I wanted to start this week off with another reading guide! My first reading guide centered around New Adult Romance, so this week I wanted to tackle another one of my favorite genres; Young Adult Fantasy.
YA Fantasy is a genre that had really boomed in the last few years and is really a staple for readers even outside the YA target age group. I myself, a 23-year-old, love a good YA fantasy and it remains one of my favorite genres as it continues to push out some really great books every year.
What is YA Fantasy?
YA Fantasy is often considered fantasy novels targeted for the ages 13-18. YA Fantasy has become an increasingly popular genre for both teens and adults alike.
One of the reasons YA fantasy is so popular is because it blends magic, myth, lore, action, and romance in the best ways. It tackles big ideas of right and wrong, love and hate, war and peace all while utilizing a protagonist that is not yet an “adult” in the general source of the term. It’s a great showcase of how important your teen years are and just how strong that age group is. It shows the teen as the savior, as the one who does what must be done, and it reminds us that strength, bravery, and courage come in all age groups.
As I mentioned in my New Adult Reading Guide, there is a line that has been blurring between YA and NA, especially in the fantasy realm. Books like Sarah J. Mass’ A Court of Mist and Fury has been marketed under the banner of YA but is a distinctly NA story in terms of it’s graphic nature (both gore & sex). While YA books do go on the steamy side, they certainly don’t touch the graphic nature of a NA book. YA is more fade to black sex scenes and the steaminess comes more from the banter, that first love feeling, first kisses, etc.
While the steam definitely isn’t the whole appeal of the YA Fantasy (although it is for me…) it has been a big discussion regarding the differences between fantasy novels that are marketed toward teens or the NA audience.
Common Themes & Tropes
YA centers a lot around, obviously, things pertaining to teens. There’s a lot of focus on what is generally referred to as coming of age themes like first love, building relationships between family and friends, and self empowerment/courage.
One of the most common tropes found in YA Fantasy does focus on the romance aspect and that comes in the form of my personal favorite, enemies to lovers. You can see this multiple times in YA novels and it’s one of the reasons it’s so popular; readers love a good antihero. A lot of the times the bad guy ends up being the good guy or vice versa and that kind of character arc (positive or negative) is really addicting for a reader.
There’s also those typical tropes like the hero/heroine is an outcast or are lower class (especially in fantasy novels with royalty), h/h has magical abilities, heroine doesn’t know her own beauty– those same things we seen over and over in YA novels universally. They work, especially when they’re done right. A lot of these tie into those typical plot lines about saving their people, defeating an evil monarchy, just generally saving the world stuff that is my personal catnip for YA novels.
Popular YA Fantasy Authors
- Sarah J. Maas – Aside from her transition to NA with the ACOTAR series, her Throne of Glass books remain a staple of the YA genre and massively popular series with teens and adults alike.
- Leigh Bardugo – Another author who just started to branch into the world of adult literature, her Grishaverse series have sparked a cult following and landed her a Netflix deal.
- Holly Black – Holly has been writing YA Fantasy for a long time, even before it became as popular as it is now. Her work focuses on the fae and her newest novels, The Folk of the Air trilogy, are insanely popular and a personal favorite!
- Cassandra Clare – Clare’s Shadowhunter realm has been incredibly popular and has a massive following as well as a massive backlog of books! She has a few different series within the same overarching realm, but her books continue to be a top seller in the YA Fantasy world.
YA Fantasy Recommendations
All of these are personal favorites and books I think really embody the best parts of the genre! All of these are the first of a series except for The Wicked Deep, which is a standalone and a perfect read for upcoming spooky season! More recommendations can be found on Goodreads here!
YA Fantasy is as diverse a genre as it’s audience. YA gets a bad rap most of the time for being fluffy or cheesy, but these books deal with some pretty heavy topics and are just damn good reads. It’s a genre I love dearly (which I think a lot of my friends here will agree with) and I can’t wait to see how else the genre evolves!
If you have any other specific questions or want a more specific recommendation, just shoot me an email, DM, etc. and I’ll try and help!