Genre Mashing

There are a million reasons I love writing and reading YA, but one of the things I’m constantly grateful for is the freedom of genre.

When you want to buy a YA book—or you’ve written one—you know you can find it in the YA section of the bookstore. Contemporary? YA section. Magic realism? YA section. Urban fantasy? YA section. Science fiction? YA section. Dystopian romance with hints of fairy tale set on a second Earth? YA SECTION.

In YA, it seems like anything is possible.

There will always be people unsatisfied with the amount of real whatever-genre in bookstores, like real science fiction (which must include spaceships and at least two species of aliens) or real epic fantasy (which must include a cast of thousands and castles and at least one secret king), but pfft. Why limit yourself?

In YA, since everything is shelved in the same section, why try to shove everything into a neat genre box? Why not get a lot of boxes and dump everything out into a bigger box that’s actually a blender? Why not—Wait, this metaphor will easily get out of hand. Anyway, YA books are a chance to explore the possibilities and experiment.

I love the idea of mixing genres, of taking tropes from different types of stories and seeing what happens when you put them together. Some genres seem to fit together naturally, like a science fiction murder mystery. (Across the Universe by Beth Revis, anyone?) And then there are some you might not expect to find together, like a science fiction fairy tale. (Cinder by Marissa Meyer.)

There are so many awesome possibilities that come from challenging yourself to make that kind of story work.

It does have to work, though. There is such a thing as too much, and if you’re not careful about blending, you might end up with this chimera-looking story that’s more frightening (or unintentionally hilarious) than intriguing.

And . . . you have to be able to call it something. How do you decide? In the case of the “dystopian romance with hints of fairy tale set on a second Earth,” (see what a mouthful that is?) cut your genre + genre + genre + genre down to its most prominent pieces. In this case, I’d bet dystopian and romance are it, and since so many dystopians in YA have romance . . . you can probably just say dystopian and let the romance be implied. The awesomeness of your fairy tale style and second Earthness will show in the story.

Remember, if you don’t decide what to call it, someone else will. Heck, even if you do decide what to call it, someone else may decide to call it something else to market it differently.

And no matter what you call book made of many genres, a lot of readers will decide to call it whatever aspect is most important to them about the story. Person A may see it as a dystopia. Person B might see it as a romance. And that’s okay.

I’ve already given you a couple of my favorite genre-mashing books (AtU and Cinder). What are some of yours?


21 Responses to Genre Mashing

  1. Erin Bowman Apr 11 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Great post, Jodi! Genre-mashers that come to mind for me are:
    UNDER THE NEVER SKY — as a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, dystopian-esque romance
    THE SCORPIO RACES — as YA contemp with a dash of fantasy
    DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE — as a paranormal romance meets fantasy mashup
    Oh, and INCARNATE is still in my TBR pile, but I hear your book is quite the genre bender as well! 😉

    • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Oh those are great ones!! I’ve only read NEVER SKY (and Incarnate, of course), but the others are on my want list!

  2. Sooz Apr 11 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Oooh, AWESOME post, Jodi!! I always think the same–thank GOODNESS we can mash up in the realm of YA. I have to say, I love what Erica O’Rourke did in TORN & TANGLED: mobster mystery + paranormal + smokin’ hot romance! Or Mandy’s YOU WISH: contemporary comedy + hints of fantasy + romance.

    Basically, literary cocktails are the best!!

    • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Yes they are! I’ll drink to that! *clinks glass*

  3. Eva Rieder Apr 11 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Very enjoyable post, Jodi! I think we’re on similar wavelengths, as I recently blogged about the various subgenres myself. It’s in the air! 🙂 There is so much genre blending and line blurring, and so many pieces fit into so many categories. On one hand, it’s great because it provides freedom as a writer, as well as the ability for a reader to find multiple interests. On the other, the multiple subgenre classification can make it hard to find what a reader may be seeking—but I agree with your statement that everyone will take from from the piece what they will. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

    • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      Ahh, clearly there’s something going around! (A good something!)

      Yeah, it definitely CAN be tricky to find what you’re looking for, with all the mashing going on, but hopefully it will help introduce people to new types of stories, too!

      • Eva Rieder Apr 11 2012 at 7:23 pm #

        Agreed! There is a lot of great new blended stuff coming out…You mentioned CINDER, one I’m very excited to read soon. It’s on my to-read list. 🙂

        • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:26 pm #

          Oh CINDER is WOOOOONDERFUL. I just loved reading that one so much. It’s fantastic.

  4. Rachel Seigel Apr 11 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Great Post Jodi!

    From a writer’s perspective, I can totally appreciate the freedom that the genre allows and that aura of anything goes.
    The Children’s and YA sections of a bookstore/Library are virtually the only places that really put all types of books into one section. I think that also exemplifies the need for a specialist in these sections who can help readers make sense of the multiple subgenres and crossovers that occur.

    • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      Yeah, those sections definitely need specialists helping readers (and parents of readers) find what they’re looking for.

  5. April Tucholke Apr 11 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL. Bril literary fantasy.
    UP AT THE VILLA. Literary fiction + suspense.
    THE ROAD. Literary fiction + post apoc.
    SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS. Literary fiction + murder mystery.
    THE CLUB DUMAS. Murder mystery + occult.
    OUTLANDER. Sci fi + romance + historical fiction.
    TELEGRAPH DAYS. Western + romp.

  6. Catherine Stine Apr 11 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Fusion is the newest trend and a very cool one at that!!!

  7. Kat Zhang Apr 11 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    As someone who, for the life of her, can never pin genres to the majority of her work, I looove how you can “genre-mash” (great phrase, haha!) in YA 😀

    • jodimeadows Apr 11 2012 at 7:21 pm #


      Seriously, though. I know what you mean. I have a hard time pinning mine down, too, and while sometimes it’s frustrating trying to explain what I’m writing . . . I love the freedom that comes with blending genres together.

  8. Amie Kaufman Apr 11 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    This sounds like the perfect excuse for not knowing what I want to call my books! ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is definitely one of my favourites — one of the things I love about genre mashing is that I end up introduced to things I wouldn’t normally read, like murder mysteries! Another fave of mine is the ARTEMIS FOWL series, which is basically action/adventure, with magic and fairies!

    • jodimeadows Apr 12 2012 at 9:20 am #

      LOL! Yes, it is the perfect excuse, isn’t it?

      I haven’t read the ARTEMIS FOWL series yet, but I’ve only heard great things about it!

  9. Chris Apr 15 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    I absolutely ADORE the Artemis Fowl series, you should definitely check them out. 🙂

    This is a great article…I love reading books that fall into a bunch of different genres, particularly when they author does a great job of weaving them together! That’s definitely an idea for me to use for my next novel. The only thing I’m worried about, of course, is that I’d have a hard time balancing one of the other…thank goodness there are so many good books to learn from!

    • jodimeadows Apr 15 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      I’ve heard soooo many good things about Artemis Fowl!!

      The balance is tricky, and it definitely takes practice (and revisions) to get right, but if genre-mashing is what you want to do, go for it! 🙂

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