Book Talk Episode 19: It’s YA Week!

It’s YA week on Goodreads, so I thought I would do a blog post (possibly 2?) about my favourite young adult reads and talk about how the genre has evolved since I first became a YA reader to what it is like now.

As Goodreads mentions in their article, the tropes and characters we see in YA today are vastly different from the ones we saw 10 years ago. I remember when Dystopian fiction was huge, with series like The Hunger Game and Divergent. Not only was I reading the YA in this genre, I was also writing it. Vampires and angels were also popular, at least among YA fantasy. Some examples that I can think of are The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and Fallen…and there are many, many, many more from this period.

What I’m seeing now is more of a mix of both high and urban fantasy being written not only for young adult readers, but for middle grade and adult readers as well. Personally, this is something I absolutely love. There is so much variety within the fantasy books that are out right now, and I often go to friends for recommendations.

I also noticed that, well at least when I was a teenager, a lot of the books weren’t spooky enough. Now, not everyone likes spooky, but now there are so many YA books that border along the lines of horror, mystery and thriller. I’m curious to know whether television created this initial shift, or if it happened naturally within the media. I know when my mom was a teenager, that a lot of the YA books at the time fell in line with gothic literature. I’d say, at least the ones that I can recall her mentioning, were American Gothics. As for the thrillers, the ones I read as a teenager were all about spies, and I beginning to think that those prep-school spy books may have also contributed to the ever popular dark academia vibe we’re seeing today.

Another very obvious shift in teen fiction is the variety of voices, not only are the characters from all different backgrounds, but the are authors come from all walks of life as well! Literature is beautiful like that. Although, I feel the process was slow, books have become a space where people feel seen, and I hope that it translates across all media as we move into 2022. I’m really looking forward to this period of growth.

One thing that I have noticed is that there’ve been a lot of complaints about the lack of YA fiction geared toward a male audience. I’ve also noticed that the market seems to be more favourable towards female readers at this current time, however, there are plenty of YA books and series out there for everyone! I know plenty of guys who read Twilight when it was first released, and enjoyed it. I also know plenty of guys who were (and still are) obsessed with The Hunger Games, any and every book by John Green, and who are extremely invested in all the books by Leigh Bardugo. To quote one of my friends from high school, “A good book is a good book. I don’t care if Katniss is a girl. She’s cool.”

One other thing I’ve noticed is that YA fiction has brought back illustrated covers, which I have missed an incredible amount! I hope this carries over into other genres, because it gives the books such a personal feel to them. I’ve also noticed this with romance as well, but I’m still waiting for the illustrated covers to be the norm in horror again. I don’t read a lot of horror, but the old illustrated covers in that genre were incredible! If you haven’t gone through and looked at old horror covers, I highly recommend it…unless of course you don’t like horror, then please don’t. I don’t want you to get scared. Some are really freaky!

Lastly, I want to talk about the insane amount of fairytale retellings. I don’t mean insane as in it’s a bad thing. It’s not bad at all! I used to adore retellings when I was a kid, but they didn’t make very many for teens at the time I was getting into YA. There are so many cool ones out right now and it’s not just fairytales, it’s myths and legends and all kinds of lore being retold and reimagined for new audiences! I like this idea of taking something familiar and flipping it on its head. It’s just so much fun, revisiting a story but having it be completely new to you.

What’s your favourite shift in YA? Is there anything that you miss about older YA books that makes you feel nostalgic?

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