Young adult fiction is undeniably one of the most popular genres of all time. It was first categorized around the 1930s with Lauren Ingalls Wilder’s series Little House on the Prairie. Teachers and librarians were slow to accept books intended for younger readers, but young adult books today focus on issues in society with such a passion that even older adults love to read them.
YA subgenres have ebbed and flowed over the years, and the two ever-reigning subgenres seem to be fantasy and contemporary fiction. You can always find a unique new release of a fantasy novel or a self-aware contemporary love story. But what genres are so dead that publishers in 2019 will rarely publish them and why did young adults stop reading them?
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Ah, yes. Dystopian. Nostalgia for 2012, anyone? Maybe it was because everyone was talking about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world, but people were in a craze over dystopian society books like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Books about post-apocalyptic societies like The Maze Runner weren’t too far behind in the craze, either. Most dystopian subgenres are based on sci-fi and these particular subgenres started to oversaturate the sci-fi genre. Because of the immense popularity of books like The Hunger Games, every author wanted to replicate that fame and success. Understandably, readers got bored.
We became sick of tropes like “the chosen 16-year old who has a special ability that allows him or her to rebel and change dystopian society.” Readers began to pay attention to different genres and new authors, and the dystopian genre and its tropes slowly died out as YA readers found more relevant books. With the upcoming release of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, it’ll be interesting to see how this dystopian writer tackles this so-called “dead” genre.
2. PARANORMAL / URBAN fantasy
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When you think of paranormal YA, think vampires, werewolves, and zombies. So basically Twilight minus the zombies. For a while, the Twilight series was the reigning series for the paranormal subgenre. Teens were obsessed and buying t-shirts to show off their pride in Team Edward or Team Jacob. So what happened? Well, other authors tried to replicate the success of Twilight, and teens kept reading vampire and werewolf books until they wanted a taste of something different. Once the movies were released, Twilight stirred up even more controversy as readers began to release that Bella and Edward were an unhealthy relationship portrayal for young teens.
Still, it seems a bit disappointing that the whole vampire subgenre should die out because of one bad portrayal— especially when there’s so many amazing vampire stories, like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.But never fear for those readers who were into paranormal or urban fantasy books other than Twilight, or even those who were into Twilight (no shame here)— these subgenres are making a slow return, starting with Renee Ahdieh’s new vampire novel The Beautiful.
image via the portalist
Steampunk is one of a few YA genres that has never taken hold of a readership. Any successful steampunk books are technically classified under other YA subgenres and only have small steampunk elements. Those books that did attempt to focus solely on steampunk, an attempt that surged around the early 2000s, were usually adult books and were just too similar to each other to claim a place as a real subgenre.
image via CBR.com
Superheroes certainly have a presence in comic books and movies, but this genre just isn’t present in YA. There’s no clear reason why superheroes are more popular in movies than books— maybe viewers would rather see sexy superhero actors and actresses blow stuff up rather than reading about them. Or maybe, like steampunk, superhero YA books have just been too similar with dead YA tropes like “the chosen one.”
5. TIME TRAVEL
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Time travel in YA sci-fi hasn’t been as successful as you might think, although time travel in YA fantasy has more of a presence. Maybe it’s because sci-fi books like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine were written way back in 1895 and readers’ fascination with time travel has died out since then. Yet time travel is still popular in movies and TV, so it’s also up to speculation as to why this genre hasn’t taken off in YA.
If you’re interested in more about the book market or dead genres in publishing, check out this video by Alexa Donne, author of Brightly Burning.She explains all of these dead genres and tropes in-depth and also has some fascinating insights about the publishing world as well as advice for new writers.
Two purveyors of smut and story, two literary giants who’ve gifted us with the steamiest, the sexiest, the naughtiest stuff to ever be in our hands; two individuals, who have used their words to bring us to our knees; two authors who can make our hearts pound—as well as other things!—are going to fight!
Ladies and gentle—please be gentle—men, we bring you E.L. James vs Josh Lark.
Ignoring the broader themes of Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal work, Fight Club, we’re going to do what we do best and have two people fight each other.
