Microtrends in YA Fiction

I love when small trends in YA books emerge. A lot of the time, the books have nothing to do with one another in terms of plot, but there are common elements that still somehow tie them together. I’ve been keeping note of some of the interesting microtrends from this year and last, and I’d love to hear if you can think of other small trends or other books that fit into any of the trends below.

All descriptions come from WorldCat and/or Goodreads. 


There is a whole subset of Amish fiction, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about books outside the “Amish fiction” genre. Worth noting is that all of these books came out before the TLC show Breaking Amish, but I’m curious to see if that brings out more of these types of stories.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle: Amish teen Katie smuggles a gravely injured young man, an outsider,
into her family’s barn despite the elders’ ruling that no one can come
in or out of the community while some mysterious and massive unrest is
wreaking havoc in the “English” world.

A World Away by Nancy Grossman: Sixteen-year-old Eliza, an Amish girl, goes to work for an “English”
family as a nanny to two young children, and must then choose between
two entirely different ways of life.

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins: But I love Noah. And he loves me. We met and fell in love in the
sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses
together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other’s
arms. It should be Rose & Noah forever, but it won’t be. Because
he’s Amish. And I’m not.

Genderless Characters

These books do something neat and something incredibly challenging from the writing and reading perspective: they’ve developed main characters who don’t identify as either male nor female.

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff: Sixteen-year-old Kid, who lives on the streets of Brooklyn, loves
Felix, a guitarist and junkie who disappears, leaving Kid the prime
suspect in an arson investigation, but a year later Scout arrives,
giving Kid a second chance to be in a band and find true love.

Every Day by David Levithan: Every morning A wakes in a different person’s body, in a different
person’s life, learning over the years to never get too attached, until
he wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin’s
girlfriend, Rhiannon.

Circus Tales

Both of these books came out this year, and I wonder how — if any — influence there was with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan: Trix’s life in boarding school as an orphan charity case has been hard,
but when an alluring young Ringmaster invites her, a gymnast, to join
Circus Galacticus she gainss an entire universe of deadly enemies and
potential friends, along with a chance to unravel secrets of her own

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling
Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to
astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is
Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s
Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would
always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia
begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s
disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story
for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will
never be the same.

That Time I Joined the Circus by J. J. Howard (April 2013): After her father’s sudden death and a break-up with her best friends,
seventeen-year-old Lexi has no choice but to leave New York City seeking
her long-absent mother, rumored to be in Florida with a traveling
circus, where she just may discover her destiny.

“The Turn of the Screw” Retellings

Retellings aren’t really news or all that trendy (think of how many Jane Austen or Bronte sister books have been retold for modern times), but I find this one on Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw” to be an interesting one. I think part of it is because if you’ve read one, you have a good idea where the next book’s twist will happen. You’re pre-spoiled in a way.

The Turning by Francine Prose: A teen boy becomes the babysitter for two very peculiar children on a
haunted island in this modern retelling of The Turn of the Screw.

Tighter by Adele Griffin: Based on Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” tells the story of Jamie
Atkinson’s summer spent as a nanny in a small Rhode Island beach town,
where she begins to fear that the estate may be haunted, especially
after she learns of two deaths that occurred there the previous summer.

Tales of “The Furies”
The Furies have been showing up, both in the traditional sense of their mythology and through re-worked story lines.

Fury by Elizabeth Miles: After high school junior Emily hooks up with her best friend’s
boyfriend, and football quarterback Chase’s life spirals out of control,
three mysterious Furies–paranormal creatures that often assume the
form of beautiful women–come to town to make sure that Emily and Chase
get what they deserve.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini: When shy sixteen-year-old Helen Hamilton starts having vivid dreams
about three ancient, hideous women and suddenly tries to kill a new
student at her Nantucket high school, she discovers that she is playing
out some version of an old tale involving Helen of Troy, the Three
Furies, and a mythic battle.

Furious by Jill Wolfson (April 2013): After becoming the Furies of Greek mythology, three angry high school girls take revenge on everyone who deserves it.

Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland (April 2013): Amelie Ainsworth longs to graduate from high school and live a normal
life, but as an abused child she became one of the Furies, driven to
mete out justice on the Guilty, and lives on the run from the murders
they commit.

Flapper era
I don’t call this a recent trend, since it’s an era that made an appearance in Anna Godbersen’s recent “Bright Young Things” series and Jillian Larkin’s “Vixen” series. But there have been a few titles tackling the flapper era with both a nod to the flappers but with less emphasis on “Gossip Girl”-esque drama.

