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Trends in Young Adult Fiction

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 @ 12:01 PM Karen Hood

Over the past few years, the Young Adult fiction market has exploded. The number of YA books published saw a 25% increase between 1999 and 2005, and the market continues to grow. The quality of the writing has increased dramatically as well, becoming both more literary in style and more complex in terms of plot and character. This is good news for teen literacy, which continues to be a struggle across the country.

Here is a breakdown in current trends for teen fiction:

Fantasy

Many of today’s teens grew up during the Harry Potter craze, which served as an introduction not only to reading in general, but reading fantasy in particular. The fact that the Harry Potter series evolved from book to book, growing darker and more complex, helped readers remain interested as they grew older. The fantasy genre has a long history in children’s and young adult fiction, and today it is flourishing more than ever.

Dark Fantasy/Paranormal

This is perhaps the first trend that comes to mind when many people think of YA fiction today. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series is inescapable these days, and it is at the forefront of a lengthy and growing list of books about brooding supernatural creatures. Many of these, including Twilight, concentrate heavily on the damsel-in-distress and romance motifs, although the genre has begun to move toward stronger female characters. Regardless, the genre’s appeal to teens seems here to stay.

Post-Apocalyptic

Often an off-shoot of the science fiction or historical genres, post-apocalyptic YA novels have been coming into wider popularity over the last few years. These books frequently feature teens who have the ability, intelligence, and drive to save or renew societies that are failing because of the mistakes of the adult populace–and keeping in mind the perennial generation clash of teens and their elders, it is easy to see the powerful appeal such stories would have for YA readers.

Manga/Graphic Novels

The modern world is inundated with visual stimulus–TV, movies, video and computer games, smart phones–so it should be no surprise that stories told in a visual format have finally come into their own. The first comic book was printed in the US in 1932, and the genre has had its following ever since. But never before has it enjoyed such widespread popularity–these days, the manga/graphic novel section of a bookstore can easily take up several rows. The range of topics and quality of the writing is equally as diverse as traditional YA fiction, ranging from bubblegum boy-meets-girl-with-hilarity-ensuing to gritty, complex stories about vampires, the challenges of everyday life, and everything in between.

Chick Lit

Every girl wants to be beautiful, popular, and in fashion. Every girl wants to snag the hot guy of her dreams. Chick lit is all about that, and it’s easy to see the appeal. Humorous series like The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson feature main characters who find themselves in one socially disastrous (but entertaining) situation after another. The teen years are rife with social awkwardness, and books like this provide a way for girls to identify with the character, laugh at her pratfalls, and navigate through their own social interactions with greater deftness. On the other end of the genre are series like Gossip Girl, which concentrate on the lives of wealthy young socialites. These books are more serious in nature, often dealing with mature and sometimes racy subjects, and they have wide appeal in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture.

Realist

While books like Twilight are on the low end of the quality spectrum, there are many YA novels that are extremely well-written and deal with weighty, realistic themes. The books in this genre are very sophisticated and literary, and comprise the majority of award-winning fiction for young adults.

Trends in fiction, both young adult and otherwise, can be subject to swift, dramatic changes. It is easier to identify current trends than it is to predict what may be popular in the future. Regardless of which genres are popular in the upcoming years, the overall trend toward an increasingly literate teen populace is an encouraging and exciting thing, and one that seems destined to continue for the time to come.

One Response to “Trends in Young Adult Fiction”

  1. Reda Stower says:

    Probably you’ve read through books, that others have not read and perhaps few others have actually heard of, what’s important, is the fact you have entered into them and come out of that experience enriched because of it. Growing as you become more emboldened through the experience of sharing in a different perspective for a while, that’s the real power of an excellent book!


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