Apologies for the least inspired title for a post ever hopefully the ellipsis adds a sense of anticipation. (I fear it doesn’t). During my trawls of the internet, in which I use Twitter and Google Alerts like a whale uses baleen, I have stumbled across two interesting YA texts which deal with the Gothic and the supernatural. Given the increasing overlap between Gothic and YA literature, I love discovering new interpretations of this fruitful relationship. The ‘Generation Dead: YA Fiction and the Gothic’ module introduced by my supervisor, Sam George, at the University of Hertfordshire shows how imperative it is not to dismiss YA fiction, especially that which deals with supernatural, as unsuitable for academia. Deriding certain groups of literature as ‘bad’ or ‘popular’ is unhelpful and ignores the power of fan-lead engagement with texts and the role of the reader in general. The innovations that are happening within writing, reading, and publication are, arguably, the democratisation of literature.
Thus, the first story which caught my eye is ‘The Beasts of St. Andrew’s’ which was published by One Teen Story, and offshoot of the One Story magazine. One Teen Story describes itself on its website as: ‘a literary magazine for young adult readers of every age. Each issue features one amazing short story about the teen experience’. (It looks wonderful and will be joining my list of subscriptions for Christmas).
In some ways One Teen Story, follows the tradition of periodicals (or, looking to the Gothic, the Blue Book or Penny Dreadful model). But with addition of the internet, the circulation becomes worldwide. In the discussion of ‘The Beasts of St. Andrew’s’ on The Washington Post blog, its author Ted Thompson discusses the failure he felt when it was suggested that he had written a YA text. However, he came to the realisation that YA literature is not a sub-par version of adult literature but a worthy genre in itself.
(I will overlook Thompson’s dismissive comments about Twilight because I am magnanimous. And also because it amuses me that the title of the blog plays on the ‘Team Jacob’ idea and Thompson admits that he was inspired to write about werewolves as a way of counteracting the barrage of vampire/ werewolf stories from his creative writing students who were, in turn, inspired by Meyer’s blockbuster. It’s a lesson in not biting the hand that feeds you!)
The second novel is Dance of the Dark Heart by Julie Hearn which was reviewed in The Guardian teen book section. (It was also reviewed under the heading ‘children’s books’ by The Guardian but the first review intrigued me more: as Oscar Wilde suggested, the critic is an artist themself). This novel appears to be a dark fairytale – and I love that both reviews note that the hero, Jack, is not simply a ‘dark and tortured’ hero but a true anti-hero hearing Satanic voices. The tie in with actual history (some of the action takes place in the court of Henry VII) looks promising as well. I enjoy my fantasy with a dollop of realism: give me urban fantasy over high fantasy any day! I also have to admit that Jack’s talent for playing the fiddle reminded me of one of my favourite songs ‘The Devil went down to Georgia’.
So, it would appear that I will be making space on my heaving reading list for two more stories. I suspect Shakespeare didn’t have my reading list in mind when he wrote: ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea,/My love as deep; the more I give to thee,/The more I have, for both are infinite’. But as all literature students/ book-lovers will know, when it comes to books, there’s always room for one more.