Paranormal/Fantasy YA Review Bingo (updated)

I have a rule that I never respond to bad reviews. I have blogged on several occasions about why I think doing so is pointless. However, I can’t help noticing a certain tenor in many Paranormal/Fantasy YA reviews lately. Everything seems to be talked about in terms of Stephenie Meyer’s Twlight books.

On the one hand it’s inevitable given that they are the most popular books, not just in YA, but in the entire world. Meyer’s had a huge influence and, yes, there are many Twilight knockoffs out there. But on the other hand, people seem to forget that Meyer’s books are very new. Twlight was first published in October 2005. YA fantasy had already existed for decades before Meyer. There were even YA vampire books before Twilight. Thus the constant accusations of ripping off Stephenie Meyer and jumping on the “paranormal bandwagon”1 are a bit rich, particularly when aimed at say, L. J. Smith, whose vampires novels were first published in the 1980s 1991. Pretty hard to rip off a book pub’d almost 20 years before yours.

The constant accusations have led me to develop a bingo card so all us writers of YA Fantasy/Paranormal can tick each item off as we are accused. I admit I got the idea because I was recently accused of jumping on the paranormal bandwagon and ripping Stephenie Meyer off with my debut novel, Magic or Madness. As you’ll see below I get bonus points because MorM was first published before Twlight.2

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the urge to educate people about the timescales of publishing. Not to mention how influences, trends and fashions work. But not today. Today I am in a mocking mood.

So here is my (Sarah Rees Brennan, Diana Peterfreund and Carrie Ryan contributed) list of squares on the Paranormal/Fantasy YA Review Bingo Card.3 See if you’ve gotten a review that allows you to cross off each one. I suspect pretty much all of us who write YA fantasy will be winners.

  • Twilight ripoff (Extra points if the book that is accused of this predates Twilight)
  • Jumping on the paranormal bandwagon (Extra points if the term “paranormal” did not exist outside the Romance genre when your first books were published)
  • Being accused of rippping off a book published after or around the same time as your book
  • Being accused of jumping on a bandwagon that’s hardly a bandwagon such as the steampunk or killer unicorn bandwagon. Shouldn’t there be at least a dozen books before it becomes a bandwagon?
  • The line “haven’t we seen this before” appears in the review
  • Says vampires/werewolves/zombies/fairies/[supernatural being of your choice] is old hat
  • Claims your protag is a ripoff of Bella and/or Edward and/or Jacob
  • Criticises your character for not being as wonderful as Bella
  • Criticises your character for being as drippy as Bella
  • Complains your hero is not dreamy like Edward
  • Complains your character is drippy like Edward
  • Complains your vampires are inauthentic because they do not sparkle
  • Is unaware vampires existed before Twilight came out in 2005
  • Says your book is great because is exactly like Twilight
  • Says your book is great because is nothing like Twilight

I’m sure I’m missing some. Do please suggest more in the comments.

NOTE: Please don’t bash the Twilight books in the comment thread. Stephenie Meyer and her books have been an enormous boon to the field of YA. She’s created more readers than anyone since J. K. Rowling. The fact that the criticisms above keep happening is testament to that.

Update: Aja went and made the bingo card! Bless!


You can see it bigger here. Thank you, Aja!

  1. “Paranormal” is also a pretty recent literary term and was not used at all outside the romance genre until pretty recently. []
  2. Not twenty years before like L. J. Smith but seven months prior is still before. []
  3. Someone with photoshop skills can turn it into an actual bingo card. []


  1. Tansy Rayner Roberts on #

    Have there really been people complaining that non-sparkling vampires are inauthentic? GAH.

  2. Aja on #

    attempts to slot your book into an upcoming CW pilot
    says they are rooting for “Team (Love Interest)”
    would have liked your book about selkies/mermaids/creature of your choice if they had been vampires/fairies/werewolves
    complains your villain is not as (insert adjective) as Eric from True Blood

    And, of course–
    Pre-2005 version of card: Substitute “Spike” for Edward.
    Pre-1995 version of card: Substitute “Lestat” for Edward.
    Pre-1900 version of card: Substitute “Dracula” for Edward.
    Pre-1850 version of card: Substitute “Heathcliff” for Edward.

  3. Justine on #

    Tansy: Nah, I just thought that was funny. Though there have been complaints that other creatures sparkling is a rip. Even though unicorns and fairies were known to sparkle pre-Twilight.

