Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Balm of Fantasy

Pat McDermott here, posing a question about YA fantasy: Aren’t there enough troubling issues to write about for teenage readers without making stuff up?

Sure. That’s one reason why I write fantasy. Not only did I used to be a teenager, I also had two in the house for thirteen years or so. Their experiences gave me some knife-edged refreshers on what it’s like to be a teen. As if I could forget.

I recall my own teenage years well because I disliked them so much. Many teens do, for reasons ranging from embarrassing skin to curfews and cliques, STDs and mental health, body image, peer pressure, bullying, depression, drug abuse, and worse. Being a teenager is, and always has been, hard work.

Some teens find comfort reading about characters plagued by problems akin to theirs. Others prefer to bury themselves in rousing adventures that help relieve stress for a while. Those looming final exams don’t seem so desperate when vampires, werewolves, dragons, and aliens threaten the world.

During my teens, I often sought refuge in tales like Treasure Island, Great Expectations, the Hardy Boys mysteries, Peter Pan, and all sorts of fairy tales. Even better, I started creating my own escapes. I love to write and have three adventures coming soon from MuseItUp: the "Band of Roses" stories, alternate histories set in an Ireland that might have been. Glancing Through the Glimmer is the "prequel" to that trilogy.

Glimmer’s hero and heroine, Liam Boru and Janet Gleason, struggle to deal with their own teenage issues. Their problems fall by the wayside when the King of the Fairies decides he’d like to dance with Janet—for the next few centuries. Danger and magic shadow her and hinder her budding romance with Liam. What would you do if you were Janet? Or if you were Liam, could you fight fairy enchantment to save her? Can Janet save Liam when the Fairy King turns on him? (I sure hope so. I need them both for the sequel.)

Whether readers identify with a character, or whether they simply enjoy going along for the ride, fantasy offers a respite from the world’s afflictions, and not just for teens. I love all genres of YA—but I still like the fantasy best.

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(Photo of Teen Reading Courtesy of Photobucket)


Yanting Gueh said...

I can empathize with socially awkward or troubled teenagers, and Fantasy did give me the break I needed then. YA fantasy is a wonderful genre, Pat. The Fairy King sounds beautiful yet frightening.

Pat McDermott said...

Nicely said, Claudine. Fantasy follows lots of teens into adulthood. A good story can lift my spirits in a flash. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anne E. Johnson said...

Your post really made me think, Pat.

Seems to me that fantasy is also popular for the same reason the Greeks invented theater: it's a more glamourous and dramatic telling of the little issues we all face, blown up to enormous proportions the way we all feel our own personal problems. Which also explains why fantasy often contains tragedy, angst, and terror. It's not just soothing, but also cathartic.

Pat McDermott said...

Agreed, Anne. The same might be said of all art. Thanks for adding your insight.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I've always been keener on escapism, all through childhood, teenage years and now in adulthood. I think that's why Harry Potter was so popular with children who didn't previously read - they wanted some escapism and fantasy in their lives!

Your series sounds great.

Geophile said...

In my opinion, teens in our culture especially enjoy fantasy because in a more natural society at their age they would be doing vision quest or otherwise be initiated into the view of the world that fantasy hints at, the real world of spirit and relationship to the land and the non-human living things around them. I think so many adults like fantasy for the same reason. They know there's more to the world than they have been taught but the western world view doesn't give access to it.

Teens are at the point where one can begin to coordinate one's intuitive and one's rational mind so that they complement one another, a reason why they also write poetry, and why they want to get high or drunk a lot. It's a yearning for something greater.

In ancient cultures and some even today, a person married and is a responsible member of the community by 15. Teens feel ready to be taken seriously and treated like valuable parts of a society. Teen protagonists in books help them to live that life in their minds.

Haha, sorry! As you can tell, I have thought about this a lot! --Nancy

Pat McDermott said...

Rosemary, the Harry Potter books are perfect examples of fantasy fiction, and readers of all ages love them. How wonderful that the concept got reluctant readers to read! Great to see you here.

Pat McDermott said...

My goodness, Nancy, you sure have thought about this a lot! I for one am delighted by your ideas on the topic. Quite logical, especially the part about modern teens wanting to be taken seriously. Thanks for your input!

J.Q. Rose said...

Teens love fantasy because they have such creative, imaginative minds at that age. I think the stories feed their own fantasy world. And let's face it, teens are going through some of the toughest times in their lives, so a fantasy helps them to escape from all the pressure of growing up.

Pat McDermott said...

JQ, the pressure of growing up is something I'd never care to experience again. If my stories make one young person smile, I'm smiling too. Appreciate your visit!

gail roughton branan said...

I've always said you couldn't pay me enough to be a teenager again. Or in my 20's, or my 30's or my 40's actually. Life's a hard adventure. The ability to fantasize is one of the greatest gifts humans have, I think. And I think it was bestowed on us as an aid to continued sanity. (All things being relative, of course.)

Unknown said...

I say, bring on the fantasy, Pat! Life if full of "reality". When it's time to escape, you'll find me in a Hobbit hole or some other new world waiting to be discovered within the pages of a book. Teenage years to the present, for me that's the way it's always been. Great post!!!

Pat McDermott said...

@Gail, I love that line, 'the ability to fantasize is one of the greatest gifts humans have.' A built-in coping device. Nicely put!

@Diana, you're so right, life is full of reality, at every age. Meet you in that Hobbit hole!

Thanks for dropping by, ladies!

Bevin said...

I think it's just as you said. Being a teenager is absolutely terrible for a lot of people-- for me it was the hardest period of my life and you couldn't pay me enough money to go back to it even for a day.

Reading, especially fantasy, is an escape from a reality that is totally overwhelming and confusing where self-esteem is historically at its lowest and life seems most confusing. If you can understand the different elements of another world, especially worlds that require intelligence and imagination to dive into (like Tolkien, or Harry Potter, or what have you) then you can almost feel 'accepted' by that world, even if it was your choice to dive into it. It's safe, and a book doesn't attack or pressure you. A relationship with reading can be one of the steadier, positive, and healthier relationships you can have as teen, with the literature and with yourself.

Great post, Mom. xo

Pat McDermott said...

Oh wow. I'm doing something right! Thank you, Melodious Lady :-)

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