A few weeks ago, I participated in the YA Scavenger Hunt (which was completely fun, and I hope I get to do it again in the fall). One of the requirements to win an Amazon gift card from my site was to stop here and let me know what the participant liked reading. Overwhelmingly, the answer was dystopian and fantasy which I found interesting because contemporaries have received so much attention in the publishing world lately.
To add to my blog findings, I worked a middle school book fair yesterday and had the chance to talk to students and teachers. The verdict: the demand for dystopian and fantasy is high. That’s what student after student bought: The Red Queen (sold out), Divergent, The Maze Runner, Harry Potter, and many titles I hadn’t heard of but put on my TBR list. The librarians and teachers told me kids want these books because they can lose themselves in them.
My sample is skewed, I admit. I live in a ethnically diverse, economically homogeneous area. The kids here read because their parents have surrounded them with books; they have money to buy books; and reading is a priority, not a luxury.
But still, I think this is what they want: escapism. They want to envision themselves up against the Big Bad, surviving, and coming out the hero. They want epic battles, book boyfriends, and the fantasy of a court of intrigue. They want adventures they will never have in real life.
Despite hearing time-and-again that fantasy and dystopian are dead, I believe the opposite is true — the demand is high for these books (and 2016 lists so far are reflecting this). So, if like me, you tend to gravitate toward non-contemporary books, I wouldn’t worry about the whispers of dystopian and fantasy being dead.
The readers want it, and in the end, the reader always gets what they want.