Since we can’t talk about Fight Club (see rules one and two), we’re going to write about it. Specifically, we’re going to have two writers fight each other. Three rounds will determine their strength as we go through their power of description, their distinctive style, and their impact on the world at large.
Bring out the whips and the aliens (we’ll get there), let’s have these two authors fight each other.
But let’s not leave Lark in the dark, let’s give him his due.
Image Via Amazon
A self-published author whose work is massive, to say the least, Lark has written everything from college dorms to Area 51 aliens.
Huge beyond belief, Lark notes that ever since he discovered his attraction to men “he has been writing erotic stories about them”. He tells us that “[i]n his free time, he enjoys playing 7-card stud poker and gay rugby.”
He’s a force of wonder, but sadly he loses this match up.
Point for James!
2-WHO’s more DESCRIPTIVE? Who’s more steamy?
Image Via Deadline
It’s porn vs porn. Who’s the better writer? Who can make us just tremble with their words? As a side note, I don’t give a snot that Ana orgasming with every other touch isn’t realistic, I just want it to be described well!
I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder… Hmm… My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
The phrase ‘Christian Grey-flavored popsicle’ is hilarious. Also, the image of Ana’s inner goddess ‘doing the merengue’ is the strangest image. Both of these phrases, placed so close together, takes me out of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hilarious, they’re memorable, but they aren’t exactly descriptive. Plus, they take me out of the scene.
He groans loudly and thrusts deep, again and again, over and over, and I am lost, trying to absorb the pleasure. It’s mind-blowing…body blowing…I long to straighten my legs, to control my imminent orgasm, but I can’t…I’m helpless. I’m his, just his, to do with as he wills…Tears spring to my eyes. This is too intense. I can’t stop him. I don’t want to stop him…I want…I want…oh no, oh no…this is too…
“That’s it,” Christian growls. “Feel it, baby!”
I detonate around him, again and again, round and round, screaming loudly as my orgasm rips me apart, scorching through me like a wildfire, consuming everything. I am wrung ragged, tears streaming down my face—my body left pulsing and shaking.
Much better! On a related note, FEEL IT, BABY!
But that brings me to the dialogue. Every so often during the sex scenes, the people talk. Lines like “Feel it baby” take me out of the scene, making me wonder if Christian Grey is unsure if Ana ‘feels it.’
Image via gyfcat
So some of the sex scenes are bad, while others are great with some wonky dialogue thrown in just to knock down our expectations.
Image Via Amazon
Now that’s a picture! On a related note, let’s switch to Lark and see what he has to offer. This passage comes fromNow That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay:
Even so, the tingle where we touched made his thighs quiver at the first sensation of what I was doing down there. When I had first taken Jason’s entire length, tickling under his balls as I did, he bucked his hips forward into my face.
Now that’s a picture! Short and to the point, it’s exactly what we want. Plus there’s this scene.
I only caught a glimpse of him naked, the water running in beads down his broad chest to his broad chest to his narrow waist, little rivers running off the end of his dick…
No metaphors, no comparisons, just flat out smut.
Comparing this to James’ work showcases how she isn’t that descriptive. She leaves a lot to the reader, and thus we don’t get images of water running off the end of someone’s penis like “little rivers.”
When it comes to descriptions, Lark knows just what words to use to make us tremble.
Point for Lark!
3-WHO’s got More Style
GOT STYLE? / Image Via StyleCaster
Humor is a style, and James is hilarious. Throughout the book, and usually after sex, the characters will be forced to talk to each other. For instance, Christian tells Ana that, “I know that lip is delicious, I can attest to that, but will you stop biting it?”
Maybe the line is supposed to be sensual, reminding us both of what just took place and what will take place, but it’s hilarious. You needed to tell her that her lip was delicious? How thoughtful!
Even in one of the earliest scenes in Fifty Shades, Ana and Christian decide to go out for coffee. What follows is a farce. We go through the intricate details of getting the keys, determining what car someone should go in, where the keys are, and how this whole situation, a billionaire wanting to go out to coffee with Ana, is quite insane.
