Fantasy vs. Reality in Y.A. Novels

by Michael Kinch on November 24, 2011

France: Chartres Cathedral stained glass

Chartres Cathedral stained glass

I have a love-hate relationship with Fantasy. I loved the world of fantasy as a child. Dragons, witches, ghosts, werewolves, things that go bump in the night. But I also got kicked in the teeth when I discovered the world of fantasy and magic lay beyond my flesh-and-blood life. When I discovered Santa was not real, the rest came tumbling down: the Easter Bunny; birthday wishes; unanswered prayers; no fairies under toadstools, etc.

Fantasy author, George R.R. Martin, tries to make a strong case for fantasy vs. reality when he says, “Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?”

Lovely thought, but I just can’t buy it. He portrays this real world as mundane and humdrum. But OMG, there are things to see and experience in our brief lives that are so awesome. Try camping in the mountains away from city lights and be awestruck by a Milky Way so bright it throws your shadow. Or look at the miracle of a tiny tree frog huddled in your palm. How about the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Or music that shakes your soul. A smile cast your direction that triples your heart rate. A stained-glass cathedral window with colors more brilliant than Aladdin’s treasures.

What I’m trying to say is that some authors have the ability to pull you into the glory of our world of reality with their words. Their real-world fiction can be as beautiful, magical, and sometimes terrible, as any book of fantasy.

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