding, fully fleshed characters in fantasy (Hello Froi, Finnikin, Isaboe, Quintana, etc, etc, etc...) but I find that sometimes contemp books spend more time developing their characters--if for no other reason then they don't have the most intricate plotting to manage at the same time. Not that conetmps are shallow--but let's face it, writing an epic quest action/ adventure story means devoting a lot of attention to those aspects of the book.


    Now what I do love is when you get those rare authors who pull off both. Fantastic characters, sometimes dealing with contemp issues, sometimes not, on TOP of action/ adventure/ complicated plots. Again, I think Marchetta pulls this off beautifully in The Lumatere Chronicles and I think Laini Taylor does the same with her Smoke and Bone books.


    But yeah--at this time in my life I tend to gravitate toward contemporary over fantasy. Of course that could change. Ask me again in two years time:)

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  7. Gahhh! This post! THIS POST!! I can agree with every single thing you said. Especially the first point. For me, I still have a hard time reading contemporaries, particularly the ones set in schools. Not just because they change my expectations, but because they don't offer much of an escape. Most of what I read about in high school contemps is the every day drama I go through. I read books to escape said drama. I read them to escape the mundane limitations of real life. Finding a boyfriend, or making peace with your inner demons isn't exactly mind breaking for me. I've read/watched it a thousand times over. Yes, some contemporaries manage to offer something new, but for the most part, it's rehashed material with different characters and settings. In contemporaries, I feel like there is a set story line. You kind of know the ending before you open the first page.

    And then comes the chick lit. I HATE this term. I absolutely do, but I don't know what else to call those particular kind of novels. Romance centered contemporaries, maybe?! Yeah, that. Basically, those are at the lowest of my TBR list. We don't get along, chick lit and I. I mean, I check out when of the books, and like I said, the ending is RIGHT THERE! " Blah blah blah, but when she meets a guy by the name Steamy McSteamy, things change.

    Yeah, okay, I totally didn't get that they'd end up together there.

    Fantasy on the other hand, is like.. a fruit shake. Even if you put in the same ingredients every single time, a simple change in the quantity of each ingredient will give you an entirely new taste.

    OK, this was a crappy example, but you know what I mean. Plus, fantasy is so much fun to write!

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  8. I totally agree with you! Fantasy trumps contemporary anytime. I read contemporary but it forms a small fraction of the books I've read. The thing about fantasy that appeals to me the most is the world-building - I think it's awesome how authors are able to imagine an entire world.

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  9. I know what you mean! Contemporary is so.. normal and everyday life (even though most of the contemporary storylines I've read are nothing similar to my life it's still POSSIBLE) and I don't want to read about everyday life... I want to read to escape. :)

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  10. Hm, interesting post. I love urban fantasy, but actually prefer contemporary to ya fantasy and high fantasy. Still, I totally get where you're coming from :) Contemporary books can hurt sometimes. But it's a good kind of hurt - most of the time. I like dark topics. :) Cancer books or books where someone is sick and going to die are not for me, though.

    "dragons versus sensitive, tattooed boy" Now, that's a dilemma... Can't I have both? Pretty please? :D Oh, and please make that tattoed boy a bad boy. :P

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  11. Lol, I do still like contemporary :P. I'd probably list a few other things if I were to hate on contemporary, like how it, among the other genres, seems to have stereotypical scenes/characters (mean girl, popular girl, etc.) who I'm not a fan of more often than not. Of course none of what I say is true of all fantasy or all contemporary.

    1. Ahhh yes, I can see how living in another country would change all your expectations. Honestly, though, I think that I'd still have felt that ache but it would have been in a different form - like why couldn't I live in X and X country?! Writing that section kind of reminded me of your post on book boyfriends.

    2. You're a writer too? YAYyyyy :). "I don't do well with restrictions and having to remember that I need to make it realistic and so on is difficult to me." Ahh, but a fantasy world needs to be realistic in its own right, right? And yes... the escapism of fantasy worlds. *sigh*

    3. Hmm, I might debate you about The Fault in Our Stars. I think John Green's famous enough that his book will end up becoming a contemp. YA classic of our age. There are already some scholars writing on him. And yes you made sense! There are a lot of contemporary (in their day) classics that we still read, that have indeed survived over time... but "the changes in language and how people lived does deter many people." Yes. Fantasy worlds because they're fantasy, as you say, exist on their own, with no such reliance on the current times. (I like how you got to the heart of what I meant to say way quicker than I did, both in the post and in my comment ;D).

