In Part I of this series, we’ve explored two trends in writing YA: fantasy and retellings. In Part II, we examined trends that speak to important social and cultural topics. Today, we’re going to focus on three more trends.
Trend 5: Quirky but Moving
A growing trend doesn’t really have a name yet, though “quirky but moving” describes it. YA book blogger Lisa Parkin writes, “Quirky characters, outlandish situations and serious topics seem to abound. …”
We’ve seen books that fit in that category throughout the years become classics, such as Jo March from Little Women and Anne (spelled with an e) Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. More recently, readers were given Stanley Yelnats of Holes; a slew of odd characters that peopled the world of Harry Potter at Hogwarts; Mia Thermopolis, the socially awkward teen destined to reign in Genovia, and Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon. The quirky standout has gained popularity, and a number of books reflect this trend.
YA readers appreciate the quirky, awkward and misfit characters. As the site, ReadBrightly.com points out, “Awkwardness is one of the best traits in a literary character. On one hand, it can provide laugh-out-loud humor, a chance for you to chuckle at someone else’s (fictional) misfortune. And, on the other, it can offer a calming sense of reassurance — that feeling of ‘Ahhh, good, someone else has gone through that, too.’”
Trend 6: Explore Issues
YA readers are still children in some ways, but they live on the cusp of adulthood. Magazines provide details and how-tos for teens facing major changes. Many teens are already driving. Some are almost old enough to vote. While interest in romance and peer pressure influences them, they also care about how they fit into society. They wonder who they are. They want to belong. They want to matter.
They think about finishing high school, leaving high school, college choice and the implications of that phase of life, peer pressure, accountability and responsibility, living without a curfew, finding a job, cooking and cleaning, handling money, and other life skills.
Other serious concerns weigh on their minds like the economy, health and obesity, ethnicity, the condition of our planet, slavery, sex trafficking, prejudice and race. An excellent YA novel, Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent, addresses prejudice and doing what’s right. Many articles and novels need to address that understanding of what’s right as we work to heal hurts from the past and present.
Diana Flegal, an agent with Hartline, wrote in a From the Heart blog post, “. . . Find the question every teen is asking — and answer it. You will be the author of a bestseller.”
YA fiction doesn’t shy away from tough topics because teens are asking difficult questions. How do we stay protected in a pandemic, yet show kindness and compassion to others? How do we deal with serious illness or even the death of a friend or family member? How do we prevent suicide? How do we show acceptance and love when we don’t agree with a lifestyle? How do we end racial strife and prejudice?
Christians need to be writing articles and nonfiction books and novels that address the hard questions.
Trend 7: Teach Through Nonfiction
Despite the love of a good story, nonfiction books outsell fiction. Nonfiction articles and books are one of the ways we inform and educate young adults. These books cover everything from natural science to morality. Current books teach readers about religious leaders such as Billy Sunday, Saint Augustine and Martin Luther King, Jr. Other books deal with the history and moral issues of the Civil War, Underground Railroad, Civil Rights Movement, removing Native Americans from their tribal lands, the horrors of the boarding school movement for Native American children, and the list goes on.
Don’t overlook the odds being in your favor to write and sell articles and even a nonfiction book before you ever sell a fiction story. And, who better to write books about tough issues than Christians who care about telling the truth and revealing moral principles. Consider writing nonfiction to teach YA readers.
We’ve now discussed seven trends that should better equip you for reaching YA readers with your writing. Though the YA market remains challenging, the end results can be incredibly rewarding. Impacting youth has never been more important, yet in my research for this post, I struggled to find current quality, clean YA titles. This points out the necessity of Christian writers stepping into the gap. By keeping these trends in mind, you can increase that impact for God’s Kingdom.
Kim Peterson, a freelance editor, mentors aspiring writers. She has taught writing for 28 years, working extensively with both published authors and those seeking careers in writing, editing and publishing. She just concluded her 14th year teaching in the online professional writing program of Taylor University (Upland, Indiana).
Working as a freelance writer for 40+ years, Kim has written for Indiana newspapers and various periodicals and websites, including AppleSeeds, Encounter, Evangel, Vista and devotional markets. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rocking Chair Reader and, most recently, the Moments series, including Moments with Billy Graham.
Kim says of her childhood, “My mom made reading a priority. She surrounded me with books. When my morning chores were finished, she let me disappear up our cherry trees with a good book and a thermos of juice. I don’t climb trees to read any more, but I can still disappear into a great story.”Please visit Kim on her blog.