Top 10 Things I’d love to see more of in YA

Good morning/afternoon/evening/midnight to everyone. I hope you are well (if you’re asleep, you may ignore this salutation and continue snoozing). So far this year, as of the 24th of January, I’ve read 13 books. Woah! That’s a lot of books. 10 and a half of them have been YA (I say the half because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is kind of between MG and YA).

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I’m having an existential crisis!!!

Anyway, what I’ve noticed already is that there are certain things in YA that never happen – things that I really WANT to happen (and who knows – I might write some!). Without further ado, here is my list:

1) More family relationships!

I finished reading The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson today, and loved the sisterly aspect of it. The only problem is that even in these types of books, there is usually a romance element. It’d be lovely to read some more family-oriented books without the smooching.

2) More diversity!

I want to read about all different kinds of people, not just cishet, white teenagers. Not that there’s anything wrong with cishet white teenagers (in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m one). I want to read more books like I Am J which, while having a fairly straightforward plot, is one of the few books I’ve read about a transgendered teen. I’d especially love to see more diversity in spec-fic books.

Image3) More childish teens

So I’m 16, turning 17 this year (HELP ME, I’M TURNING INTO AN ADULT). What I’ve noticed is that in YA books, people hardly ever seem to wear odd socks. They’re all about finding the perfect boyfriend or saving the world or something, whereas my biggest worry yesterday was snapping my glasses (although to be fair, it’s kind of distressing when you can’t tell your dad and sister apart). I want to see more YA characters with silly problems.

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At least Dobby shares my love of odd socks.

4) Books about friendship

I don’t see enough books where the main relationship is a friendship. This saddens me, because my friends are the most important people in my life.

5) School!

Okay, so maybe I’m in the minority here. But school is a huge part of my life, and not many teens in YA seem to stress about it as much as me. Which is why I loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much.

Image6) Interesting settings

I’ve heard a lot about Ink by Amanda Sun lately, and haven’t got around to reading it. Basically, it’s based…not in the US. BOM BOM BOM. But yeah, I’d love to read more books based in Asia, Africa and different parts of Europe (maybe with some good old Aussie settings chucked in as well).

7) Genre mash-ups

I’m a contemporary person, definitely, but I love it when different genres merge. Sci-fi with fairytale characters; futuristic books with old clothes and fashions. Contemporary books with just a hint of magic.

8) Boarding schools

I’m a sucker for boarding schools. I love the movie Wildchild, and Anna and the French Kiss, Looks for Alaska, Harry Potter and so many more. Boarding schools rock.

9) Books like The Book Thief

I love how literary The Book Thief is. I love the descriptions and Markus Zusak’s amazing way of telling a story. Soon I’ll post my thoughts about the movie, but for now I’m just crossing my fingers someone will write something just as amazing soon! Even better if they’re Aussie.

10) Awesome covers

So yeah, I judge books by their covers. Because they’re a marketing tool. That’s what they’re FOR. I love covers that are done well. These are some of the ones I love in contemporary YA:

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ImageAren’t these covers awesome? I want more like these. And yes, I did use It’s Kind of a Funny Story twice.

And those are the top 10 things I’d love to see more of in YA (well, also other age groups like MG and NA, since some of them are a bit hard to place). What about you?

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23 thoughts on “Top 10 Things I’d love to see more of in YA

  1. This may sound weird, but sex.

    A lot of YA treats sex like it’s an anathema, which is silly really. There’s all this BS sleeping chastely in bed together and *almost* having sex and then not. We need more sex, nothing EXPLICIT, fade-to-blacks always work. I’m just so tired of books avoiding it so much.

    I also don’t like that we apparently needed to make up a genre called New Adult, so that sexual stories could be explored, but a lot of those stories that I’ve read are all *sex in the chemistry lab* and *sex in the bathroom*, and what I want to know is: where is the normal sex? The hesitant, first time, scared but also excited sex? Where’s the exploration in YA of how to decide whether to become sexually active, buying condoms, having an honest discussion with your partner about what you’re comfortable with and how to say no and what they’re OK with and what you want and they want?

    Everyone’s always so busy chasing the bad boy on the motorcycle, and I’m always interested in what happens after that. A lot of YA is a bit like the dog chasing the car — what the hell will the dog do with it once he’s caught it?

    ALSO, why are all the YA girls sexually inexperienced? Virgins, I understand (but not all of them have to be virgins, how alienating for readers who aren’t!), but no sexual experience what-so-ever? No kisses? No sneaky groping? All the YA girls are falling in love for the first time, I understand, but they’ve never mucked around? What a silly way to base a whole genre: on this subset of girls. I personally was a member of this subset until 19, but I knew a lot of people who weren’t, and it’s so weird that the genre has gravitated towards this … ideal? Smacks of subtle slut-shaming to me.

    So yeah. Sex and sexual situations. NOT erotica, but if we explore drinking and drugs and relationships and sometimes rape, why not sex?

    • I totally agree with you, and I feel like there’s a sort of stigma against subjects like this. That’s why I love books like Looking for Alaska, and writers like Ellen Hopkins, because they’re not afraid to bring up subjects like that while also being really quality literature. It sucks that the two are considered mutually exclusive, and that sex is tiptoed around, because books are such a safe way of being introduced to all those things.

      And I agree with what you mentioned about girls, too – it seems like it’s always the guy that’s experienced, and the girl who has no idea. I think YA is becoming a little more relaxed about sex, but I think that it needs to be discussed more in general – not just in books.

