The Rise of YA and its Trends
Young Adult fiction has been on the rise for the past twenty years. Since the release of books such as ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and series such as the hugely popular the ‘Twilight Saga’, with the first book published in 2005, we have seen a huge rise in Young Adult books released. Books filled with witches and vampires have become extremely popular in the Young Adult genre and have since only kept up its popularity. There has also been a rise in books featuring fairies, zombies, werewolves and other types of fantastical creatures.
In the past fifteen years, we’ve seen several retellings of classics such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’, with ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ and the upcoming gender-swapping retelling of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ with ‘Sing Me Forgotten’. More recently in the past few years, we have also seen an increase in retellings of fairy tales. The retelling of fairy tales is now becoming increasingly popular with authors such as Christina Henry and Naomi Novik becoming well-known for their retellings. We’ve also had spin-offs of books such as the book series, ‘Enola Holmes’, a series about Sherlock Holmes’ sister
Another genre that has become increasingly popular over recent years is Young Adult Fantasy. This genre normally involves the main character defeating fantastical creatures or characters, and sometimes may take place in another world. Fantasies have become the biggest trend in Young Adult in the past fifteen years.
Young Adult fantasies, in particular, have become extremely popular with mostly women and those between 20 -40 years of age. Books with strong female characters are popular with a lot of women of this age group and with teenagers today.
Dystopian novels became a big trend with ‘Hunger Games’, ‘Maze Runner’. Author Cassandra Clare also created the hugely successful ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series and ‘Shadowhunters’ novels. A lot of Young Adult fantasy and dystopian novels normally feature protagonists who we can relate to and have to also overcome trials and tribulations. ‘Twilight’ was popular as not only did it have vampires and werewolves, but centred on the relationships as well. This was a big part of what made it still popular to this day.
Young Adult fantasy has stemmed many subgenres over the years. One of the subgenres includes New Adult Low Fantasy. New Adult Low Fantasies tend to take place in the real world or of a similar world but with elements of fantasy or magic. Most books which tend to include witches and wizards tend to be more in the Low Adult genre.
New Adult High Fantasy is another subgenre which has become a recent trend. High Fantasy novels mainly take place in another world or realm. Author, Sarah J. Maas well re-known for creating High Fantasy novels has created many series in that genre over the year. The hugely popular ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’, a re-imagining of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ series of novels takes place in a magical land and included several mystical creatures such as wolves and faeries. Other series of hers include her other hugely popular ‘Throne of Glass’ novels and her more recently published ‘Crescent City’, the first in a new series of novels.
In High Fantasy novels such as these, we tend to see a lot of female characters with special power or strength. Characters like this or ones in similar novels featuring female protagonists such as Katniss in ‘Hunger Games’ are featured in stories now more than ever. Teenagers see female protagonists such as these as ones they can look up to and are easily relatable. Many protagonists are from a broken home or relationship, looking to get out and finding a place to belong or find themselves on a path to discovery.
Stories in the Young Adult genre that revolve around romance and friendship such as the likes of ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and ‘The Fault in our Stars’ were hugely popular at the start of the 2010s. ‘The Fault in our Stars’ centred on thyroid cancer and a boy with a disability and touched upon subjects such as suicide and self-harm. It also dealt with a lot of issues that teenagers deal with today. More books are now touching upon more sensitive or intense subjects. Books that are New Adult tend to deal with a lot of more adult themes than Young Adult and are also aimed at a slightly older audience. Young Adult books generally over the years have dealt with a lot of real-life issues and characters who are coming of age. Themes such as relationships, friendships and dysfunctional families are becoming huge in Young Adult. We are now seeing more books than ever featuring protagonists that teenagers feel that they can relate to. Many Young Adult novels also deal with self-identity, self-acceptance and problems that the main character has to overcome to get a feel of resolution. A lot of them also tend to feature characters that don’t feel as though they quite belong and then gain some sense of belonging at the end of the novel. Readers today are looking for more books that deal with real-life issues but at the same time offer some kind of escapism.
There have been some recent movements in Young Adult including books with POC and in the last few years, including LGBT protagonists. Many of these books centre on real-life difficulties people face within themselves when coming out and the issues people face when dealing with racism. This year, there has been a massive movement with several books coming out with a POC main character and that is either fantasy or a queer retelling. This is a great sign of things to come.