What is YA?

Posted by Charlotte Kirton on 26th January 2016

Young Adult fiction has emerged as an exceptionally popular, vastly growing genre. With notable names such as John Green, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth paving the way for other talented authors to branch out into the YA market, it seemed a natural progression for the Totally Entwined Group to dedicate an entire imprint to the genre. We have a genuine passion for literature and are really excited to be introducing new voices into the genre. 

So what is exactly is YA and why is it taking the world by storm?

This wave of literature focuses on thought-provoking, entertaining and often poignant topics that are relevant to its readership of today. Encompassing a wide age range of readers, many YA titles tackle coming of age themes, such as identity, family and sexuality, but also branch out to an array of fiction genres. Science fiction and dystopian novels, for example, are becoming increasingly popular in the YA market, as well as romance, GLBT and fantasy.

So what are the key elements of a captivating YA novel? For us, character development is crucial. Characters must be memorable, multilayered and easy to identify with. The plot should be well structured, gripping and thorough. It’s also important to us that the dialogue is authentic, the language framed perfectly for the readership and the subject matter well researched. At Finch Books our aim is to take our readers on thrilling adventures, providing the ultimate escapism, whilst touching on subject matter that is both relatable and stimulating to the imagination.

Although the readership of Young Adult fiction ranges widely in age, recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age, echoing further the significance of real-life, gritty coming-of-age themes. It is important to be aware that Young Adult fiction differs to teen fiction, which is generally more light-hearted in subject matter and tone. 

So whether you're an avid reader of YA fiction, or are waiting to give the genre a try, let your imagination fly with Finch Books!

We asked our authors to tell us what they believe are the most crucial components of Young Adult fiction and what they feel makes a fantastic YA novel. Here’s what they had to say:

Kacie Ji, author of Demigoddess 101 (out now):

"The main components of YA to me are emotions and the exuberance that comes with them. As a teen the world is there to be conquered and everything is new and exciting. It's something we lose as we get older. I think the best YA stories tap into that feeling."  


J.S. Frankel, author of The Menagerie (out now):

"For me, the main components of YA are age, naturally, addressing certain issues teens may face, and relationships. It doesn’t matter what orientation or race, some of the issues teens have to face are getting through school, dealing with peer pressure, avoiding the temptation to drink or do drugs, avoiding trouble with the law...those things. They worry about their future, what they’ll do after high school, whether they can find work...

And they also worry about finding friends and finding their first girlfriend/boyfriend. Life is a series of firsts, but in high school it always seems those ‘firsts’ are magnified and take on a greater importance as do the choices they have to make. In a novel I wrote long ago, I used the catchphrase “A choice to be made and a price to be paid”. It holds true for everyone, but seems to take on a greater resonance when you’re in your teens."


Jane Dougherty, author of Abomination (out now):

"A good YA novel should use the same emotional range as an adult novel, use the same language and expect the same effort of its readers. But the points of reference should be familiar, and the reader should be able to empathize with the characters and believe that what is happening to them is credible. It’s a mark of children’s stories for the hero/heroine to be smarter, stronger, more assertive and more ‘heroic’ than the adults. But it’s not real life. A YA hero has to be believable, real. The rest is the icing on the cake. He/she can be hot, sexy, romantic, funny, endearing, clumsy, or joky, feisty, sensitive, moody, complex, screwed up or level-headed. It’s up to the author what kind of story she writes, posing exactly the same questions and expecting the same sort of answers as she would if it was a story for adults."


Caroline MacCallum, author of Gabriel’s Angel (out now):

"I think the main components of YA fiction are excitement, strong relationships between the characters and a unique situation to deal with that may or may not include help from parents/guardians. In fact if the characters can tackle the situation without adult intervention, all the better.

The things that make the best YA novels are the need to be brave to overcome problems be it an issue with the protagonist’s inner self, another person who is set against them or a greater force within the environment. A passionate sense of camaraderie, in either friendship or romance is also essential as is including the things teenagers have to cope with today, like social media."

Rebecca Piercey, author of Blood Princess (out now):

"I think the main component of YA fiction is growth/ discovering who you are. Every YA character you see goes through struggles of some variety that cause them to change and grow as a person. Their struggles solidify their character. This growth can be negative or positive, but it's always there. And with the main audience for YA fiction being teens, I think that's good. They're experiencing a lot of growth and change as well, and so it's good to see the characters that they love grow as well. In my opinion, that's also what makes the best YA novel because of a lot of emotion is involved, and I love stories packed with emotion."

RE Whaley, author of River Girl (out now):

"It’s essential that the story features characters you can see yourself and your friends in, no matter the situation. Narratives, plots, and dialogue that don’t “talk down” to the reader are also very important!

At the moment I’m partial to contemporary YA. In general, I like YA that has relatable characters and situations, explores themes that are often overlooked in the mainstream, and includes plots that are as complex and unique as the ones found in adult fiction."


Selina Rose Fulgate, author of Shift the Darkness (coming soon):

"The lure of YA for me has always been the fast pace. YA fiction doesn’t really give you the lull you’ll sometimes experience with other genres because the character is usually rapidly growing as a person and discovering who they are. You’re dropped into the mind of a young person experiencing love, despair, and excitement more vividly than they ever will because it’s brand-spanking new to them. That journey of self-discovery is almost always present, and I think most of us can relate to that whirlwind of emotion the characters are swept up with on their journey to adulthood. I love stories that can make you wince and laugh out loud in the same chapter, with lots of gritty conflict and unpredictable plot twists. I think the best YA can effectively play on the readers’ every emotion."