But Lark is also funny. Just look at his Amazon descriptions. They’re erotic, they’re funny, and they come with incredibly helpful warnings. His story about a man giving his sister’s boyfriend a blowjob has a warning that reads:
WARNING: This 5600-word erotic story by Josh Lark contains explicit descriptions of a hot straight virgin giving his sister’s college boyfriend a hot gay blowjob, including forced fingering and cum eating. Pray that your e-reader doesn’t melt before you get to the end.
His story about a gay doctor who has to suck out snake venom from a cowboy reads:
WARNING: This 4900-word story by Josh Lark contains explicit oral sex between two men, anal fingering, and a cumshot that will have you milking your own snake of its venom.
Image Via Teachers Pay Teacher
How are their plot structures?
With James, well, there’s no flow. Her novels retain their fanfiction roots where stories would come chapter by chapter. Plot points are introduced and dropped in the same chapter, which makes everything clunky. For instance, the villain in Freed is Jack Hyde, a publisher who was fired by Christian Grey for harassing Ana. But he actually didn’t care about Ana, and hates Christian because he was adopted into a bad household and Christian was adopted by a millionaire family. But Hyde isn’t the true villain because he’s been taking orders by Mr. Lincoln, a man who has one appearance and is mentioned briefly at the end. Why doesn’t the Ernst Stravo Blofeld of the Fifty Shades universe appear more?
It makes everything seem like it was written without an outline, which some authors do, like Stephen King, but it’s less successful here.
Image Via The Clever Homeowner
Let’s look at Lark for a hot second. Each of his books follows a similar structure: introduce the characters and the premise, the characters get closer, they have sex, the story ends with everyone happy. It’s simple, straightforward, but let’s dive deep back into Now That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay.
In this story a college student dies and is transported to the shower, where his roommate is stepping out. Oh, no, our main character is secretly in love so him but he never told him anything. Gradually, the roommate realizes that the dead student is there as a ghost. He’s frozen with fear, and our main character writes on a foggy mirror, “I am,” but stops.
What should he say next? That’s he’s dead? Or that he’s gay?
Things go quickly after that. They have sex, they finish, and our main character looks back at the mirror and finishes the sentence I AM with SO GLAD.
See? Every plot point is necessary, and there’s a lot of time spent in the bedroom. We know what we’re getting into, and we know what to expect. It’s like a circle.
Image Via Giphy
Of course, is it fair to compare Lark’s utilizing every page to James just flittering them away with pointless plot points? Is James’ clunky storytelling and laugh-out-loud descriptions a style though?
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A little history…
Erica Mitchell rose to fame as Snowqueens Icedragon on FanFiction.net, writing Twilight fanfiction in staggering succession. She started with Safe Haven, a point of the story through the eyes of Edward, and later wrote Master of the Universe, a loose retelling of Twilight.
From there, thanks to her large outputs and responsiveness, Master of the Universe continually graced the top charts. Eventually, Australian Publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, agreed to publish her story as a trilogy. Since then her stories have been pulled from FanFiction.net and the archives.
That’s not to say her novels are Twilight ripoffs. The names have been changed; the supernatural elements are removed in favor of BDSM. Plus, she’s added some weird stuff.
Image Via Letter2Self
Christian is an abusive boyfriend.
Take this scene in the first Fifty Shades of Grey. When Christian asks Ana what her hard limits are and she tells him she’s a virgin, Christian stomps around the room before he decides to take her virginity as “a means to an end.”
That’s not mentioning the other stuff.
Plus, in Fifty Shades of Grey Christian tells Ana “I’m a dominant,” when Ana asks him, point-blank, “Are you a sadist?”
Come Fifty Shades Darker, “I’m a sadist, Ana I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother.”
So he’s a liar who’s having sex with this woman because she reminds him of his mother.
The whole thing is Stephanie Meyer but WAY more problematic.
Image Via Amazon
In Now that I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay our main character sees the boy he’s in love with, and doesn’t go straight to screwing him. In fact, when they see each other, the main character notices the “…widening of his eyes, the hitching of his breath, and the almost imperceptible contracting of his balls made him seem so intimate and naked.”
