Paranormal Fiction: The Key Lime Pie of YA

This has come up enough times that I figured it was worth a post.

Although folks can argue about whether it's a "genre" or an "age category", "Young Adult" is literature aimed for readers age 12-18, and "paranormal" is literature aimed at readers who like weird, almost-but-not-quite-reality in their fiction, yet there is a discernible difference between "Paranormal Fiction" and "Paranormal Romance" moreso than there being a signed section at Barnes & Noble for one and not the other.

I am a Sign! And, quite possibly, a Sign of the Times.

I've talked about this before, wondering why YA "needs" romance and what makes a great guy love interest, but I've noticed lately that the word "Romance" is being automatically added after the word "Paranormal" sort of like "lemony" being followed by "fresh" (or, more amusingly, "Snicket") and while there *is* an awful lot of fabulous paranormal romance out there, I feel like there's an expectation that this is the be-all and end-all. It isn't. I got into a great discussion on Twitter and boiled the difference (for me) down to this: if the heart of the story is the romantic relationship between the main character and her love interest(s) [or the good looking best friend who she never thought of that way know the score], then I'd characterize it as a romance and if it involves magic, ghosts, vampires, zombies, were-persons, angels, eerie happenstance or other things that go bump, squish, and/or "boogah-boogah!" in the night, it could be characterized as "Paranormal Romance".

However, if the central theme of the book is to save one's sibling, to break the curse, to find the grail, to get back home, to eat the cookie, or save the cheerleader/save the world, and there's a nice-looking, kissable character on the sidelines, then this is "Paranormal Fantasy" because the real thrust of the book isn't romantic (no pun intended), it's to achieve something that has nothing to do with love, but with A Higher Purpose. In romance, there *is* no higher purpose than love: love conquers all and that person is the paramount goal and all sorts of wonderful, anticipatory kissing scenes are to be expected and savored. In Paranormal Fantasy (or a sibling concept, Paranormal Fiction, which has less overt magical mysteries), the main character's goal is to achieve X/Y/Z and getting some smoochies is a nice side benefit, but doesn't save the bacon nor fry it up in a pan. (Most often it can be a huge distraction to the MC's want to achieve the final goal which makes for all sorts of gooey, crunchy angst. Mmmm!)

Sibling-themes are some of my very favorite non-romantic Paranormal Fic.

So do you need ~romance~ or is it okay to have romance the way SPEED has romance; no one's denying there's a hot person next to you, but the real focus is immediately elsewhere? I'm not sure. Paranormal Fiction may be like key lime pie. I know key lime pie isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't want my piece of key lime pie judged on whether or not it's an apple crumb cake. It's not an apple crumb cake. I never claimed it was an apple crumb cake. And I didn't think I was going to be offering an apple crumb cake up for a taste test, but, you're right, there's not enough apple in it to be considered an apple crumb cake.

That's because it's a key lime pie. Crumbling romance on the side. ;-)

P.S. Don't forget to enter the LUMINOUS SUMMER Grand Prize Giveaway going on now through June 30th! (There's no key lime pie, but there *is* chocolate and organic chili-mango lollipops!)


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