YA is a dynamic genre of fiction marketed primarily towards people under 18 (although adults make up over half of YA consumers!). Read on for the history of how we got here and five predictions for where YA is going.
“Young Adult” fiction is a relatively new genre in the publishing industry, but not as new as you think. An article from CNN suggests teenagers became a distinguished social group because WWII stratified the American population by age. I like to think someone shot up from their desk and said “Wait a second, teenagers exist?! How do we make money off them??”
Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (1942) is regarded as the first book written for teenagers, and it was about first love. Trends of romance novels for girls and sports novels for boys emerged soon after. In the 1970s another YA publishing wave hit with authors like Judy Blume, and in the 1980s horror made a modest appearance from authors like R.L. Stine.
The YA author wakes up in a cold sweat. They have dreamt up their worst nightmare.
A single character. A character not in an ever-lasting monogamous relationship, who doesn't have their ‘after the book’ arc mapped out, with 2 kids and eternal happiness.
Truly the stuff of nightmares.
In YA, every side character needs to be paired off, needs to at least have a hinted romantic interest. God forbid there’s nothing to write fanfiction about.
This is the slightest bit of a problem because… a good chunk of teens don’t date. And an even larger chunk of teens don’t date with the promise of forever. Add concerns such as saving the world onto the plates of many YA protagonists, and dating seems like it should be the last thing on a character’s mind.
From the March sisters to Sadie and Carter Kane, sibling relationships can be captivating to both read and write about. However, they seem to be criminally underrated, especially in YA. Personally, this is the type of relationship I tend to gravitate towards the most, as I think there is a lot of potential in it. Sometimes, it might include tough competition and unexpected betrayals. But, in hopes that we get to see this relationship more often, I have decided to talk about how to write healthy sibling bonds.
Obvious disclaimer for frank discussion of sexual content in the context of literature.
Look, I’m going to go ahead and make a blanket statement that if you're between the ages of 14 and, I don’t know, 25; read mainstream YA; have browsed fanfic at least once — you’ve probably stumbled upon smut in varying degrees while reading. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t, maybe you think it shouldn’t be in YA at all (or maybe you do!). Whatever it is, the one consensus we get at is: it’s there. And by the looks of it? Sex scenes in your teen lit aren’t going anywhere.
Should they be? Here’s what I think, about sex in YA, the spectrum of sex scenes in general, and what we do need more of in YA.