  4. Rene on #

    Good golly, I just read a review of Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver that could probably punch every square on this card (except the timing one.) I got indignant on her behalf, but remembered that Neil Gaiman’s Books of magic was accused of ripping off Harry Potter (and vice versa) and calmed myself by thinking this too shall pass.

  5. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Aja, the substitutions are CLASSIC! Especially with publishers coming out with Twilighted-up versions of actual classics.

    “I like Heathcliff. He’s kinda like edward.” Lols all ’round.

  6. Nerd Goddess on #

    That’s pretty dang annoying. I think I’d heard of people accusing Diana Wynne Jones of ripping off J.K. Rowling in books that were written BEFORE Harry Potter.

    Also, hi! I’m new to your blog, but I loved “How to Ditch Your Fairy” and am hoping someone will grace me with “Liar” for Christmas. 🙂

  7. A. Grey on #

    I can’t join in the reindeer games in quite the same way because I haven’t had a book published – yet. That being said I have to rant a little bit about the fact that I am SO tired of well meaning folks (not prospective agents and the like but others) asking me if I wrote ‘Title Whatever’ because I was inspired by Twilight. Or did I decide to write a post-apocalyptic YA because the Hunger Games did so great and I thought mine would get attention. Or is character ‘X’ my version of Edward, or Katsa, or name another recently admired, well known character.

    The truth is that I’ve read most of these books and yes they’ve affected me, just as any book affects the reader. But aside from what I’ve JUST begun writing, everything I’m working to sell was written while the aforementioned works were being readied for publishing. Therefore I obviously had no idea they even existed.

    Writers don’t write to be like other writers. They write because they love it, because they’re driven to do it. Just because I haven’t ‘broken out’ yet doesn’t mean that I’m going to write a different version of an already popular book to try and capitalize on its success. That would never work anyway because after the lag time of publishing, my book would be so after the fact that no one would ever correlate the two.

    By the way, that Bullshit Bingo rocks the house! 🙂

  8. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I’m not pubbed (ok, I am, but only shorts in online mags, please excuse my hubris I’ll put some ice on it in a minute) but this comes up even for me. Pretty much everything I write has fantasy elements, especially non-humans interacting with humans (demons and were-things are my fave tropes to mess with).

    I get so tired of hearing, whenever I share something with someone, that it’s like Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twilight (Team Alice), but it’s discouraging to be constantly told that something is great/awful because it’s like Twilight or, even worse, that I can’t do such-and-such because it’s too much like Twilight and might come across as a rip-off. Just because Edward reads minds doesn’t mean that ANY mentally based ability a character possesses is a rip-off of Twilight. There have been mind readers and psychics and empaths and etc. around for a LONG time. Don’t tell me I can’t have a telekinetic character because “that sounds like a Twilight vampire power, people will think it’s a rip-off.”

    Everything is like something, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. No new ideas and all that. Which means no rip-offs, either. (Okay, there *are* rip-offs, but for the most part, no.)

    *leaves the rant booth* Thank you.

  9. Aja on #


    or direct link if the image doesn’t parse. 🙂

  10. Tia on #

    Wow, seriously, are you getting reviews with some of that content as reasons? That’s madness. :/

    I admit that I’ve never been published at all, but having reviews like that must suck.

  11. Elodie on #

    Being accused of rippping off a book published before or around the same time as your book
    Did you mean, “after or around”?

    I am curious, what did paranormal mean in the romance genre?

    Also, I think the last two lines might make it hard to win your game–you have to both be appreciated for being just like Twilight, or completely unlike it 😉

    I enjoyed the humor xD

  12. London on #

    Even though I’m not published, I feel overwhelmed by all the Twilight analogies and its constant presence in general. I LOVE the Harry Potter series but I felt the same way about HP when it was huge. My question is, was it like this when LOTR, for example, was published? i.e., “I love this book, but it is HAUNTING MY DREAMS (and not in a good way)”? Or is it a symptom of the internet? I can’t sign online without seeing Team Edward in my friends’ gchat messages or twific or twipics or whatever in the news or on blogs. It has an omnipresence that reviewers probably can’t escape from either, so no wonder all their reviews are in those terms (but seriously, that must be so annoying for pubbed authors :-/ ).
    I guess I’m not quite old enough to know whether these types of phenomena are new or old. But either way, I must admit I’m looking forward to travelling over winter break and being away from the internet for an entire week (even though that thought makes me strangely anxious… lol).
    I was also seriously considering abandoning my attempts at getting published until after twilight fever has passed. I hope the next bestseller madness is at least more amenable to my writing style.. heh.