Note how he isn’t doing anything, besides being dead. They just look at each other and let things go from there. No needless stomping around. Plus, unlike James, who doesn’t tell you about the rampant abuse that takes place within her pages, Lark lets you know all the eroticism that’ll take place in those warnings we mentioned earlier. It’s a “check out the box. Oh, it’s my fault I told you there was a poisonous snake in that box” vs “this box contains so much gooey gold you might just explode if you reach inside it” type of thing.
WARNING: This 4200-word erotic paranormal story by Josh Lark contains oral and anal sex between human men and a male werewolf, at one point partially morphed. If you think the rough punishment sex inside is too hot for you to handle, go read a boring Twilight knockoff and leave this one to the big dogs.
Winner: Joshua Lark
He walked to the center of the field, empty handed. It would be alright, he told himself, they would sort out their differences. It was a misunderstanding, after all, he didn’t mean to call her out like that in the Amazon description for How to Turn a Werewolf Grey. She would come, he would throw his hands up, and they’d have a cup of coffee. Or tea, if she pleased. He looked down at his watch. It was fifteen minutes after three and her car was nowhere in sight.
The grass around him started to shiver. A gust of wind slapped his face. His eyes rose to the sky.
Up in the sky a single black dot grew and grew, slowly descending, the clouds parting to the sides in fear. His eyes were wide. “Christ,” he muttered.
He threw his head to the side. A used condom was beside him. He looked back up, squinted, and with eyes like sniper rifles he saw that the side door to the helicopter was open and he saw E.L. James holding an actual sniper rifle. She fired.
He jumped to the side. She was shooting used condoms at him. They burst around him, splattering around, exploding like bursts of blood. The ground was littered with rubber and fluids. He ran back, but a wall of condoms exploded in front of him. To his right, to his left, behind him, in front of him, all around him, nothing but condoms.
He looked to the ground. Fitting, he thought, and he smiled.
The smile didn’t leave his face because, slithering through the rubber, was a snake. He tilted his head, the snake looked up at him, and he knew those eyes.
What E.L. James didn’t know, what most people probably didn’t know, was that AREA 51 was based on a true story. That snake was a shape-shifting alien, and they had been friends for quite a long time. It was the story of ET, but without the ending and with more sex.
Reaching out, the snake extended his neck, expanding, and soon it became a hose. Gently holding the snake by the neck, he turned and held up the hose, aimed. “Hasta la vista,” he said, and fired.
The horse shot out great gallons of fluid, striking the helicopter, and it spun out of control. Lowering the hose, letting it fall to the ground as it turned back into a snake, Josh Lark sighed, but his sympathy turned into curiosity because E.L. James had dropped her sniper rifle, jumped off the helicopter, and from her back pocket took out a whip. She spun it around her head and, like a helicopter, she slowly descended to the ground.
Her black eyes were locked with Joshua Lark’s.
The snake jumped back into Josh’s hands and quickly morphed into a hose. Josh squeezed the neck and his alien-snake-hose friend fired, but E.L. James was avoiding the blasts, zigging back and forth. Alright, Josh thought, let her come close and…
E.L. James had one hand on the whip, swinging it above her head, but with her other hand she pulled out a squirt gun. The squirt gun had been in the sun, and its fluid was piping hot. Before she would get close, she would fire and he would fall.
He fired at her. She maneuvered to the left, aimed, and fired.
Josh Lark saw the blast coming at him.
It was close.
The snake was in front of Lark, mouth expanded, and it swallowed the fluid. Josh smiled, and tapped the snake on the neck. “Go,” he said, and the snake fired.
James fell, crashing to the ground, slapping into a pile of clear goop.
Josh smiled, the snake leaned close to his chest. “Thank you,” Josh said, “I’ll offer you some tea. You’ve met my husband, right?”
