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?