      It also comes back to the “parents” point as well – if you write about teens that never tell their parents what they’re doing, that’s really harmful to having open discussions about sex, drugs, alcohol, all that stuff. Personally, they’re things that aren’t going to affect me at my age, but there are certainly people much younger than me who are more mature and want to experiment.

      Thanks for your comment, and I look forward to your post on the subject!! 🙂

  2. I loooove those covers! (I love that style of minimalistic and bold colours.) I’d like to see a lot of these too, particularly some I-am-not-really-mature characters. I don’t feel mature, and gosh, I just turned 20 (I’d like odd socks if I liked wearing shoes. But I DO like funky Little Miss shirts and Superhero shirts…whereas in books they seem to dress “right” a lot). Pleeeease more international settings! I’m tired of dystopian societies destroying America. Let’s have a book from the view point of the rest of the world! (While America is tearing itself apart in Hunger Games? 😉 XD)

    • I love the minimalistic style too! It seems to be associated with contemporary, which I love.

      I’d love to see dystopians from the POV of other countries. Someone suggested on a blog somewher (I wish I could remember!) that North Korea would be a great setting. And because I have NO idea what’s going on there, I think that would be great too. I suck at keeping up with news, and I think using that in YA could be either really great (if it’s done right) or really awful.

      Hell yes to the funky shirts! Who needs to grow up anyway? 😉

  3. YES to basically all of this. Especially international settings, although especially anywhere outside the Western world because there really isn’t a lot of that. Everyone reads so much about the US, I think it’s only fair that other cultures get read about too. Books about friendship and family are always on the top of my wishlist. My favourite books that are very family and friend focused are Melina Marchetta’s contemps, especially JELLICOE ROAD and SAVING FRANCESCA. Also I just read a very family-centred Aussie based book, THE FIRST THIRD by Will Kostakis. Oh and CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein is also very friendship-centric with no romance. (Hope you don’t mind the recommendations!)

    • I know, there are sooooooo many Western-centred books and it’d be nice to have a change! Confession: I have never actually read a Melina Marchetta book (gasp!) but I’m going to try to rectify this ASAP. I read THE FIRST THIRD recently, too, and LOVED it! Thanks for the book recs, I’ll try to find a copy of CODE NAME VERITY somewhere 🙂

      • YOU NEED TO READ MELINA MARCHETTA. She is my favourite author of all time and I cannot recommend her highly enough. She writes amaaaazing characters and relationships and just reeeeead themmmm. JELLICOE ROAD is my favourite, but SAVING FRANCESCA, THE PIPER’S SON and her fantasy series the Lumatere Chronicles are also very good.

      • Well, I’m pretty sure my school library has all of them, considering she’s the Italian teacher’s cousin (fame by association!). And she’s one of the most well-known Aussie YA writers, so I need to start soon 🙂

  4. SPOT ON POST.

    Sisterly/brotherly/friendshippy stories… I support it hands down. Most of my recommendations have already been mentioned, and while there are few, they always feel like the exception, no?

    And international stories too! The few YA stories I’ve found set in other countries are so… negative. Girl forced into marriage/honour killing stuff (Pakistan, India), strict conventions in society that restrict girls (Asia in general), Holocaust stuff (Germany) etc. etc. Not that that stuff isn’t important for awareness and education, but in terms of fiction, there is more to that country, more to the world, you know?

    I can give you two of my favourite ‘international’ stories, if you like… no wait, I mentioned them in the post I linked you before. But here ya go anyway:

    1) The Year the Gypsies Came (Linzi Glass) – South Africa
    2) Alif the Unseen (G.W. Wilson) – Middle East, I think a fictional Arab nation

    And more Book Thief – yes, yes, yes.

    • I know! The simple fact that they’re recommended as “friendshippy” stories tells you that there aren’t exactly an abundance (maybe I should write some).

      I’d love to see more positive books in other cultures as well.

      I’ll add those two recs to my list of Awesome Recommended Books (the list is getting much longer!).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s great hearing that so many people want more books like this, because that means there’s a market for them.

  5. YES YES YES! Wild Child. MWAH ❤ Anyway, I totally agree, Emily. There needs to be more diversity! And def more depressing books like The Book Thief. I saw the movie today and couldn't stop laughing and sobbing

    Brilliant post! <33

    • It is literally my Go-To Girl Movie. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

      Oh god, how GOOD was The Book Thief? I’m going to post a review the day after Australia Day. It’ll be my first YA movie review 🙂

  6. I agree with all of these (except maybe the boarding schools, I feel like I’ve read too many of those, but that’s just me). And I guess I feel like YA books need to focus on making characters more human? I feel like many characters tend to fit stereotypes, and lighthearted and more childish characters and characters who do things which are stigmatized in our society such as sex don’t appear too often and when they do that is also in very stereotypical situations. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I guess the best example of a series that doesn’t do this is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Sex is explored though not at all explicitly, and it’s not the same typical experience like in every other YA book. And also, the things the characters do– when your friend is dying, according to most books you immediately go to comfort said friend and experience an epiphany while talking to them. Ann Brashares has her character hide in her room and eat her way through a giant box of gummy bear packets while she pretends her world isn’t falling apart. So I guess that aspect of life would be something I’d like to see included in YA more frequently.

    • I completely agree with you! More relatable is what you’re getting at, I guess. Personally I didn’t like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but I can see why it’s a great example of what you mean. As for boarding schools, I guess I’m just weird that way 🙂

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