Change of Heart

YA has always been my favorite. I’ve always read it, I’ve always written it, I’ve always loved it. But lately, the spark just hasn’t been there.

I’ve had a hard time connecting with YA books. For some reason, I just can’t get into them in the way I’ve always been able to. I keep finding the stories flat, even formulaic. It’s not just dystopian anymore, I’ve found books across all genres that seem to follow the same pattern, and it feels like a story I’ve read a dozen times–because honestly, I have.

This isn’t all YA by any means. There’s definitely the exceptions that manage to capture me and draw me into a rich, complex world with a story that jumps off the page. But that’s becoming harder and harder for me to find.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much of the other side of the story. Instead of being absorbed in the story, I see EXPOSITION, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, CONFLICT, blaring at me. Characters seem like obvious ploys for sympathy or world-building, foreshadowing hits me across the head with a sledgehammer, the setting feels like a budget backdrop in a school play rather than a world I can walk around and get lost in. Maybe I just haven’t found the right books. Maybe part of it is because I’m having a hard time in my own writing, and I’ve projected that feeling onto YA as a whole.

But for whatever reason, I seem to have fallen out of love with YA. Which is hard, because it’s always been dear to me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to fall in love with some really awesome adult books (Outlander, anyone?) so I haven’t lost reading entirely.

What do you think about YA? Are you a fan, or not? Are there some really awesome YA books I’m missing out on? Maybe even ones that could spark my love for YA again. I’d love to find a YA fantasy that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read before, and doesn’t have the stereotypical YA romance. Let me know 🙂

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19 thoughts on “Change of Heart

  1. I think that’s one of the hazards of reading a lot. Eventually you’ll learn to anticipate the plot, which can take away some of the excitement. But luckily, there will always be gems to remind you of why you read so much in the first place.

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  2. Great post. Reminded me a lot of myself and my journey through writing. I started out with fantasy ( I know it isn’t YA) because I was immensely influenced by Tolkien. But over time I fell out of love with Fantasy. It’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just change. We tend to undergo a lot of change in our lives, but because we’re such writers at heart, our change isn’t in our lives (like moving from writing to something else) but moving to genre. I’m worried this sounds convoluted and doesn’t make much sense, but I hope it does. We become interested in new things, and you and I are around the same age I believe. It changes with time. Nothing to be alarmed about; rather, it’s something to embrace 🙂

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  3. I think our reading tastes can evolve over time, for sure, and it’s difficult as writers when we’ve trained ourselves to look at how a story is structured – sometimes that’s all we can see! I’m happy to give you some YA recs, though, in case you want to give them another try, now or later:

    pretty much anything by Melina Marchetta – Saving Francesca is one of my favourites (seriously, if you’re going to give YA another try, start with Melina Marchetta)
    Courtney Summers, either Cracked Up to Be OR Fall for Anything (these would be at the top of my list, too, for “not your typical YA”)
    Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy
    Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks series (this is MG, not YA, but it’s really sweet and harkens back to the old childhood classics)

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    • I just wanted to add a caveat to my other comment – when I said “not your typical YA”, I meant moreso “not your typical fluffy romance contemporary YA,” which is definitely not all that’s out there when it comes to YA. I think it’s a really vibrant area and sadly a lot of the really good ones get missed out because they’re not carried as widely by the big chain bookstores.

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  4. I completely agree with the other comments about evolving tastes as a reader. I still read YA but I’m very picky about what I read. I’ve also been reading more adult and non-fiction books lately – just generally going with what suits my mood. Plus, reading outside of one’s genre can be fun, rejuvenating and give you different storytelling/crafting tips. I was at the Sydney Writer’s Festival YA panel yesterday and many of the YA authors shared that they don’t read as much YA now despite their love for writing it (unless it’s their friend’s/critique partner’s books).

    I have read a few awesome YA books in recent years. For YA fantasy, I’d recommend Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis. (A creative split pov of the real and fantasy world with a LGBT romance. The story doesn’t follow a typical trajectory but is still an amazing satisfying read). The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina. (Dystopian fantasy set in Australia and the friendships are not stereotypical and have depth. I love the diversity of the cast.) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson is a an enchanting dark Peter Pan retelling that doesn’t follow typical romance patterns. Also, Plain Kate and Seraphina are some of my favourite coming of age fantasy stories.

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  5. I don’t think it’s the genre, I think you are reading bad examples of the genre. That happens whenever a genre become popular. People do begin writing to formula, because that is all they know how to do. Good writers write good books and people put them in whatever category sounds good to them. For your writing, don’t worry about genre, just write the best book you can write. As a reader… you pays your money, you takes your chances.

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  6. I agree with you, Victoria. I did find one exception recently: Failstate about a teenage superhero trying to get a crime fighting license through a reality show, but he discovers a conspiracy. That book was pretty good, but you’re right.
    YA fiction has completely lost its way. Ir’s all soap operas for teens. Boy meets girl. One of them is a creature or is just weird, then they fall in love, oh, did I mention the world ended?

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  7. I agree with you. There are a lot of YA books that follow the same pattern and, after a while, become just boring and unoriginal. For me the journey was different though, because when I was a teen I used to read only adult books (with the sole exception of Harry Potter ❤ ), and I discovered YA during university (I think I was 22). So now I'm reading a lot in that category, to catch up with all the great books I missed. I like YA, but yeah, I do find not-so-good books there too. Maybe you've outgrown it, or you've just been unlucky lately.
    I do have a recommendation for you! I don't know if you have already read it: THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski, and the sequel, THE WINNER'S CRIME. It's fantasy, it has an intriguing plot, a fascinating world-building, conflict and exciting twists. And the prose, oh gosh! The prose is so damn pretty. English is not my first language but a) even I recognize bad prose when I see it and b) I'd sell a kidney to be able to write that well.
    The MC is smart and complex and her love interest is awesome. And their story is absolutely not the stereotypical instalove. Reading about these two is like watching a slow chess game and hoping both of the players will lose and win at the end. I can't recommend this book enough.
    I hope you'll get the YA spark back soon!

