I’m posting this article from The Conversation by Michelle Smith for this year’s Generation Dead: YA Fiction and the Gothic students, who will begin their study of the YA Gothic genre in September.
Why YA Gothic Fiction is Booming and Girl Monsters are on the Rise begins by rehearsing familiar arguments about the liminal status of the teenager, and new cultural understandings of the monster as sympathetic, before settling on its argument. It concludes that authors are deliberately moving away from binaries to acknowledge the possibility that ‘both the good and the monstrous reside in one person’. This is something that Mary Shelley, writing Frankenstein when still a teenager, understood only too well.
An acknowledgement of Alison Waller’s work on the representation of adolescents by adult writers is perhaps needed here to remind us how teenagers always become the ‘other’ in such works, and Catherine Spooner’s work on theorising the contemporary gothic. The hybrid nature of paranormal Romance has been imaginatively explored in the work of Fred Botting, Bill Hughes and Joseph Crawford. Smith’s article is very readable and nicely pitched for students however, and it opens up an interesting debate around the monstrous feminine, explaining why YA authors seek to dissolve the boundaries between monster and human.