Keeping Up With Today’s YA Lit

In the coming months, when I talk with agents or editors, I want to have a solid grasp of what my target audience is reading. I think I have avoided this to some extent, in case hyper-awareness of the hottest new trilogy affected my own story. Now that it’s written, my book has its own thing-ness, and I am free to read contemporary literature with a more objective eye.

Therefore, over the holiday I plan to tackle a few titles I have collected on my Amazon wishlist. There’s no way I can read all of the following titles over Christmas, but maybe you can help me choose which ones to tackle first!

I’ve divided them into the following highly scholastic categories:

Books I Look Forward To

Required Reading

Books I Refuse to Read


Popular YA Books I Look Forward to Reading


1.     Enchanted (The Woodcutter Sisters) by Alethea Kontis. This story looks so darned delightful, and it proves you don’t have to come up with a “high concept” world to weave an entertaining read. Kontis seems to have a refreshing, innocent wit about her, with sisters named for all the days of the week and frogs matter-of-factly asking young women to tell them stories. Yet, everything I’ve read about it hints at a mysterious past and plenty of intrigue, so it’s not necessarily a squeaky-clean Disney fairy tale. I am really gunning for this one, although it does not have the kind of cult following other titles on this list can boast.

2.     Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is more of the same high concept, dark and death-obsessed universe that all the teenagers (and their mothers) are lapping up these days. However, I want to give it a try. The world is based on Czarist Russia, and sports a heroine who may have a more admirable character arc than your typical Katniss. It uses the supernatural, with superhumans who can manipulate the elements and a seemingly Sauron-esque antagonist. I don’t know, you guys, I just have a feeling I’ll like the characters. Also, I super love the premise for the most recent book in this series, Six of Crows. It sounds like Ocean’s Eleven, but in magical Czarist Russia. Maybe I’ll just skip straight to it? I’m a grownup; I do what I want.

3.     Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson seems so great! The protagonist, a plus-sized princess with a daunting prophecy on her shoulders, is secretly married and facing seemingly out-of-her-league political turmoil. I love that this story is “edgy” without being grotesque. I’ve got a feeling it does a lot for teenaged self-esteem. Plus, it’s got magic, and not the stupid kind.


Required Reading (Popular Books I’d Be Embarrassed Not to Know)


1.     Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. The premise is pretty off-putting: dystopian world has come up with a compromise between pro-choice and pro-life advocates, which involves some sort of organ harvesting. The three main characters are pre-teens scheduled to be “unwound” and, I’m guessing, devise some way to get out of that sticky situation. I feels like it may be a Giver sort of plot, where society has come to a bloodless, eerie and grim means of solving its issues and some kids decide to challenge that cultural norm. Happy Holidays, am I right?

2.     Legend by Marie Lu is not something I would ever pick up off the shelves, because it wanders into speculative fiction/dystopian territory. But, there is an apparently gripping cat-and-mouse relationship between a teenaged military authority (?) and a futuristic street rat. That’s kind of fun. There is a Hunger Games-esque uncovering of totalitarian government corruption and such … sigh. I don’t know, guys. People are into it.

3.     Wonder by R. J. Palacio blew up last year as a moving novel unfurling the epidemic of bullying in schools today. It follows the story of a fifth grade boy born with a physical deformity that is difficult for his family and community to see past. I don’t want to be sad and distressed, but reviews promise a message of kindness and hope, so I will give it a go!


Books I Refuse to Read (I Want to Be Informed, But There Are Limits!)


1.     Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas. I actually tried to read this a year and a half ago, when I was just starting to research the YA market and trying to get my feet wet. I couldn’t do it. Maas is a celebrity self-published to trad published success story, with so many loyal fans she puts George R. R. Martin to shame. However, here’s what I couldn’t stand about the first ten pages of Throne of Glass: a gross, unfeminine, sexualized assassin/heroine and over indulgent descriptions. The “sexual tension” could be cut with a chainsaw, it was so subtle. I’m sorry, I can’t.

2.     Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I may actually have to read this at some point, because it shows up on so many “must read” lists, but first of all, do you see this cover art? Second, let me just provide you with a section of the blurb. “But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart...” (Goodreads). I mean, the ellipses itself is really all you need to know, here. This is Twilight, royal court style. Maybe it’s well written … … … … … we’ll just have to wait and see.

3.     City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is part of a six book series called Mortal Instruments. I can’t tell you how actively I am not reading these books. First of all, “urban steam punk”. Second, sexualized angels and demons. Third: “But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...” ( The Emily’s would not like to know.

4.     Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is everything I am trying to avoid when I read children’s literature, which is apparently “an adventure in the shadows” ( Coming to a theater near you in 2016.


What do you think? What should I read first? What should I read never? Want to change my mind about the books on the last list? I would love to hear from you!