What is Young Adult fantasy?
It’s the genre of literature geared towards readers between the ages of 12 and 18 (some sources have it as 20) years old.
The term as it’s used in literature today emerged towards the end of the 1960s.
It first peaked in the 1970s thanks to writer Judith Blume before coming into its own again in the 1990s with the Harry Potter series.
I’m a self-identified Hufflepuff, thanks for asking! Like we know they were the Hogwarts house who knew how to get it.
The boy-wizard franchise caused a surge in the publishing industry with publication houses trying to ride the hype train (or perhaps the Hogwarts express?) with their own works.
I might not be a fan of the author as a person but I need to give props to JK Rowling who changed the YA fantasy game as we know it.
In the following decade, franchises like the Twilight and Hunger Games dominated the entertainment industry. As a tween, I’d salivate over any scene containing the sparkly vampire, now of course I shake my head in shame at the blatant toxicity that permeated Edward and Bella's relationship.
The 2010s were the decade of the Divergent trilogy and The Fault in Our Stars.
As the decade marched on, the lack of diversity became glaringly obvious both within and outside of the publishing industry. As a result ‘We need diverse books’ was born, a NGO that offered grants to interns and aspiring writers.
Corin Duyvis’ #ownvoices Twitter movement came after this, and sparked a more diverse range hit the shelves. One example of this was ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, which depicts police brutality faced by black men in the USA.
YA in 2011 VS 2021:
I wanted to look at the differences between bestselling titles dominating the genre today and a decade ago. Wowee is there a noticeable gap. For one, take a peek at the Good reads best seller list from 2011. Notice anything? In 2011 the top ten writers and their protagonists were all white cisgender females. Now look at this year’s list, one of the top three novels is 'Wings of Ebony' by J.Elle, a black writer.
Scroll down to number five and we have, ‘We Free the Stars’ by Hafsah Faizal. Fingers crossed we keep building on this multicultural emergence of diverse talent.
What’s does the future hold YA?
So, full disclosure here, I misplaced my crystal ball after a séance which means I’ll have to spitball this.
I wish I could answer this question but if there’s one constant, it’s change. I’d like to think that Young Adult fantasy will always be around because it deals with being an outcast, and I don’t only mean the protagonists. I mean as a genre it caters to people transitioning from children to adults. That can be scary, lonely and jarring.
These books create characters we can identify with who for the most part, are walking this path too. Fuck! It’s one of the reasons I still read this YA fantasy books today and proudly so.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why my own work in progress revolves around a young adult. I’d like to think that as long as both authors seek to create a diverse range of work, which people of different races, gender and sexual preference can relate to, YA will continue to be around for a quite a while.
And that’s how you do YA Right!