  13. Justine on #

    Aja: Thank you so much. Hope you don’t mind my taking the liberty of inserting your bingo card into the post. I love your substitutions also.

    Nerd Goddess: Thanks! Here’s hoping you get your xmas wish.

    Annoying reviews is just part of the business. But, hey, we get to mock them!

    Stephanie: When less busy I shall put that plugin to the test.

    A. Grey: Exactly. The number of writers who are writing deliberate knockoffs are vanishingly small and they mostly don’t get published cause they’re not good enough.

    But you and many others have loved and been writing fantasy YA for a very long time. It took me 20 years to get published. And during that time I wrote lots of stories that I’m sure could be viewed of knockoffs of books that werer published much later.

    Tia: Actually these kind of reviews are so silly they don’t bother. I find them very amusing.

    Elodie: Fixed. Thanks!

    You get to play the game for all reviews of your books. So one review might love your book for resembling Twilight while another hates it for same. Reviewers are capricious beasties.

    London: Honestly, you shouldn’t let any of this bother you at all. Write what you love do the very best job you can. Fashions in YA come and go. Right now fantasy YA is sellling very well. So it’s in fact a great time to sell such a book. For every agent or publisher saying they can’t bear to see another vampire book there are others actively looking for them. Never let the ever changeable marketplace stop you writing what you want to write. It changes too fast.

    And, seriously, there’s always a big hit that’s colouring how readers see books in that genre. Just look at Aja’s comment about substitutions above.

    Also you can’t let silly reviews get to you. My books have been called everything from “a bad knock off of Charmed” to an advertisement for teen pregnancy. You just roll your eyes and keep on writing.

    This post was written for the fun of it. Don’t let it put you off!

  14. Summer on #

    *dies laughing*

  15. Aja on #

    Justine & Diane: Yay, I am glad you guys liked! it was my 3 am procrastination method; I ran out of options before I ran out of squares so I had to make up some extras, but that is not to encourage other people from suggesting funnier ones and /or making their own cards!

    Elodie: i think you can win at BINGO by getting a single straight line in any direction or 4 corners, so at the very least, no drinking games are harmed by this card. 😉

    London: if you’re finding it hard to get away from a series like Twilight or HP, why not write a fanfic or two for it and explore that omnipresence? Get it out of your system! –and then hopefully start something new. 🙂 And of course as JL said, don’t let the hype get get to you. One day the market wanted chick lit; the next day we were all told chick lit was “dead.” Just keep doing what you love; if you bring the discipline and the patience and craft, god/the universe/fate/serendipity/the light side of the Force/the spirit of joseph campbell/etc. will bring the marketability. 😀

  16. wandering-dreamer on #

    Wait, so how is MoM a rip off of Twilight? I know it’s been a few years but I can’t think of any similarities right off the bat. And I also thought MoM was kinda unique in the way that the characters use numbers or patterns to focus their minds, just not following here.
    And I was reminded of this little blurb I read a little while back at how everyone is getting annoyed at the constant Twilight comparisons:

  17. pskye on #

    I really have nothing constructive to add but I have to say that the “Reviewer doubts your commitment to ~Sparkle Motion~” one on the bottom row really had me rolling. And I still haven’t even seen Donnie Darko all the way through yet.

    Excellent job on the graphic!

    And, Justine, while I may never be in your shoes (I’m not a compulsive writer, alas) I can see exactly where you’re coming from. I enjoyed this one.

  18. Ronni on #

    I’m quite worried about my reviews now. As a YA reviewer (that is, someone who specialises in reviewing YA books, not someone who occasionally reviews YA books as part of a broader reviewing range), I try very hard to review each book on its own merits and failings. But I also think it’s really important to locate a book (that is, relate it to other works in the field) in order to help readers of my review make up their minds about whether or not they’d like to read that particular book.

    However, relating something to Twilight (or Harry Potter back in the early 2000s) is, in my mind, lazy reviewing, and is the mark of someone not particularly comfortable in, or familiar with, YA writing.

  19. London on #

    Justine – thank you for the words of encouragement. 🙂 Your post didn’t put me off at all. This is just something I have been thinking about, on and off, for a few months now, particularly after I was told that my epic fantasy trilogy is not marketable, since no one wants epics/no one wants dependent trilogies/everyone wants vampires/the recession is doom & destruction/etc. *That* put me off a bit, as you might imagine, but in retrospect I got *too* discouraged. The market is capricious, as you said, and that’s that.
    I’ve never seen Charmed, so I can’t speak to that, but… an advertisement for teen pregnancy? Wow.