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  12. I haven't read enough adult SFF to compare it to YA SFF, but I do think that YA SFF is exploring interesting ground, as you say, because it pairs that coming-of-age / transformation factor with the fantastic. I'm curious to know which new tropes you think YA is inventing!


    Me to - unless I've read a lot of great reviews, the contemp. is about an interesting social issue, or I'm in the mood for something light and fluffy, I don't read contemporary, especially ones too focused on the HS experience. But yes yes yes, there is definitely great writing there! Ha, I hope it didn't come off that I was saying otherwise above.

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  13. When I first started reading YA fiction again, I was pretty much only reading fantasy/dystopian type novels. They are still my favorite, for some of the reasons you mention. They are timeless and there's so much creativity and imagination involved and it's so easy to just lose yourself in that world. I have recently been reading more contemporary YA (like Anna and the French Kiss, etc) and I have enjoyed them. Some of the fantasy/dystopian are pretty dark and sometimes you just want a book that you know will make you smile. What's funny is that when I was a teenager, all I wanted to read was contemporary, realistic fiction (I was a big fan of Judy Blume). Great post! ~Pam

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  14. "Some of the fantasy/dystopian are pretty dark and sometimes you just want a book that you know will make you smile." <-- Yes. These days, if I do pick up a contemporary, this is one of the top reasons for me to do so.

    "What's funny is that when I was a teenager, all I wanted to read was contemporary, realistic fiction (I was a big fan of Judy Blume)." <-- Me too, despite my love for HP. I was on a serious contemporary kick in HS; maybe that also led to my raised expectations?



    But fantasy reads <3. Anna is a great one - glad to hear that you read contemp & fantasy :).

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  15. *gasp* :P hahah you're totally allowed to like contemp. more. And it is good at discussing dark topics - albeit some do discuss cancer, etc. - so sounds like it's made just for you :). And YESSSSS dragons and sensitive, tattooed boys and everything awesome! I would never want to give up one for the other!

    (PS - thanks for linking to that other review of Skin! Am hoping to stop by today + look at that review too).

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  16. They're totally still possible. They work within that realm of possibility to engage your attention. Escapism is still nice :).


    PS - o.o I've neglected the Spectacular Now read-along. I admit, with everything about my grandfather as of late, I haven't thought much about TSN... but want to start this coming Monday? Or are you too embroiled in review copies?

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  17. YESSSS the world-building. Gods, it's the best. It's probably my favorite reason to go watch a fantasy book-to-movie adaptation. And also to visit the fanpages for those books - if not just to see the fanart that others have envisioned.

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  18. "Most of what I read about in high school contemps is the every day drama I go through. I read books to escape said drama." <-- Yes, if I had to say there was one criticism of contemporaries, it's just that I can't handle most of the angst and drama that comes up. Those are not the good memories for me of HS, and the escapism of fantasies is just too much to resist.

    "Yes, some contemporaries manage to offer something new, but for the most part, it's rehashed material with different characters and settings. In contemporaries, I feel like there is a set story line. You kind of know the ending before you open the first page." <-- To some extent, fantasy also has rehashed settings and characters too (hello, Chosen One, how you doin'?). But I think that if you've got a well developed world, you can make the story veer from expectations in fantasy in a way that contemporary can't do because you know no author will want to promote bad messages re: character growth.



    Hahaha, I do not like chick lit as a name either, but you don't get along with the books either? I like them on occasion - the romance centered stories. Sometimes I'm just eh, I need a fairy tale and something light and fluffy to ease whatever mood I'm in. Even if it's totally predictable.


    Fantasy fruit shake coming up!!! And yes it is :).

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  19. Funny that you say that Heather, because I think my answer would have been the exact opposite two years ago :). Now that's the second time you've mentioned Jandy Nelson. I am really curious o.o. If I had the time to read something else right now.... I do understand what you mean: "I find that sometimes contemp books spend more time developing their characters--if for no other reason then they don't have the most intricate plotting to manage at the same time" <-- I don't think it's just the plot. There are a lot of fantasies that focus more on world building than character. And honestly, those are the ones that I don't like quite as much either.


    Yes! When authors pull off world, character, and plot, it's the best. And if they add that extra layer of dealing with contemp. issues, yes! Marchetta and Laini Taylor are perfect examples :).


