Here at Pages Unbound, we love reading YA! Still, there are some types of YA books I would love to see more of! Below is my list.
Characters Who Pursue a Vocation
I see a lot of YA books about characters who are going to college, but I do not think I have ever read a YA book where the protagonist decided to pursue a trade. It would be really interesting–and powerful–to have more protagonists who attend vocational schools or participate in apprenticeships. I know authors probably want to celebrate higher education and encourage readers to attend college, but pursuing a vocation is a valid life decision, too! Why not reflect that in literature?
Characters Who Do Not Get Into Their Dream College/an Ivy League School
I wrote in 2020 that I wanted to see YA book treat college applications more realistically by showing some of the process (applying for financial aid, worrying about the personal essay, etc.) and by showcasing some more protagonists who do not get into an Ivy League school. (Especially since many of these characters do not even seem to study that much, and surely would not be chosen out of all the more qualified applicants, when acceptance rates are so incredibly low!)
Some commentors suggested that having protagonists worry about the application process or financial aid, or having characters experience rejection would be too depressing for teens, but I don’t think that is the case. Most teens probably do worry about the process, and I am sure most also relate to worrying where the money will come from. It’s relatable! And being rejected from schools is a reality for probably most applicants. The book would only be depressing if it suggested that rejection from an Ivy League or a dream school is actually the end of the protagonist’s life. But the book could just as easily show the protagonist choosing to move forward after rejection and still finding success. Which is something plenty of people do in real life!
Funny YA Books (NOT Dark Humor or Rom Coms)
Humorous middle grade books like Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are extremely popular, but humor in YA books seems mainly to be relegated to either dark humor or romantic comedies. I would love to see YA books that treat the experience high school with humor! Why not have a Wimpy Kid-esque book for teens?
More International Authors/Translations
I would love to see more international authors being published in the U.S.! I think voices from other countries would diversify the types of books on the market, not only because other countries might publish books that aren’t seen as marketable in the U.S.–and so these books would hopefully feel less formulaic–but also because readers would be exposed to ways of thinking that are not U.S.-centric. I talked about wanting to see more international authors back in 2019, and it seems not much has changed in terms of what is being offered.
More Friendship, Less Romance
YA books are often associated with romance and middle grade books tend to focus more on friend and family relationships. But friendships are important for people of all ages, and not every teen is going to experience a whirlwind romance (and probably not a love triangle). I like a good romance in my stories, it is true. But I think it would be good to reflect more often the experiences of teens who are not dating and maybe are not even interested in dating yet!
I have no idea why pictures are considered to be just for little kids. Illustrations are an art form, one that can be appreciated by all ages! I would love to see YA books that are illustrated–not just with little borders or decorative elements, but with full-page pictures. And I think it would appeal to teens, too! I know a lot of teens who seem to be just reading Wimpy Kid over and over again. And manga is increasingly popular with teens, as well. Why not make some sort of illustrated book series for those fans? Teens like pictures, too!
Shorter YA Books
I enjoy longer books! I really do! But sometimes it feels like every YA book I pick up is 400 pages or more. I wouldn’t mind a few more teen books in the 300-page range. Sometimes having to edit a book down can really streamline the narrative, too, so it’s a win all around!
More YA Books for Younger Teens
I have been talking about the lack of YA books for younger teens for years, and I still maintain there is a need! Most YA books certainly seem to be more mature and possibly aimed at an adult, not a teen audience. I would recommend the majority of YA to readers 16+. But we need books for younger teens! Books where the protagonists are 14 or 15, a freshman or a sophomore in high school. I think younger teen books are being marketed as middle grade these days, but that makes it harder for teens to find these books, especially as they desire to read up and enter the world of YA. It’s time for YA books to be written for teens of varying ages, not adults.
Sometimes I see YA books focused on sports like football or cheerleading, but I would love to see more stories focused around extracurriculars like band, math competitions, academic bowls, and more. Something like The View from Saturday for teens!
More Standalone Fantasies
I love a good series! I also love a good standalone. I enjoy having that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finish a book–and also the knowledge that I will not have to dedicate the next seven years trying to keep up with all the new installments. Find our list of 17 YA Standalone Fantasies and our list of 20 Standalone YA Fantasies!
What would you like to see more of in YA?