Featured Image Via Amazon, Writer Write.co, and Penguin Random House
A lack of diversity is hardly the main criticism levelled against Twilight, a controversial yet highly popular vampire franchise of the mid-2000s. Allegations of relationship abuse and sexism are far more prominent—and, if sexism weren’t prevalent in the novel, it certainly pervaded the series’ filming. Right before filming, execs famously told director Catherine Hardwicke that she needed to cut $15 million from the budget, or they would pull the plug despite the overwhelming international success of the source material. She was hopeful that, once Summit saw the number of stunts and set pieces she would have to remove, the studio would understand that these cuts were impossible. Instead, they told her, “great.”
The film that “would be interesting, at most, to 400 girls in Salt Lake City” grossed $393 million.
Evidently, Summit considered Twilight low-priority because of its predominantly female audience, a somewhat baffling outlook, given that the novels have sold over 100 million copies. But the studio seemed to downplay the interests and investments of women—especially Catherine Hardwicke.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Hardwicke revealed that she wanted the film to feature a more diverse cast. In her imagination, all the vampires had different skin tones; Alice, in particular, Hardwicke imagined as Japanese. Meyer disagreed. “She could not accept the Cullens to be more diverse,” Hardwicke imagined, “because she had really seen them in her mind, she knew who each character was representing in a way, a personal friend or a relative or something. She said, ‘I wrote that they had this pale, glistening skin!'”
Gif Via Tenor
(Does naturally glistening skin mean the Cullens are always sweaty? Where are our answers, Steph???)
Hardwicke was able to convince Meyer that Laurent, one of the antagonists, could be a person of color. In the novels, Meyer described his skin as “olive” in complexion, which gave Hardwicke some leeway in the casting. Eventually, Meyer became open to the idea of Bella’s high school friends being more diverse, hence Christian Serrantos and Justin Chon’s casting. But the vampires were off-limits.
Many feel that Twilight isn’t a film—or a story—in which diversity is an issue, largely because of the large Native American presence in the story. (Although it’s worth noting that Taylor Lautner’s claims of ‘very distant’ Native heritage are dubious at best… and, supposedly, were conveniently discovered only after his casting.) Casual fans and trained academics have pointed out the racism in Meyer’s portrayal of the Quileute: specifically, that Meyer relies heavily on stereotypes in their depiction. Characters fit into ‘noble savage,’ ‘bloodthirsty warrior,’ and ‘stoic elder’ archetypes. By associating a Native American tribe with werewolves, creatures associated primarily with violence and aggression, the narrative presents negative stereotypes. While anyone can become a vampire, only Quileutes can be werewolves, inherently associating this trait with racial & ethnic characteristics. The gulf between werewolves and vampires deepens: these white vampires develop supernatural abilities which make them more individual. When Quileutes become werewolves, their individuality ceases. They share a pack ‘hive mind’ and get matching tribal tattoos, reducing them to a homogenous group as is the case with racial stereotyping.
Image Via Business Insider
It’s also worth noting that the film conspicuously sexualizes the Quileute werewolves—to the point that even Edward asks, “doesn’t he own a shirt?” Then there’s the matter of the tattoo: while the Quileute people don’t have a ‘werewolf tattoo,’ the tribe reports that they were not consulted regarding the use of tribal imagery. Since the film’s release, many a horny white girl has gotten Jacob’s tattoo in a classic example of cultural appropriation. No, the Quileute people are not werewolves. But the tribe itself is very real—as have been the consequences of Meyer’s writing.
In associating her werewolf mythology with a real tribe, Meyer put the Quileute people in the compromising position of having their land and traditions disrespected by Twilight fans. In 2010, an MSN film crew disrupted the graves of Quileute elders while filming without permission on the reservation. When filming in Forks, WA, of course, the crew had the decency to ask the Chamber of Commerce. The Quileute Nation also says that they were never consulted for merchandising rights of their cultural artefacts and have seen little profit from the souvenir shops selling Quileute-inspired goods.
No one is saying that you can’t enjoy Twilight. But perhaps you shouldn’t without at least being aware of the racial bias within the narrative and the broader consequences of Meyer’s imaginings.
Ten years after its film release, Stephenie Meyer's paranormal romance 'Twilight' has gained traction once more, trending on Tumblr despite the long lack of new content. The unprompted hype has brought us some hilarious posts and hot takes—let's have a look.