21 'Trends' YA Literature Needs To Embrace In The Coming Years
What came first: the book or the trend? You know when you see a book about Were-narwhals and then suddenly there are six more Were-narwhal books that are going to come out at the same time? Except replace Were-narwhals (but why would we?) with vampires, wolves, dystopians, and high fantasies. It's no secret that the young adult literature market is a place of trends.
Now, trends aren't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes they're accidental — like the wave of mermaid and angel books that started in 2012. Sometimes publishers see a book do well and try to replicate it.
It is not the job of the author to worry about trends; it's the author's job to tell the best story they possibly can. Then, trend or no trend, the work speaks for itself. But let's get one thing out of the way: "diverse" books are always on my mind and diversity is not a trend. But, when one book does well, it encourages publishers to buy books that are similar or on brand. With the success of authors like Marie Lu, Sabaa Tahir, and Nicola Yoon, it is no longer up for debate: diverse books are good books.
With all that in mind, there are some kinds of books I want to see more of. I want Cindy Pon to write basically six books a year because we need more #CuteAsian boys in YA. I want queer stories to be fun and normalized, even though coming-out stories are still necessary. I want diverse books to become part of the norm, and in the end, we can eschew the diversity label completely. We will get there together; I know we will.
Until then, here is a list of trends we need in YA:
1. Contemporary Rom-Coms
I'm convinced Jenny Han writes her books with a quill dipped in the tears of her readers. Her contemporary novels brilliantly expose the painful stretching and pulling of growing up and falling in love for the first time.
2. American History Revivals
We should not forget where we came from or the people that paved the way for us to get here. Remember those who fought for social justice and freedom. But don't forget intersectionality when it comes to history. Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton proves that history can always be new and relevant. But we don't just want to see the same names. Where are the people of color and unsung heroes in our history? Let's tell their stories.
3. Female-Fronted Sci-Fi
Watching Rogue One got me in the mood to read about badass girls in space. Everything is cooler in space.
4. Ensemble Casts
Multiple POVs is hard to pull off. But when it's done right, like in the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, the pay off is incredible.
5. Authentic, Dynamic Female Bonds
Who run the world? Girls. And when girls stick together, they are unstoppable.
6. 'Romeo & Juliet' Retellings
You can never get enough impossible love stories, right?
7. Different Definitions of Strength
In The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, Maya isn't the girl who wields a sword or arrows. Don't get me wrong, that girl is also amazing. But Maya is a cursed girl, a lost girl, and a girl determined to change her own fate. Let's redefine the meaning of feminine strength, because there are endless possibilities.
8. Strong Sister Bonds
In Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, Liesl's sister is kidnapped by goblins, so she marries the Goblin King in order to save her. This kind of sisterly bond is everything. Let's depict this more in YA.
9. Wanderlust and Road Trips
My greatest dream as a teen was to travel the world. It would be wonderful to see novels where teens travel, but aren't told through a Western/American tourist lens.
10. Inclusive Magical Schools
I love Harry Potter. Always. But it lacks diversity in every regard. What would magic look like with representation from around the world?
11. Non-Whitewashed Retellings of 'Arabian Nights'
How gorgeous was The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh? The original tale contains multitudes of stories. Think of the possibilities...
12. Positive Body Representation for Girls of Color
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy was a one-of-a-kind book by a badass author. How do these stories change when a Black girl is front and center? Or a Latina? Or a Muslim girl? Or other girls of color who are sexualized for their hips and curves from a young age? That's a narrative we don't have yet, but desperately need.
13. Latinx LGBT+ Romance
Latinos are not a monolith. Books like More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz have paved the way for a wider conversation about LGBT+ stories in Latinx communities. But these books are just the beginning.
14. Villain-Centered Narratives
Vicious by V.E. Schwab took the superhero trope and turned it on its head. Why are some villains so lovable? Why do we root for them over the hero in some books? Complex villains are the best. More, please.
15. Dancing Queens
Writing about dance can be challenging. Taking something so visual and trying to describe it while maintaining the magic of it? Challenge accepted! At least, it was by authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. YA dancing with the stars? YA Step Up with a hero who happens to resemble Channing Tatum? Gimme.
16. Rebellious Fantasy Heroines
In Amy Tintera's Ruined, the protagonist goes undercover to literally kill the rival royalty that murdered her parents. Perhaps this one should be called "murderous girls in fantasy." Keep them coming.
17. Gender Bent & LGBT+ Retellings of Jane Austen
NO EXPLANATION NEEDED. Think about it: Eli Benitez meet Franchesca Darcy. (Clearly in my retelling, the gender bent retelling is also full of POC.)
18. Westerns (Wait, Hear Me Out...)
Westerns. The wild west. Annie Oakley (technically from Ohio). An ever-expanding America. Railroads. What happened to the Black men who worked for the railroads? The Chinese people who worked and died in the mines? The Irish and other European groups looking for a fresh start? The Native tribes who were being murdered and lost their lands to settlers? The girls who worked in saloons or sold their bodies to stay alive? Screw the usual John Wayne narrative. Let's read about the other parts of history.
19. YA Anthologies
What better way to read your favorite authors (and discover new ones) than with a YA anthology?
20. Dystopian (Again, Hear Me Out...)
During a presidential administration that is vehemently anti-facts, we can't stop experimenting when it comes to dystopian fiction. What does the world look like when we build walls and ban humans and violate rights? Don't stop thinking about that that world would look like because the time is now.
21. Black MCs Written by Black Authors
Kekla Magoon. Coe Booth. Jason Reynolds. Jacqueline Woodson. They've pioneered stories about African American teens. Jason Reynolds is writing a Spiderman novel this year and Kekla Magoon does have a sweet teen romance. But we need more stories. More. More. More. Like uplifting summer romances and wonderful slice of life moments, epic high fantasy, wild space operas, freaky paranormal, and every in-between genre. Black teens deserve to be the heroes of their own stories. Once again: diversity isn't a trend, but this is definitely something YA literature needs more of.