Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trends I've Noticed in YA Fiction

Trends are funny things. They come in and go out like the tide, bursting onto the scene and fading away just as quickly. They're found in fashion, T.V. shows, movies and books, and the same ones seem to appear over and over again. Bell bottoms become flared jeans, slip-ons become pop kicks and leggings become...well, leggings. Each time we think these flashy fads are gone for good, they somehow reinvent themselves for a new generation.

Nowhere is this more true than in the world of literature, especially with the rise of the e-reader, which makes the latest bestseller a simple click or download away. Some argue that the entire young adult (YA) genre itself is a fad that will eventually fade like others. I strongly disagree with this logic, but that's another topic for another post. I do, however, believe that YA lit is subject to trends like all other genres of writing. Here are just a few of the ones I've noticed lately:
  1. Dystopian fiction - This one is a biggie, arguably the most popular trend in the genre right now. Not to be confused with utopian fiction. Wikipedia offers pretty detailed explanations for both, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll just say that utopian fiction depicts an ideal world, a paradise of sorts. Dystopian fiction depicts the opposite, a world that is unraveling, often to the point of destruction. Today's dystopians include major blockbuster hits like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Wither, The Maze Runner and a host of others, but as blogger Lily Paradis so eloquently shared in her recent post on the subject, these books are hardly the first of their kind to imagine our world with a dismal future.
  2. Dead protagonists - Book marketer and blogger Rachel Stark made a compelling case last October for the obsession we seem to have with dead girls in YA literature, and the trend only seems to have grown since that post was published. From stories where a life-or-death choice is the premise of the novel, to ones where the main character is already dead, to ones where characters are haunted by the deceased, one thing is disturbingly clear: Death, in all its forms, is apparently the new black (pun intended...sort of).
  3. Love triangles - Ah, love triangles. Something about them just screams teenage angst, doesn't it? This trend is one of the oldest in literature, going back to the days of Shakespeare and beyond, but it seems like its most recent resurgence has come in full force. You'll be hard-pressed to find a YA book these days (particularly one with paranormal elements) that doesn't feature a heroine bouncing like a ping pong ball between two drop-dead gorgeous fellas. Most readers either love or hate them. I happen to be in the "love them" camp, but only when they're done well and don't hijack the plot. I'm totally Team Peeta, by the way.
As far as what's the "next big thing" in YA, I think that's anybody's guess, but I'd love to hear your predictions. I'll have my thoughts on the matter in another post.

What trends have you noticed in YA books lately? Do you read with the trends or away from them? 

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