In fact, the idea that the genre needs a savior is silly—and, some writers argue, sexist.
This article latched on to me, not because of the sexism arguments (which are probably valid), but because of the dismissiveness towards that fact that much of the new YA content is Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
Honestly very confused that the tons of Sci-Fi/Fantasy in the YA section is a “problem”. When I was that age (eek, 10-15 years ago), there was not very much Sci-Fi/Fantasy for young girls, and lots of “feels about romance and/or cancer.” I liked Sci-Fi and adventures, so I wound up reading a lot of boyish crap and settling for Petra Arkanian and Dr. Susan Calvin as the only female characters to be had. Why didn’t I get my own protagonists? Why didn’t I get my own books? In my mind, the deluge of Sci-Fi/Fantasy is a welcome change.
Three thoughts on why all of this Sci-Fi & Fantasy in the YA/”Teen Girls” market is awesome:
- Sci-Fi/Fantasy tend to be adventures which (with the exception of Twilight) present female protagonists as brave characters with their own agency, power, control. These are the kinds of characters I want young women to identify with! Where I mostly only saw women in secondary/side roles, today’s girls get Katniss Everdeen, and that basically just rocks. Heroism, bravery. Also self-sacrifice. Those are nice things for girls. Kids in general. Why do boys always get portrayed with these values but not the girls?
- Sci-Fi in particular leads readers to learn to think about the world as it “might be” rather than how it “is.” Look at how much of the tech from Star Trek that we actually have today! Science Fiction is part of the creative process that leads engineers to new goals and ideas. Reading Sci-Fi can lead girls — any reader, really — to see themselves as imaginative, and perhaps as potential inventors. As an engineer/inventor, I really value the imaginative power I learned from Asimov et al… I just really wish they had shown more ladies doing the inventing.
- The above two points are about identity rather than literary value. But it’s also a mistake to think that Science-Fiction and Fantasy as a field lacks literary value. There are a ton of books about “cancer/love/feels” that are soapy and suck, but there are others that inspire deep thought — like, it sounds like, the Fault in our Stars.
There are a ton of books about spaceships and dystopian governments that are just adventures, but others that inspire deep thought too. Let’s talk about the end of the Hunger Games (but not too deeply because spoilers). I think it says a lot about politics and revolution, and the role of individuals in revolution… in a nice teenage-sized package. So as far as literary value goes, I give it a thumbs up.
Also, grownups, may I recommend to you some grownup books?