Onward to 2020!
YA Trends that Are Sticking Around
As the year dwindles down and all the Best Of lists emerge, I’m thinking about what trends I saw this year in 2019 and what I’m expecting to see in 2020. With the new year, the young adult literature space is likely to be seeing new trends and also a solidification of some previous trends. As I wrap up 2020, I’m thinking about what worked so well in 2019—what I read obsessively, what I binged on television, and what got me talking with my friends about my current reads and the books in my TBR pile.
One trend that I hope never goes away is the importance of #OwnVoices novels and the diversity they bring to readers. Books that are issue-driven and socially conscious that start difficult conversations about relevant topics like The Hate U Give *will always have a space on my shelves. Feel-good books that are lighter with clever and fun romances like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before *will always make us swoon. Diverse characters in YA literature are spanning the genres, and I am absolutely loving it.
In 2019 there was a groundswell of YA authors who responded to real-life teen activism in their books. Inspired by teens who express frustration at the current political climate and their deep desire to affect change in a difference direction, 2019 saw many books, both fiction and nonfiction, about issues that teens care about deeply from gun control, climate change, and racism. Immigration has become a mainstay in the news, and accordingly, many YA books tackled the topic in new and creative ways. I am so proud of the YA community for the attention that is being paid to diverse voices, which positions YA literature to respond to events and emotions that are happening across the world. As a reader, I am always on the lookout for authors from diverse backgrounds who tell stories that reflect the world that I live in and who use their own experiences to inform their stories.
The last year also saw a rise in YA thrillers, which might be thanks to very bingeable shows, podcasts, and adult books turned movie blockbusters. It seems natural that young adults who are enjoying these high-stakes television shows and movies and engrossed by these types of podcasts would look for something in the YA space. And it makes sense that authors would be inspired by these titles in their own thriller stories. Deep down we all love a fast-paced story with an unreliable narrator that keeps us turning the pages with dread as we wait for that final dramatic twist!
Fantasy, too, is a trend that is ending strong in 2019, and I predict it will keep up its momentum next year. Fresh takes on classics myths and stories that show the genre in a new way are particularly in demand, and you have to look no further than your local bookstore to see the creative ways that traditional fantasy tropes have been reinvented. From high fantasy to contemporary fantasy and magical realism, one aspect of this genre that I love is the prevalence of female protagonists who are constantly defining and redefining the meaning of strength. In light of the #MeToo movement, I love that YA fantasy shows such a variety of ways that girls can be strong and save the world.
Ultimately trends are cyclical and there is no concrete way to predict what might really take off in 2020. One thing that seems certain though is that authors will continue to write for an audience who is craving engagement and response to current events through a variety of genres, and YA readers are eager to jump in.