    Aja – Thank you for the kind words, too. 🙂 Funnily enough I used to write HP fanfic, back in the day. It actually did help to be part of the craze, now that you mention it, rather than glaring with feminist ire from the sidelines. Hmm. Maybe I’ll go see New Moon after all, if I can find that flask I had in college… 😉
    I love the Bingo card, too. 🙂

  20. anne on #

    I shared this posting w/my staff here at Owen County Public Library, and we all enjoyed the humor, and “resent” on all YA writers (and others’) behalf(s) (behalves???) the comparison thing. Of course, tons of folks come in here, looking for “books like Twilight”, but what they really mean is that they want something that engaged them like it did, not that they want the story to be identical. Really enjoy reading this blog, always. good comments, etc. Off to order more Justine books for our collection (we don’t have the magics yet)
    thanks for doing what you do, so well!

  21. Christopher on #

    I am writing a steampunk novel. I hope it gets published and I am accused of jumping on a bandwagon. I wrote the short that I am basing my novel on years ago 🙂

    I don’t care. I will take publication first and deal with critics later.

  22. Cassandra on #

    It bothers me as a writer who is yet to be published as it does many of those who have commented before me. (Maybe I am just jumping on their bandwagon LOL) But likewise I have written paranormal stories not necessarily YA but paranormal non-the-less since I was in my teens which is going back around ten years now. I have loved vampire stories, fairy stories and (insert mythical creature/theme here) stories since I was old enough to read so yes folklore and mythology and fantasy, sci-fi and the paranormal influence my writing. So if I eventually get published I dare say my work will be compared to Twilight or steampunk (which I don’t think is quite a literary bandwagon yet) what ever paranormal bandwagon is the “IN” thing at the time. And frankly as long as I know my writing is unique and not based on “x” fandom then I will sleep soundly at night. i guess it comes down to how much we as writers take to heart what the masses want which changes with the seasons. You either sell your stories or you don’t but I write for my own pleasure anyway so i gues sit doesn’t affect me as much. Until Ig et something published that is.

    Ok that ends my two cents.

  23. Gili on #

    Until recently, this to be completely true of Harry Potter. Books that have been accused in reviews of ripping off Harry Potter, some of which are mentioned above, and for which I do have actual references somewhere because I once gave a lecture entitled HARRY POTTER AND THOSE INSOLENT RIPOFFS:

    1. CHARMED LIFE by Diana Wynne Jones
    2. BOOKS OF MAGIC by Neil Gaiman
    3. THE WORST WITCH by Jill Murphy
    4. THE SECRET OF PLATFORM 13 by Eva Ibbotson
    5. A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA by Ursual LeGuin
    and my favorite,

    Needless to say, all predate HP.

  24. Catherine on #

    Tansy: Justine might not have seen people complaining that non-sparkling vampires are inauthentic, but I have.

    It was a sad day indeed.

    Justine: This is hilarious. Funny because it’s true. Every time I see something like this I remember about the hundreds of comments complaining about Vampire Diaries stealing from Twilight, and LJ Smith mentioning she gets people emailing her telling her she ripped Meyer off.

    Very sad.

  25. KatG on #

    You would think that a reviewer would, I don’t know, look at the copyright date of the book they are reviewing, especially if it doesn’t seem to be a new release, and see when it came out. When a book first came out is rather relevant to a review. Makes one wonder if they’ve actually read the book they are reviewing at all.

  26. AudryT on #

    It sounds like non-readers who came to reading via a particular book, such as Twilight or Harry Potter, end up looking for other books that will give them the same experience as their first, but without repeating the same formula. The problem is that their definition of the formula is so broad that they end up categorizing everything they read as formulaic — even books like Magic & Madness, which has absolutely nothing in common with Twilight. They may have to shake off the blinders their “first love” put on them before they can appreciate the value of any book other than the one that introduced them to reading.

    It’s kind of like having a first boyfriend, and then measuring every boyfriend by the same standards after that. It’s a waste of a potentially great future boyfriend, but sometimes the blinders are too big for one to realize that.

  27. Mac on #

    I have noticed reviewers — not necessarily professional ones, so I cut them a break…a teeny tiny break — having some trouble recognizing the difference between a “ripoff” and an “archetype.” (Calling “The Dark Is Rising” a Harry Potter ripoff — an opinion I once read on Amazon — was kind of beyond the pale, though.)

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