    Will do!!

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  20. "I always complained that if I wanted to read about real life, I'd read my journal. (Same reason I dislike reality tv.)" <-- Me too! Minus actually having a journal because I'm too lazy for that. "Enlightened us" hahahaha. Jen, you really know how to boost a girl's ego ;).

    "my life was far from the normal they projected." Yes. Honestly, I think if they were more accurate to our actual lives, they wouldn't be much fun to read...



    Yes! Some of my favorites do still include contemporaries too :). The best are the ones that resonate and can still engage you without raising your expectations.


    Yes yes yes yes yes. Everything you said. EVERYTHING. Fantasy novels can be so inspiring in that regard!

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  21. It's good to be an equal genre lover :D. Heee, I can't wait to read Sea of Tranq. I believe I have it scheduled for sometime next month :D. I haven't read all the ones you listed, but the ones I have have had awesome writing and characters :). And I'm glad that you enjoyed the others!

    "I don't love most of the New Adult books trending right now since they're all the same and I agree with you, there's usually a phase where contemporary genre carries the problems or taboos or likings or whatever it is that is trending to the readers and after some time it isn't the same anymore," <-- Yeah, isn't that what started the huge rush of NA anyway? Part of the desire to address issues in college?

    " I am sorry for the sucky job you had to do:(" hahaha it wasn't that bad! I was just pointing out that the small difficulties just pushed me toward raised expectations even more.

    " that's one of the reasons I like fantasy more--they are what they are supposed to be--fantasy. When I go for a contemporary book, I usually look for a way to relate to someone or their situation and sometimes it's so hard to relate to a character whose life is nothing but perfect or sweet." <-- I think you can relate still to characters in fantasy even if it's fantasy... but contemporary does make it more urgent to connect to those situations.



    You do make sense! And I'm SO glad you're loving Lola :). It's one of my favorites!

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  22. No – you definitely didn’t come across as implying there’s
    no good writing in YA Contemporary. I didn’t mean to imply the implication ;)

    As far as new tropes- I really mistyped there, because if something
    is a trope by nature it can’t be new. What I mean is that YA scifi is bringing different tropes to the forefront. For example, the young girl vs. the oppressive dystopian regime trope - it’s interesting to see the many variations of dystopia, from The Hunger Games to the emotional oppression of the Delirium Series to Divergent, etc. The Chosen one
    trope is the oldest there is, but it’s more common in YA to have it be a girl, and have that girl take an active part in fighting the regime and some success.Some classic examples of scifi dystopia are Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451: all male-centric, all end with the dystopian still in place. Another classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, is from the POV of a woman but by nature of the horrifying circumstances she’s living under the character is largely passive. The grimness of these stories is realistic and these novels are fantastic, but by and large they lack the same sense of hope that is inherent in most YA novels. Perhaps it’s escapism, but there is something empowering about reading the story of an individual able to make a huge difference in her world.

    Sorry if that’s incoherent, I knew what I meant at the time but I’d need to do some research for more specific examples.

    Thanks for the interesting post :)

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  23. The timelessness is a big part of why I, personally, prefer science fiction and fantasy. And when it bears the marks of the era when it was written, it just feels more like it's from a completely different era.


    This is such a good post, C! I love it!

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  24. I love this perspective. I've never thought about how realistic books set unrealistic expectations. It makes perfect sense.

    I think I love fantasy so much because my favorite reads are the most imaginative ones. The fantasy genre is pretty much imaginative by definition.

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  25. YES NUMBER 4!! The reason I absolutely love high fantasy is because of the world building! I'm a total world building geek haha (that's also the reason why I love sci-fi). I just love how authors can think of random and awesome settings!


    I also love contemporaries. I can't really put my finger on exactly why...I don't know, I just like them! (lol probs way too vague :P)


    If I had to choose one genre over the other, I would have to go fantasy. Although it would kill me to let go of my contemporaries! Some of my favourite books are contemporaries! TFIOS, Speechless, Sea of Tranquility etc.

