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2016 In Review

Last year was a roller coaster, but for bookworms it was the perfect time to get cosy and read, to zone out and escape into endless stories. 2016 may have been a terrible year for everyone else, but for booklovers like me it was nothing short of spectacular.

Changes on the YA Landscape

Genre, like anything, is constantly evolving. Young Adult (YA, for short) fiction in particular is thriving, and last year it split off into some new subgenres – including novels written for younger teens, and those catered for the transition from your teenage years into adulthood. And speaking of subgenres, it was also a great year for YA Fantasy Fiction, with more authors than ever creating some fantastic and dense literary landscapes. Fantasy is becoming more and more popular, and is extremely prevalent in YA fiction.

In the YA books that I grew up with, the main protagonists were often one-dimensional, underwent little character development, and, in order to be successful, had to be involved in a complicated love triangle. In 2016 this changed more than ever before, as YA narratives focused less on the romance and more on the narrative itself. Female protagonists were flourishing, the characters were more diverse and representative of people from all walks of life, and if there was romance, the stories were no longer hinged around it. Women made their mark in 2016 by defying expectations, and so did many wonderful characters in YA fiction.

For instance, I saw a definite change in the way that female protagonists were written, (I hesitate to use the term ‘strong female heroine’ because often that implies a definition that only focuses on her physical strength) where the female lead had flaws, and that was great. Fiction is meant to be absorbed by the reader, and what better way to make a character relatable than simply giving them a realistic sense of humanity?

Sometimes it feels impossible to find a book where the female lead is not defined by romance, but in 2016, as many YA novels progressed through trilogies or series, I saw relationships between characters develop more slowly, which I really enjoyed. It was refreshing to not have romance forced down my throat from the first page. Now, especially with YA subgenres being aimed at a slightly older age spectrum, more mature writing styles have emerged, allowing authors to delve into themes not often seen in traditional forms of YA fiction.

My recommendations

Surface Tension by Sarah Gray

Six short stories which cover the theme of the psychological journeys of the human mind. These stories cover different creatures such as ghosts and mythical beings that test the characters in some way.

They are different to most and present a change in pace to the normal YA books we see on the market.

Although they have a Gothic theme which makes it more aimed at older readers, these stories are a journey and each one holds a meaning that I would encourage anyone to read.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bargugo

Set in Katterdam, a City that carries an Amsterdam aesthetic, a gang of six sassy thieves come together to complete one impossible heist.

This novel demonstrates a character driven story, something not centered on romance like many average YA novels. The characters are diverse and represent people from all walks of life, not to mention the female protagonists are extremely badass.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab

There are four different versions of London – Red, White, Grey and Black. Kell is the last remaining Antari, somebody with the ability to travel between the four locations. But Kell has broken the rules, travelling across the dimensions with an object that does not belong. He flees to Grey London, where he meets Delilah Bard, a girl who dreams of adventures.

This series is focused on both Delilah and Kell, both of these characters are very much a product of the world they have grown up within. It is a novel that is aimed at older readers of YA as well as adults.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

When bodies of both human and faeries are discovered, Emma Carstairs, a Shadowhunter, gets pulled in to a mysterious plot. With the help of her closest friend and Parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, the two journey together to solve the mystery. However, it's a journey which will also lead them to uncover memories of their past.

Lady Midnight does contain romance, but something that I really admire about Cassandra Clare’s writing is how, within her narratives love is a development. Within this book a relationship is not forced upon you from the very first page, instead it evolves throughout the narrative.

Looking forward

So, what’s in store for 2017? A lot of Young Adult series are ending, two of Sarah J Maas series – A Court of Thrones and Roses along with Throne of Glass are drawing to its ultimate end. But one of my favourite things about this genre is that the book series could span across six years or more, so we as readers get to grow along with the characters as well as the story. Leigh Bardugo is defiantly a writer to keep a close eye on in the upcoming year – it’s been refreshing to read the Six of Crows Duology (links can be found above) and see how far she’s come as a writer since The Grisha Series. Her writing has grown so much in maturity and her books have been examples of that lovely change of pace to the YA scene. Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes) and Renee Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn) are also whipping up some wonderful new books, two authors who I think are divine. Both these authors have created a YA novel with a diverse cast which is extremely lacking in the YA industry of novels.

Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of authors shake up the norm and try something different. After all, good writing is meant to keep us all on our toes.

By Emily Davies

Freelance Writer

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