The Other Side of the Page: Books and Comics
Crash Course in YA Trends
These days, most readers have at least a passing knowledge of young adult books. With juggernauts like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, it’s almost unavoidable. As books in the genre continue to smash records and receive the big-screen treatment, everyone seems to be reading (or writing) young adult novels. With the huge amount being published every year, YA books tend to follow certain trends. I’ve taken it upon myself to organize some new and notable YA books into a few categories that casual readers can peruse. Whether you’re looking for a depressing romance or a dystopian adventure, I’ve got you covered.
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Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Following the gigantic success of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, contemporary realistic fiction has taken a turn towards the morbid. More and more novels are following in TFIOS’s footsteps by featuring dying, dead, or depressed teenagers. Some recent offerings in this vein:
- Jesse Andrews – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (recently made into a film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance)
- Michelle Falkoff – Playlist for the Dead
- Gayle Forman – I Was Here
- Jennifer Niven – All the Bright Places
- Jasmine Warga – My Heart and Other Black Holes
Some authors aren’t jumping on the dying teen bandwagon and are sticking to what they know in the contemporary realistic genre: romance. And just because these are predominantly love stories doesn’t mean that they aren’t rich, complex, and interesting. Many authors here go beyond simple puppy love by writing friendship, family, and personal identity issues into their stories as well. Here are some recent offerings and standouts:
- Sarah Dessen – Saint Anything
- Huntley Fitzpatrick – My Life Next Door
- Jenny Han – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
- E. Lockhart – Ruby Oliver series
- Kasie West – The Fill-in Boyfriend
Other authors churning out YA love stories: Jennifer E. Smith, Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins, Susane Colasanti, Debbie Caletti.
Dystopia [dis-toh-pee-uh] noun 1. a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future.
It’s been almost seven years since The Hunger Games first hit shelves and its massive success prompted a slew of homages, copycats, and writers who realized that they could also spin a captivating dystopian yarn. The fad continued for several years, with series such as Veronica Roth’s Divergent, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, Kiera Cass’s The Selection, and Lauren Oliver’s Delirium racking up sales and fans. The past two years have seen a sharp dropoff in the dystopian trend, but a few authors are still sticking with the genre. Here are some books by authors still interested in making the future a terrifying place:
Retellings of classic tales have been popular in film and literature for almost as long as the mediums have existed. Young Adult literature is no exception, with authors quick to put their own spin on fairy tales or classic novels. Recent takes on age-old stories include:
- A.C. Gaughen – Scarlet series (retelling of Robin Hood)
- Rosamund Hodge – Cruel Beauty (retelling of Beauty and the Beast)
- A.G. Howard – Splintered series (retelling of Alice in Wonderland)
- Marissa Meyer – The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress (retellings of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel)
- Danielle Paige – Dorothy Must Die series (retelling of The Wizard of Oz)
I’m going to lump the terms “supernatural” and “paranormal” together here, although they technically have different definitions. The subject matter of supernatural/paranormal fiction is essentially whatever exists beyond our normal realm of understanding. This includes ghosts, monsters, psychic abilities, time travel, the occult, and many more creepy crawlies where those came from. These stories usually have at least a hint of romance, as most young adult novels do. Although they aren’t churned out quite as quickly as certain other genres, supernatural/paranormal novels are still quite popular.
- Libba Bray – The Diviners series (includes: psychic abilities, the occult!)
- Paige Mackenzie – The Haunting of Sunshine Girl (includes: ghosts!)
- Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Cycle (includes: psychic abilities, ghosts, magic, mythology, basically everything!)
- Nova Ren Suma – The Walls Around Us (includes: ghosts, magic!)
- April Genevieve Tucholke – Between series (includes: the devil!)
Whether teens were reading The Hobbit or Harry Potter, fantasy has always held a place in YA. Nowadays, we see a lot of female-driven fantasy series in universes that exist completely outside of our own.
- Renee Ahdieh – The Wrath and the Dawn (also a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights!)
- Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen
- Sally Green – Half Bad Trilogy
- Sarah J. Maas – Throne of Glass series
- Melina Marchetta – The Lumatere Chronicles
- Marie Rutkowski – The Winner’s Curse trilogy
Young adult non-fiction is an area that hasn’t quite seen a “boom” in recent years. However, it seems like that might be slowly changing with recent non-fiction titles written by and about teens. Yes, teens write memoirs…and they have the potential to be very powerful. See also: We Need Diverse Books.
- Shane Burcaw – Laughing at My Nightmare
- Aaron Hartzler – Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family
- Susan Kuklin – Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
- Paige Rawl – Positive: A Memoir
- Maya Van Wagenen – Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence
We Need Diverse Books
Considering the vast array of subjects and characters we see in YA, it’s no surprise that the genre is leading the way in the “We Need Diverse Books” movement. Having such an influx of books geared at teens that express issues of gender, sexuality, or simply being “different” is especially heartening since teens are so likely to struggle with these topics. Here are some recent YA titles that offer diversity in gender, sexuality, race, and more:
- Michael Barakiva – One Man Guy
- Sara Farizan – If You Could Be Mine
- Gail Giles – Girls Like Us
- Hannah Moscowitz – Not Otherwise Specified
- Isabel Quintero – Gabi a Girl in Pieces
Check out these Goodreads lists for even more: 2015 YA Books with (Possible) LGBT Themes, Diverse YA and MG (Middle Grade) Debuts in 2015, 2015 YA/MG Books With POC Leads, Muslim YA, Asian Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction.
And finally, visit the We Need Diverse Books campaign’s site to learn more.
Are there any trends that I missed? What YA books are capturing your attention lately?