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  26. This is a really, really great post, Christina! I do love contemporaries, especially when I just want a fluff read, but I agree with every point. Reading contemporaries make me feel as if my life is so much worse than it is. Where's the fun? Where's the CUTE OUTGOING GUY? And like you said, fantasy is great because it's timeless. In who knows how many years, the Sarah Dessen books will be considered historical :)

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  27. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkSeptember 20, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    Can I have dragons AND a tattooed boy? That would work well for me Christina! I completely get where your coming from, I'm the same way with anything paranormal. Contemporary is growing on me, but I will still pick a paranormal story over a contemporary one every single time (with a few small exceptions for authors I absolutely love). Fantasy used to be something I stayed well away from, but I've read some really fantastic ones lately and am now interested in reading as many as possible. What would you say is your all time favorite YA fantasy read?

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  28. Oh, this is so true. Funnily enough I also did a post on the fantasy genre today too =) It's just such a wonderful genre, and can instantly transport the reader to another world.
    Wonderful post =)

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  29. I cannot deny that I love a good fantasy. When they work, they are perfect for me. My favorite fantasy is Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I love contemporary, too, but they are very hit or miss. I think in the long run I like fantasies better because they are timeless, as you said. The universal messages and ideas they convey can be picked up from a reader at any time and be understood.

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  30. "And when it bears the marks of the era when it was written, it just feels more like it's from a completely different era." <-- So very true. It adds to the atmosphere in the novel.

    Haha, you are the first person to call me C. My family/college guy friends call me Tina, some other friends call me Teenie, one friend calls me Stinkle (hard to explain that one, huh?), but none call me C. Now it shall be the Kate nickname.

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  31. Hahaha. In my mind I call Wendy Darling "Dub-D," but when you type it OR say it aloud it comes out like a bra size. Nicknames are hard.



    I have so many nicknames, too. When we read East of Eden in high school all my guy friends started calling me "Cathy," and that is probably my least favorite of all time because it was antagonistic in a very specific way. But one of my big sisters (I have 4) calls me Kaleigh, and I like that one a lot.

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  32. I am pretty much the exact opposite of you! I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, I mostly just don't get it, it's so confusing! But I totally get the appeal and I agree with many of your points. Contemporary does lose something over time, especially if it is heavily issue based. Contemporaries can also give you that false sense of what life should be, however as a reader I was always aware that this was not "real life" and I shouldn't expect a magical happily ever after with no problems ever, but I know that not everyone (especially teens) can make that distinction so it can impact their views on life.

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  33. I'm always too embroiled in review copies. Lol Always and forever. But seriously, whenever is convenient for you I really don't mind. I'll make it work whenever.

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  34. FANTASY trumps Contemps every time!! that is all :P

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  35. I completely agree that fantasy is much better than contemporary. I love how fantasy can take readers on adventures in completely foreign worlds with different creatures. Contemporary books, as you mentioned, are not always relatable.

    Check out my book review blog: http://booksavvyblog.blogspot.com/

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  36. As an escapist, the fantasy genre wins hands down for me. There was once a time when I refused to read contemporary books, and this sums up why perfectly: "I do not long for fantastical worlds; instead I appreciate them for their creation. And that is the line that gets blurred in contemporary novels (for me)." I can barely begin to explain it in my own words, but I agree with so much of your first point. And yes, I do find fantasies can be far more timeless than contemporary novels. Between a Macy and Wes setup and an epic dragon journey, it seems a whole lot more likely to me that an epic dragon journey could stand the test of time.


    That being said, I do appreciate a good handful of contemporary books too. I'm starting to read more and more of them lately, and while I can't ever see it becoming my *favourite* genre, I do think it's possible I could one day enjoy contemporary novels as well as fantasy. t the moment, though, I'm leaning more towards the latter.

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  37. It does. It does, but I also had a teacher who we called "Mrs. W-T" and that could've sounded the same but didn't. So it does and doesn't; just depends on the person :). YAY FOR GOING IN CIRCLES. 1 a.m. + Christina = makes no sense.


    Ooh, yeah, for some reason I cannot picture you as Cathy at all. I don't know you too well but I can't see you as a Cathy. Is Kaleigh your favorite? I'm guessing your other nicknames are Katie and Kat and potentially K? (And Lady Kate -- which, btw, I've always admired from your twitter.)

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  38. Yeah, but in some ways they also do the opposite and I could just be a sensitive reader / too much of a dreamer :O.


    Agreed :). Despite this post, I do think there is imagination too in the creation of characters and settings and situations in contemporaries, but it feels less like you're building your own world, or engaging your imagination as a reader vs. what the writer does.

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  39. Me too! World-building is great--though I can't say that I'd love it at the expense of character development, which sometimes happens. But one of the best parts of seeing a fantasy world brought to the big screen is seeing that world come to life.


    Hahah, I like contemporaries too :). Despite my complaints, I think there are a lot of contemporaries that address great issues and also a lot of contemporaries that just make you feel good inside.


    Good thing you'll never have to give up one for the other :D!

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  40. I liken the experience to sometimes visiting Facebook - you get the occasional moment of growth and philosophy, but a lot of the times, you see only the positive posts from people and that changes your perception too. But what can you do? Without something extraordinary, what propels the plot? What keeps the readers going? The same problem potentially occurs with fantasy, but maybe it's just a matter of expectation and the reader herself. I don't know--I can't separate myself enough from the experience.


    Heh, I probably shouldn't have chosen a Sarah Dessen novel. She's so prolific that she's actually been analyzed in a few books I've read, so it wouldn't surprise me if she showed up later. But other writers, maybe not so much.

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  41. Of course :). I like both too. In posting this, I did worry that I'd come off too strongly against contemporary, though I really do like the genre and have favorites. Interesting that you mention paranormal because sometimes fantasy and paranormal get blurred too (PNR vs. UF), so I'd consider that a part of this argument as well. My all time favorite YA fantasy would probably be Harry Potter, the seventh book. What about you?

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  42. Excellent! My plan, after I finish replying to the comments here, is to visit your blog so I look forward to reading the post :).

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  43. Finnikin was a great fantasy! I'm looking forward to reading Froi and finishing out the series :). Contemporaries are especially hit or miss for me too, I think, because they have to rely more on your connection with the characters.

    "The universal messages and ideas they convey can be picked up from a reader at any time and be understood." <-- Yes :). Perhaps that's why authors like Lewis and Leguin and Tolkien are still hailed as the best of all time.

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  44. Hahah, I understand that too! Though I would also add that I think it depends on the type of fantasy - HF definitely can be confusing; UF less so, I think, because it has a touch of contemporary. But UF can also be confusing too. As for the false sense of what life should be like - I did know that HEAs with no problems didn't exist; even the protagonists faced issues. No one is exempt from that. It's not really the knowledge that's at stake; it's the hope that can hurt.

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  45. Oooh yeah fantasy books can confuse me too - don't get wrong! I love my fantasy, but sometimes I also have to be in the right mood to read fantasies too because otherwise it's just too much o.o.

    " I agree, fantasy is able to convey concepts and themes that contemporary isn't able to (I also think the opposite is true)." Agreed. Definitely.

    "I do think that some contemporary novels can also be timeless, but those are a bit rare." Agreed. There is a reason why we read Jane Austen's novels ;) and she wrote contemporary too.

    "Although, some of the things the characters in contemporaries go through are not things I would want to go through..." Also true. I know and I knew this, but it's not really the knowledge. No one has an HEA without issues, so neither did the contemporaries. But I think it's just the hope that they sometimes bring that can hurt. And thank you!

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  46. I still think you can relate to contemporaries... I mean, that's part of what I was saying in the first point - that it's so easy to slip into the world with the characters, even with their issues, that it raised my hope and expectations.


    Thanks for stopping by, Katie!

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  47. Ha, I'm definitely an escapist too :) and I've kind of gotten to a similar point: I only read contemps. when I'm specifically in the mood for them - otherwise, just can't do it.


    Oooh, now after replying to the other comments, I feel bad for my comparison to the dragon, like I'm belittling the setup between the couple o.o. There are quite a few contemps. that stand the test of time too and have couples! Like all of Jane Austen's work...


    Me too! Me too! Ahhh, I'm so worried that I came off as contemporary hating when I've actually listed The Truth About Forever as one of my favorite books o.o. I don't think it'll ever be my favorite genre either. Hey, you loved Stolen and you're trying out Fangirl, right? :) so you have enjoyed a contemporary novel and are trying them out! BUT YAY FOR LEANING MORE TOWARDS FANTASY :D

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  48. First, I can be very short here: I prefer fantasy above most genres (with fairytales :p) I don't really care for most contemporaries and I rarely read them. And when I give them a shot, I feel like I'm much more critical. I'm not much of a romance and drama type, so I guess that's where contemporary goes wrong for me. I still like to try them out and some of them even ended up being a favorite :) It's fun to branch out every now and then.


