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.
Can you guess what book blew up the market in 1999? Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer’s Stone was a massive hit and completely changed the market for young adult fiction. Harry Potter’s success paved the way for other novels to come after, and like this series there were two other defining works that shaped YA as we know it. You know them too: The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games.
The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games unleashed trends of their own: paranormal romance and dystopian respectively. From 2000-2010 the market was shaped by these three big series, but there hasn’t been a breakout trend as explosive—and eventually repetitive—as these since. It’s true that certain books lead the industry today, but none have become cultural icons like the three series that came before (okay, maybe Percy Jackson). While some would argue that the YA market is shrinking because of this, I argue that it’s actually becoming more streamlined, a comfortable size as it settles into the market. The big boom has calmed down, and now that YA isn’t so red hot, there is room for authors to experiment, get weird, and share their unique stories.
Welcome to the present day—let’s discuss current trends. The biggest trend that comes to mind is retellings. The first taste of this genre came out in 2012-15 thanks to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles, but retellings really sunk their claws into the market with Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series. Beyond retelling fairytales like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, classic stories have been given new life like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Frankenstein. There are even retellings of Shakespeare plays, early classics from Jane Austen, and 1920s literature like The Great Gatsby, which has recently come into the public domain.
Instead of holding one big trend for years, the YA market maintains simultaneous smaller waves today. A genre that’s grown is LGBTQ+ stories, and diverse ones at that! The thriller genre is growing, dark academia has its readers, and somehow vampires are cool again? Like fashion or slang, publishing is circular and trends come back. It may not be long before new magic academies or teenage tournaments to the death visit our bookshelves again.
But where do we go from here? What books can we expect to read in the next decade? Here are a few predictions for what YA will look like in the future.
Who knows what the publishing industry will look like in 5, 10, 20 years? Perhaps New Adult will finally be a genre, or Sci Fi will make a comeback. Do you agree with our predictions or have your own? Leave a comment below or DM us at @juvenpress on Instagram.
is a writer based in North Carolina. She attends writing classes of all kinds at UNC Chapel Hill and has a particular fondness for sharp imagery. In her free time, she drafts her own novels.
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