Thursday, 26 January 2012

Edgy Fiction - not all contemporary realism by Bryony Pearce

Edgy fiction – the term immediately leads the reader to think about books such as Melvin Burgess Junk, or Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English.   
Contemporary Realism is a natural breeding ground for edgy fiction because contemporary realism, especially in YA is so often issue driven and boundary pushing.

Think a bit harder about edgy fiction and a reader might bring up some older works, Judy Blume’s Forever (which us thirty year olds all remember passing around the classroom) or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a personal favourite. 

Again, they could all be described as ‘contemporary realism’.  They were contemporary when they were written and certainly push boundaries, even now.  The opening of The Color Purple still gives me shivers ‘You better not never tell nobody but God.  It’d kill your mammy.  Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.’  
Go back further. Go back to the very first novel ever written, generally accepted to be Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), that was, by definition, edgy being the first of its kind and Defoe is often credited with being the first writer of ‘realistic fiction’.
But can other genres of fiction be ‘edgy’?
I’d say yes.  I’d consider a lot of science fiction ‘edgy’ – not only does it push the boundaries of imagination, but the earliest science fiction was often written as a form of political commentary during a time when, particularly in America, hints of communist sympathies in ‘contemporary realism’ would have had the author dragged away.  I was a big fan of science fiction as a teenager and I still vividly remember dozens of stories that ended with the end of all things: edgy, gripping stuff that has now been consigned to history.
But what about fantasy, that can’t be edgy … can it?
Have you read Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars?  Gillian Philip’s Bloodstone?  These books are as issue driven as any other on the list. 
Maybe that is the key – if a book is issue driven, if it stays with you, if it’s fresh and new then there’s no boundary to what can be described as edgy, from the very first novel ever written, to the most recent, authors use edgy fiction to raise questions, to make people think, to teach lessons. 
Take a look at our list of our favourite edgy fiction titles … suggest some of your own. We’re always willing to add to our reading lists!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Bryony. I totally agree that edgy doesn't have to mean violent and urban or shocking 'issues' based fiction. One of my favourite 'edgy' books is Lucy Christopher's STOLEN, because it is unsettling and surprising in the way it made me feel as a reader, and how it forced me to question and think about the story long after I finished reading.