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    • I hadn’t thought about the possibility of outgrowing it. I think YA can be read and enjoyed by any age really, but maybe I’m just not at a point in my life right now where that really resonates with or appeals to me. That’s very familiar! I think that is one big thing missing from a lot of YA is prose and just beautiful writing. It’s more story: here is MC, here’s her best friend, they’re doing this, here comes bad guy. I don’t fall in love with the words very often, which is a huge part of reading that I love. That book sounds awesome though, I love non-traditional or stereotypical romances and complex MC’s. I will definitely have to check it out 🙂 Thank you! I hope so too!

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  8. Ugh. This is a familiar struggle for anyone who reads a lot in a particular genre. It’s one of the main reasons I stopped reading (at various times) romances, mysteries, and thrillers. Maybe what you need is a change of focus, a palate-cleanser. Try a different genre for a time.

    Whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll rediscover your love for YA again. And you’ll get unstuck in your writing.

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    • That’s a good point! I like the idea of a reading palate-cleanser. Which is why I’m reading Outlander, since it’s different than my normal choices but still in the realm of what I like to read. Thank you 🙂 I appreciate it. I’m sure too, just a matter of time!

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  9. I’ve found that is not only the case with YA, but anything that has writing as a necessary part of it. For me, the more I study and actively improve my writing, the more I notice when it’s done poorly. I’ve found myself mentally dissecting movies as well as books. Even works I’ve loved for years, stories I adored in my heart since my childhood, aren’t safe. Movies I used to shut my brain off and enjoy, I find myself calling BS on for cheating or being lazy. What I have also found though, is that when a book or movie or short story or whatever is really good… the seams dissolve and it’s pretty amazing. Maybe you’ve just inadvertently raised the standard for what you consider to be good writing. ☺

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    • That’s a good point! And definitely true. I think I’m a lot pickier about poor writing, or lazy writing really that uses a lot of tropes or is just overall formulaic. That’s a good way to look at it though, that my standards are just higher now 🙂 Which makes it harder to find books that I enjoy, but it’s worth it.

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  10. It’s interesting, because I look at stories the same way you describe (Character development, exposition etc.) but I personally find something beautiful about seeing how the formulas all work together.

    As for YA itself, I used to consider it my main genre, both in reading and writing, but lately it hasn’t been connecting with me either. I’ve been reading more of Neil Gaiman’s adult work, and other stories I would consider more mature rather than YA, and as far as my writing goes it’s like my characters have kind of grown up as I have in a way. I feel like New Adult is more what I’m going to be writing in near future.

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  11. I’ve been coming to terms with this one myself for a few weeks, even months, now. I’ve been looking at the stack of books piling unread in my office and thinking, “All those YA titles… am I even interested in them anymore?” I hate wasted time on books I don’t feel invested in, and YA tends to have more uninvolving stories than not lately.

    I’ve kinda always known that, though.

    I still love YA, I’m just more selective about which ones I feel will capture my attention and weird tastes long enough to suck me in and make me love it. I’ve been finding more and more of what I love in NA and adult lately.

    I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with tastes changing – just as I don’t think there’s anything wrong with YA. I love reading across age groups – across all genres, media, forms, etc. It’s a wonderful thing. So maybe we’re not feeling YA right now, but there was also a time when we weren’t feeling adult or middle grade or any of the other classifications. So read what you want. Anything else is just not gonna feel very good to your brain.

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  12. I think the more you write, and the better you become, the less magical books become. Or maybe that’s just me, lol. I still remember the fanfic story that made me fall in love with the fandom and inspired me to start writing. Years later I read it, after I knew something about writing, and the magic was gone. It was good, but the critic in me found many flaws. It was kind of sad in a way because I could never get that joy and enthusiasm back for her story. I missed the way it made me feel.

    Although some books are able to retain their mysticism over time. When I was a teen I read lots of sci fi books. And I went through a Pearl Buck and Atwood phase as a teen. I never went through a YA phase. I’m not opposed to reading them, I just have so many other books I want to read first. I love eloquent prose, so those books end up getting prioritized, lol.

    Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, is still magical for me. It makes me fall back in love with writing all over again 🙂 Although for a long time I didn’t want to read anything else but McCarthy because his prose is so beautiful and unique. I’ve gotten over that, but he’s still my favorite author ^^

    Perhaps YA isn’t known for eloquent prose, but it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate that into your own stories. Literature isn’t known for having titillating plot lines, but Atwood manages to create great stories while retaining lyrical prose. I think that makes her a standout among the literary giants. She’s another favorite author of mine 🙂 I write literature, but I’m trying to make my stories interesting so people will enjoy them. I don’t want my stories to be dry. I want people to connect with my characters and feel something.

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  13. I think with reading it’s great sometimes to take a break, try a new genre, rekindle a love for an old favourite genre. That’s what I try to do, and then I don’t get bored with reading the same thing. Sometimes I’m in the mood for descriptive mind boggling prose, other times I’m looking for an easier less demanding read. I just finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s Fan Girl and then went on to Ian McEwan’s The Children’s Act. Two very different books but both had a story to tell, and on the whole I enjoyed both of them. Hope that helps. Don’t give up on YA, I think it has a lot to give but I’d recommend reading a wide range of books/genres too.

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