Friday, July 23, 2010

Goth Influences in Paranormal YA

An Analysis from A Real Life Goth! PART I
[Warning: this article may contain spoilers of ensuing stories]

By Amber Skye Forbes

I am this creature called a Goth, a separate species from the human race that resigns herself to hating society, scaring people, and eating bat brains. I cover myself head-to-toe in black, listen to depressing music, and go on rants about the state of our society. Did I mention bat brains are delicious?

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I lied. I'm not going to go on a tirade about what Goth is and what Goth isn't. It's up to you writers to do that research for yourself. After all, you should be used to it. You do research for your novels, don't you?

Despite all those crazy stereotypes out there about us, I don't wear white face make-up, I don't feel repressed by society, I'm not angry, I'm not hateful, and I most certainly don't self-injure or try to frighten people. I also don't always wear all black. I am a minimalist in all aspects of my life, including writing, photography, and the way I dress. Less is more for me. And because I'm a minimalist, I consider myself a preppy Goth, a Goth princess, or some girly form of Goth where pink is definitely acceptable (though some argue this is Cyber Goth).

In any case, I'm here to give my spiel about the comeback Gothic elements in literature. I'm not talking about Goth characters, either, but rather the Gothic element, most notably in YA paranormal. [There is a difference between Goth and Gothic. Goth is the person, Gothic is the literature and architecture.]

YA paranormal seems to be a popular genre right now, with books like Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl thrusting their pretty covers for all to see and being somehow more noticeable than other genres. I haven't read either of those books, of course, which is why I won't talk about them. But these are some examples of YA paranormals dominating the YA market.

Instead I'm going to talk about Goth influences in The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (more dystopian, but the Goth influence is still there), short stories from The Poison Eaters by Holly Black, and Need by Carrie Jones, and how these Gothic influences contribute to the overall themes found in these stories.

The Dead-Tossed Waves is the story of a girl named Gabry who grows up relatively safe in the city of Vista. It isn't until one of her friends is bitten and turned Mudo (zombie) that her life begins to dramatically change.

The Gothic influence in this novel is obvious right from the start. The novel opens up with a scene at an abandoned, decrepit amusement park, and such settings are characteristic of Gothic novels. This most likely symbolizes Gabry's world, in that it seems to be falling apart because of the onslaught of zombies with an insatiable appetite. These zombies don't even have a desire to feed, but more of a desire to turn others like them. It's a desperate world she lives in, one seemingly devoid of hope, but full of humanity. Of course, in order to appreciate the light, one must understand the darkness.

The Gothic influence, however, is best represented in Gabry. To quote a line in an article I wrote for issue 4 of Sorean: A Gothic Magazine, "main characters in Gothic novels typically show traits of vulnerability, either with isolation, a troubling past, or an undesired future." Gabry is most certainly a character that feels vulnerable. In the beginning, she plays it safe and doesn't want to take too many chances, a direct contrast with her mother, Mary, who displays a more adventurous spirit in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Over time, however, Gabry gains some of her mother's courage, but not after experiencing horrors beyond our imaginations.

Part II coming soon! Please leave your thoughts below!


S. A. Soule, Creativity Coach said...

Interesting...I wrote an article myself on the Gothic genre, but it differs from yours.

Read it and tell me what you think. :-)

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