It’s no secret that I’m a huge YA contemporary fan.
It’s practically half of my bookshelf. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other genres: sci-fi, some fantasy, mystery, thriller, the like. Usually, I’ll give anything a try if the blurb really intrigues me. But one genre I aim to avoid at all costs?
On paper, it sounds cool: a contemporary setting paired with some exciting fantastical elements to spruce it up a bit.
But in the actual books (which, coincidentally, are also on paper), I end up not enjoying it the way that everyone else seems to. There are a few reasons for this:
It’s Not Defined Enough For Me
This reason, at least, seems to be more of a me-problem than a genre-problem. I don’t enjoy ambiguous, confusing books. I like to know what the rules are, whether the book has magical elements or not.
Magical realism is a very in-between genre. Anything could happen. A portal could open up in the sky. A potion could restore someone’s health. A magic tree could hold all the answers to your problems. For some, this is exciting. For me, it’s frustrating and disorienting.
It’s Too Convenient
This is a problem I have with the genre as a whole. When I read a magical realism, and things really reach a tipping point and I can’t wait to see how the characters get out of a complex situation, magic swoops in and saves the day.
A Million Junes by Emily Henry comes to mind. I don’t remember a whole lot about this book, but I remember reaching the climax and just totally hating the ending, since the magical realism aspects played such a huge role the resolution. So many of the problems it’d been building towards seemed to vanish when magic showed up.
If a book is set in the real world, I want the characters to resolve their issues with real world things: conversations, grand gestures, charged dialogue, etc.
It’s Too Confusing
This goes along with an earlier point, but the fact is, magical realism leaves me wondering what in the world just happened.
The magic systems aren’t usually as defined as in a full-on fantasy, so things just seem to happen when they happen. This may be the perfectionist in me, but I need rules, I need standards.
This is one of the reasons I gave Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno three stars. It wasn’t a bad book, but the first and second half were so wildly different. In the first half, it felt contemporary, which just the barest hint of mysticism.
But in the second half… things just happened. They weren’t really explained and the main character just rolled with. Magic boats and doorways appeared, and there were random journeys through foreign terrain. I was so disoriented that I ended up skimming the last thirty or so pages just for the sake of finishing.
It particularly frustrates me when the main character is totally fine with this existence in magic with no explanation! Don’t you care that all your problems are being magically solved?? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
I feel like I’m usually pretty open to trying things, even if I didn’t like them before. But magical realism has become a hard no for me over the years. I always find myself irritated and disappointed by it, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Give the plain, boring contemporary over magical realism any day of the week.
How do you feel about magical realism? Love it or hate it? Do you have any recommendations from the genre? Tell me in the comments! 🙂