    I think I prefer fantasy so much because of it's creativity. It's about worlds I'd normally never visit and characters are able to do all these magical things I can dream about. I agree that contemporaries can feel a bit.. too close to real life. Reading is an escape and reading about problems is less fun than reading about a magical world where people are wizards and where dragons fly in the sky. Everything is endless and nothing is too weird.

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  49. I do love fantasy books exactly because of the reasons you explain, but sometimes books in the fantasy genre confuse me ^_^" Anyways. I agree, fantasy is able to convey concepts and themes that contemporary isn't able to (I also think the opposite is true). And fantasy does have a certain timelessness to it. I do think that some contemporary novels can also be timeless, but those are a bit rare.


    Oh, and I find your first reason to be really interesting... I haven't felt hurt because my life isn't like one in a contemporary novel, but I can definitely see how a contemporary could give a false representation of real life and can hurt you a little. Although, some of the things the characters in contemporaries go through are not things I would want to go through...


    Loved this post, Christina! You really know how to write thoughtful posts :)

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  50. Gosh. I love fanart. I go through DeviantArt just to see what others imagined a particular fantasy series as - and there are so many talented and creative people there.

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  51. Amanda@LateNightswithGoodBooksSeptember 25, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Fantasy trumps every single other genre for me. :)
    I never had any of those more personal and disappointing experiences related to reading YA contemporaries as a teen like you did, primarily because I just didn't read many YA contemporaries as a teen. I actually read more of them now, I think.
    I really like Lewis' quote at the beginning of your post, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Honestly, I don't know how people can disagree with that.
    I still have issues with how many people also just dismiss the genre as a whole. Because it's not "realistic" enough for them? As the quotes you used and your own argument show, fantasies still contain grains of realism and truths, but they're simply presented in an unconventional way. And I like that. I like the escapism that fantasies provide, as well as the opportunity to see authors allow their imaginations to run wild. I totally get the arguments being made about why fantasies work well for children, but I think they work just as well for adults.

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  52. True - I think I am more critical of them too. I do like my romance, but I think I'd agree with you on drama sometimes feeling more emphasized in contemporaries (because without a fabulous setting or other creatures, you have that focus on the characters and their interactions). And I also agree with you on trying them & some being my favorites too, like the Truth about Forever.


    Yes.yes.yes to everything you said in your last paragraph :).

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  53. As a teen, besides Harry Potter and Twilight, I mostly read contemporaries, so I am the exact opposite :P. Well, you could kind of argue with Lewis's quote. What wouldn't fantasy give you high expectations? What if one day you're confusing fantasy with reality? What if you start to think everyone is like the fantasy - why couldn't life be that great? Why couldn't you live in that world instead of this one? (I do believe a lot of kids were actually disappointed they could not go to Hogwarts). I think they've both got their own set of complications, though for me personally, the expectations that I had thanks to contemporaries just hurt more. And I didn't ever have that problem --^.


    Me too. I wouldn't want to dismiss ANY genre as a whole. I know a few people who do dismiss fantasy and anything too fantastical because it's not realistic for them, but since one of them is my mother, I don't feel too harshly towards that stance. I do agree with you though: fantasy is great for both escapism and expressing truths, for both children and adults.

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  54. I like them both, but there's definitely something about fantasy that lets you just be like "I've had enough of all these real world problems, I need something fantastic." It's just nice to think about problems that involve a whole different world and to puzzle things out and not have to relate it to your life, and things like bills or grades. Sometimes contemporaries still bug me because they are teens finding amazing guys, and I'm mid-twenties and alone. I read adult fiction and romance too, and they both make me feel that way sometimes. With fantasy, even though they find their love interests, it still has such different components that there's more to think about. Plus, magic and different worlds are just fun! I agree with all your points. I don't feel like contemps were ever truly representative of where I was as a teen, I think fantasy helps you look deeper into issues, and they are definitely timeless! Lovely post!

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  55. "I like them both, but there's definitely something about fantasy that lets you just be like "I've had enough of all these real world problems, I need something fantastic."" <--- YESSsss. Everything you wrote there. And not always needing to relate it to your life. And also about some contemporaries being about teens finding guys, though I would argue that that's not isolated to contemporary novels. PNR definitely seems to have that trope too.


    Thank you :).

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  56. For me a well written contemporary and fantas book are in fact equal. I kinda got sad reading this post. There are great contemps

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