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Death is the New Black

There always seems to be a new “hot” thing that sweeps through Young Adult literature. Several years ago it was cliques of girls in exclusive locales: Harrison’s Clique series, Von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl books, and more recently The Pretty Little Liars books.  But ghost stories, Gothic legend, and the end of the human race have fascinated generations of campers and slumber-partiers alike. These decidedly grim topics have become the next big wave in YA titles and jump-started authors’ and publishers’ renewed, 21st century obsession with death.

Vampires broke through first with Meyer’s Twilight phenomenon, followed by The Vampire Diaries books, and the House of Night books by P.C. Cast.  Now, it seems readers are making the slow evolution from the undead to the undying to the truly dead. YA readers’ interest in vampires morphed into another area of morbid interest with zombies. And now on the shelves, zombies are competing with mediums and ghosts for sales.

The first book that made an impression on me was Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder.  Soon after, a whole slew of teens interacting with the undying and hungry or the dead but not departed began to appear on the shelves. Some notables include Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Enclave by Anne Aguirre, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. More recently I have stumbled upon The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and The Diviners by Libba Bray. I’ve also been introduced to some emerging authors, one of whom is Annalise Hulse who is delving into the world of ghosts and haunting with her Evangeline Devine series.

None of these premises are completely new. We have gone from the elite and their dramas to vampires’ ever-alluring appeal to human women. Then zombies take over forcing the main characters to harness their inner-Katniss and now teen guys and girls are communing with the dead to mete out justice for friends and family. The best part is that even though the templates might be familiar, these new breed of YA authors are infusing new and unique life into the tried and true tales that continue to enthrall readers through the years. Which begs the question: Which old interest will become new again as YA continues to evolve?

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