Wild Things: YA Grown-Up discussion

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Contemporary > What are Contemporary YA Books?

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message 1: by Emma (new)

Emma (roseeroo) Definitely all the Sarah Dessen novels, they're about teen girls living now, experiencing realistic situations.


message 2: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) I don't know if this is relevent but an academic, bit of a whiz when it comes to all things fantasy, called Brian Attebery had a term for any fantasy that had a component set in our world, he called it 'indigenous fantasy', which I rather like. I guess it depends on what one defines as 'contemporary'. For example Alan Garner's The Owl Service and Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe both either start off in or are highly dependent on the real world, but the teenagers or children involved in the story aren't contemporary in terms of today's youngsters. I guess I'd need a clearer definition before I could comment properly.


message 3: by Pebblefoot (new)

Pebblefoot | 2 comments I thought contemporary YA meant stuff that young adults are into right now. What would you call books about kids in the real world that were written a long time ago? They are not contemporary, as in they have nothing to do with the real world today. Do they fall under historical fiction for YA? Is there such a thing?


Angela Sunshine (angelasunshine) There is historical fiction for YA, but it's already taken! :-) It's for books like Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson...

I don't know how you'd classify outdated contemporary... Classic contemporary? Although classic seems to infer that the books are well-known and well loved, which may not necessarily be the case for just "old" books.


message 5: by Kellee (new)

Kellee Moye (kelleemoye) Contemporary YA and Realistic Fiction are the same, correct?

I think maybe outdated contemporary would just be realistic fiction where contemporary would be both contemporary and realistic....

Am I talking in circles?


message 6: by Pebblefoot (new)

Pebblefoot | 2 comments I did a search and found quite a few "experts" on literature calling a genre "contemporary YA fantasy", so it does appear there is something like that, although the two terms seem to contradict each other. I was even putting that phrase in my query letters, but have since changed it after reading this discussion. My favorite YA books are placed in the real world, with an element of fantasy thrown in, which makes the magic more believable.


message 7: by Bhumi (new)

Bhumi | 274 comments Kellee, I consider contemporary and realistic fiction to be the same, for the most part.


message 8: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Walker (malcolmwalker) Contemporary and realistic fiction ... well, I guess you have to define your terms as clearly as possible. Does contemporary refer to the date of publication (which is my understanding of the meaning) or does it refer to the novel's subject matter, because realism and fantasy generally occupy very different genre slots. For me, contemporary fiction means anything published in the last 20 years say (bit of an arbitrary figure but it'll do for the moment) into which you can slot everything from high-end literature to popular fiction to crime (name your genre here) to fantasy/sci-fi. Realism, on the other hand, is defined by the parameters of the real world, in other words it has to reflect everyday events, whether recent or historical. Interestingly, one wonders how this applies to something like a Le Carre spy novel, which draws heavily on the real, but which is classified as genre. In this vein one can ask if a realist novel set in the Vietnam War period is 'realistic fiction'. If it's about teenagers then while not being about contemporary kids if written in the last 10 years must make it contemporary YA fiction. There are any number of interesting and complex distinctions and I'm not sure anyone will ever agree on them.


message 9: by ☼Bookish (new)

☼Bookish in Virginia☼  (ren_t) I'd consider books like "Split" and "As Simple as Falling Off the Face of the Earth" to be contemporary. Although "Split" is more realistic.

I guess I'm not good with categories.


message 10: by Kellee (last edited Jul 17, 2010 05:19PM) (new)

Kellee Moye (kelleemoye) What I've learned is: Realistic and Contemporary are really overlapping. Contemporary just needs to be in the close present and realistic doesn't.
For example, The Sun Also Rises is realistic, but not contemporary.


message 11: by ☼Bookish (new)

☼Bookish in Virginia☼  (ren_t) Kellee wrote: "What I've learned is: Realistic and Contemporary are really overlapping. Contemporary just needs to be in the close present and realistic doesn't.
For example, The Sun Also Rises is realistic, b..."


Yes. That's putting it succinctly, Kellee! I can agree with that entirely.


message 12: by Jojobean (new)

Jojobean I think all of Julie Anne Peter's books fall under this category.


message 13: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 157 comments Kellee wrote: "I think maybe outdated contemporary would just be realistic fiction where contemporary would be both contemporary and realistic.... ..."

This is how I think of it. I split my fiction into "realistic" and "speculative". Realistic is anything that could actually happen. Speculative contains fantastical, science fiction/speculation, or other "non-real" elements. This can be tricky when it comes to horror, though. Some horror is realistic, and some is not.

To me contemporary means written in the last thirty years. I actually divide up my Realistic Fiction by,...uhm...eras? I guess. Therefore, contemporary is in my most recent era (1980 to present). I am actually thinking of adding a newer category, like 2000 to present, but haven't made up my mind yet.

Some of my favorite Realistic Contemporary YA Fiction:
How to Say Goodbye in Robot
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl


message 14: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Welch (sheilakellywelch) | 5 comments Putting books into catagories can be a risky business although I can understand its value, too. The term "contemporary" has several meanings, which add to the confusion. I'd suggest using "current" or "present day" or "2005 novel" instead of the vague "contemporary."

Even "realistic" can be a slippery term. Should The Book Thief be callled realistic, historical fiction or fantasy, historical fiction? Can Death really talk? Do we wander around observing our broken bodies as Mia does in If I Stay? I think "speculative" is a great term to use for such books since calling them "fantasy" seems way off.

Thanks for this interesting discussion!


Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) A Contemporary YA novel for me would take place in present day society with all of the amenities and concerns our youth experience. Things like first discovering the opposite sex, forming a self-image, cyber bullying, distinguishing your sexuality, being exposed to drugs or alcohol, and navigating high school are all topics I would expect to see.


message 16: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (sam96213) | 1 comments Margaret wrote: "A Contemporary YA novel for me would take place in present day society with all of the amenities and concerns our youth experience. Things like first discovering the opposite sex, forming a self-im..."
These are the topics that you would find in a contemporary novel. Does that mean that coming of age novels are contemporary too?


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