The Diviners by Libba Bray: Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from
small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of
occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum
of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of
the investigation.

Debutantes by Cora Harrison: It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet,
Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but
stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and
no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. But a
house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy
is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans – ruin
everything – forever.

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (June 2013 — no cover yet): Anna Van Housen is
thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen
she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium
Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily
navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in
1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have
never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her
true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at
nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever
lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat
downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with
gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so
hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the
stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the
illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all? 

Set in the 1980s or 1990s
This is another trend I don’t think is new but it’s one I keep coming across and find worth noting — and I guess technically it’s not a microtrend, either, since there are a good number of books featuring settings in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, I bet I could have written an entire blog post on this trend alone. What trips me up about these books is I can’t call them contemporary but it makes me feel a little weird calling them historical, too — a couple would easily be historical though because they tackle historical events. Also a lot of the time the setting isn’t interesting for me as a reader. It seems like it serves as a convenience either through the author’s own experience or as a means of avoiding dealing with the plot holes that technology could bring. Not always, but often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (March 2013): A sweet, moving novel about two misfits finding love in the most unexpected of places.

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt: Thirteen-year-old Drew starts the summer of 1986 helping in her mother’s
cheese shop and dreaming about co-worker Nick, but when her widowed
mother begins dating, Drew’s father’s book of lists, her pet rat, and
Emmett, a boy on a quest, help her cope.

Running Wide Open by Lisa Nowak: Cody Everett has a
temper as hot as the flashpoint of racing fuel, and it’s landed him at
his uncle’s trailer, a last-chance home before military school. But how
can he take the guy seriously when he calls himself Race, eats Twinkies
for breakfast, and pals around with rednecks who drive in circles every
Saturday night? What Cody doesn’t expect is for the arrangement to work.
Or for Race to become the friend and mentor he’s been looking for all
his life. But just as Cody begins to settle in and get a handle on his
supercharged temper, a crisis sends his life spinning out of control.
Everything he’s come to care about is threatened, and he has to choose
between falling back on his old, familiar anger or stepping up to prove
his loyalty to the only person he’s ever dared to trust.

 Bitter Melon by Cara Chow: With the encouragement of one of her teachers, a Chinese American high
school senior asserts herself against her demanding, old-school mother
and carves out an identity for herself in late 1980s San Francisco.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: In the early 1990s, when gay teenager Cameron Post rebels against her
conservative Montana ranch town and her family decides she needs to
change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: It’s 1996, and less than half of all American high school students
have ever used the Internet. Emma just got her first computer and Josh
is her best friend. They power up and log on–and discover themselves on
Facebook, fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what their
Destiny will be. Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard: In 1982 Buncombe County, North Carolina, sixteen-year-old Alex Stromm
writes of the aftermath of the accidental drowning of a friend, as his
English teacher reaches out to him while he and a fellow boarding school
student try to cover things up.
Taking Off by Jenny Moss: In 1985 in Clear Lake, Texas, home of the Johnson Space Center, high
school senior Annie Porter struggles with her desire to become a poet,
but her resolve to pursue her dream is strengthened when she meets
Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to go into space.

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal: In 1985 Brooklyn, New York, sixteen-year-old artist Ari learns about first love.

Yesterday by CK Kelly Martin: After the mysterious death of her father and a sudden move back to her
native Canada in 1985, sixteen-year-old Freya feels distant and
disoriented until she meets Garren and begins remembering their shared
past, despite the efforts of some powerful people to keep them from
learning the truth.

Serial Killers
Sometimes it’s the main character and sometimes it’s someone closely related to the main character.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga: Seventeen-year-old Jazz learned all about being a serial killer from his
notorious “Dear Old Dad,” but believes he has a conscience that will
help fight his own urges and right some of his father’s wrongs, so he
secretly helps the police apprehend the town’s newest murderer, “The

Velveteen by Daniel Marks: Velveteen was murdered at 16, but that’s not her real problem. Life in
purgatory is hard work when your side job is haunting the serial killer
who killed you. 

Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon: While a serial killer stalks his small Georgia town, sixteen-year-old
Henry tries to find the truth about the terrible accident that robbed
him of his mother and his memories, aided by his friend Justine but not
by his distant father.

Have any titles published in the last two years to add to any of these trends? Have you seen any other microtrends worth nothing? Or are any of these trends you’d like to see more of? 

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  1. says

    For circuses, Pantomime and I believe that Terry Pratchett's latest offering (Digger, I think) is also about circuses.

    Flappers: Larkin's series and Anna Godbersen's both got this trend kicked off, I think.

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