Columns > Published on June 15th, 2012

The Next Big Thing In YA

Every time I walk into the YA section of a book store and see a shelf labeled "Paranormal Romance," I cringe. That's not to say that I don't enjoy books with paranormal elements, and obviously I love me some swoon. But this genre has overwhelmed young adult literature with a glut of mediocre novels featuring weak heroines and even weaker writing, and I've been praying for a new trend to kick paranormal romance to the curb.

For a while, dystopia definitely seemed like a good contender. It brought strong protagonists and fascinatingly effed up worlds into the hands of readers, and with the success of The Hunger Games, it proved once and for all that dystopia is totally the new vampire.

But like any fad, it eventually wore out its welcome by producing hundreds of copycats with increasingly cliched plots and underdeveloped characters. In order to stand above the dystopian fray, authors resorted to cobbling together wilder and wilder visions of the future, resulting in stories that are not only far-fetched but also completely unrelatable.

Provided he or she has talent, it's still completely possible for an author to create a paranormal romance or a dystopia that would capture our collective imagination. But in general, I'm ready for a change. In the words of Willow, "Bored now."

Thankfully, there are some new possibilities on the horizon. According to Publisher's Weekly, the key words at the Bologna Children's Book Fair back in March were "thriller" and "science fiction." There was also an increasing interest in standalone novels, which is a relief to hear, because if I have to read another cliffhanger that exists for the sole purpose of making me purchase the next book, I'll ask Peeta for some of those poison berries.

However, the YA Editor's Buzz Panel at last week's Book Expo of America told a different story. Take a look at the books that were pimped out:

'Crewel' by Gennifer Albin

While women in our day and age may not appreciate being called spinsters, in the land of Arras, it is a girl's highest calling. Spinsters weave the very fabric and time of human lives, and Adelice Lewys was born with the gifts to be one. But unlike the rest of her friends, she doesn't want to control people, and she certainly doesn't want to be controlled by the Guild. Unfortunately for Adelice, she may not have a choice.

[amazon 0374316414 inline]


'Skinny' by Donna Conner

Fifteen-year-old Ever Davies weighs over 300 pounds, and a voice inside her head continuously reminds her that she'll never be loved. That voice, which Ever has named Skinny, persists, even after Ever undergoes gastric bypass surgery. As Ever attempts to gain confidence by trying out for the school musical, she must fight to overcome Skinny by realizing the power of her own, beautiful voice.

[amazon 0545427630 inline]


'What’s Left of Me' by Kat Zhang

In a world where everyone is born with two souls, Eva and Addie are tighter than twins. But since only one soul is allowed to survive childhood, they've decided to keep Eva a secret, resulting in an illegal hybrid. If they're discovered, they'll be locked away for life, but Eva and Addie are willing to do whatever it takes to make Eva whole again.

[amazon 0062114875 inline]


'Colin Fischer' by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

From the screenwriters of X-men: First Class and Thor comes the story of Colin Fischer, a boy with Asperger's syndrome, who becomes an unlikely ally to the school bully, Wayne Connelly. After Wayne is accused of blowing up a birthday cake at school, Colin begins an investigation to prove his innocence and learn more about the vast spectrum of human emotion.

[amazon 1595145788 inline]


'Skylark' by Megan Spooner

Stuck within an energy dome in an environmentally ravaged world, Lark Ainsley is one of the many teens set to be "harvested" for her energy. But after a harrowing series of experiments, she discovers that she's a Renewable, able to recreate her energy, and therefore a valuable resource that the government will pursue at any cost.

[amazon 0761388656 inline]


Let's do a quick tally.

Number of dystopian stories: 3 out of 5 (Crewel, What's Left of Me, Skylark)
Number of trilogies: 3 out of 5 (Crewel, What's Left of Me, Skylark)
Number of characters with ridiculous names: 3 out of 5 (Adelice, Ever and Lark?! Forget vampires. This is the trend that needs to die most immediately.)

Arguably, some of these dystopian novels could be classified as science fiction and/or thrillers. But whatever happened to a good, old fashioned mystery? (I guess Colin Fischer falls into that category, but it seems too much like a rip-off of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.) Or what about an imaginative adventure set in space, with a government that's actually not out to get you?

If I had my druthers, I'd love to see thrillers and mysteries ascend to the throne of YA fads. It's been a while since I've read a good nail-biter with a teen protagonist, and solving crimes and fighting bad guys requires strong, intelligent heroes, which is a trend I obviously want to continue in young adult fiction.

But I'm also a big believer in the power of contemporary, realistic stories. While Skinny doesn't exactly ring my bell, I'm happy to see that werewolves and angels haven't completely swallowed the modern day, ordinary teenager. After all, coming of age is tricky enough without pesky vampires getting in your way, and at its core, young adult literature is all about the exhilaration and the pitfalls of adolescence. That's not a trend, it's a fact, and I hope that more and more authors will embrace that truth in their writing.

So while it looks like dystopia will reign as king for a while longer, hopefully thrillers, mysteries and contemporary novels will put on a good fight. And if you have any differing theories, or a trend you'd personally like to surface in YA, let me know in the comments!

About the author

Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse and coordinates events at The Highball, a playground for adults. Tired of feeling like a creepy old lady in the bookstore YA section, she created Forever Young Adult to provide grown-ups with a community where they can gush about young adult literature without shame. In addition to crushing on fictional teenage boys, Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and macaroni and cheese.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Reedsy | Editors with Marker (Marketplace Editors)| 2024-05

Submitting your manuscript?

Professional editors help your manuscript stand out for the right reasons.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: