Claire Hennessy is the new Children’s and YA editor at Penguin Ireland, on a quest to find new and exciting kidlit and YA. As a writer herself and a children’s books reviewer she has many thoughts and opinions on the current YA scene, but wanted to talk to some wise book bloggers about what they think – and what they’d like to see more of. Find her on Twitter @clairehennessy
Arianne is a reader, book blogger and serial guest poster as well as a full-time fangirl. Her passions include the world of young adult and middle grade literature and slipping pop culture references into every conversation. Find her on Twitter @Ariannebooklove.
Fionnuala is a fourteen year old who spends most of her time in fictional universes, only interacting with muggles when absolutely necessary. She has been many things (for example companion to the Doctor) but right now she’s a student with a TBR pile that’s too big and dreams of being a writer. You'll find Fionnuala blogging at Books for Birds or on Twitter @CrazyCrunchies
Emmanuel Okoye is a teenage booktuber and blogger. You can find him at Emdawg’s Book Blog or his YouTube channel, Emdawg Reads, where he regularly reviews books and has over a thousand subscribers, or on Twitter @EmanOkoye.
Rita is the bilingual book blogger behind Weaving Pages. She’s also a reader, sister, daughter, dreamer, believer, Leo, dancer, Shadowhunter, witch, Gryffindor, Divergent, Agent of SHIELD, fangirl, and of course, a unicorn. Find her on Twitter @WeavingPages – but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Claire: What would you like to see more of from UK and/or Irish YA?
Arianne: I want to see more Irish and UK YA in general, but really I’d just like to see books that stand out. I think there’s been a habit in the past of portraying the same grey, bleak outlook that honestly, I don’t see among my friends, peers or my own values. I’d love Irish YA to embrace more adventurous, exciting and unusual stories. More than anything, YA should be enjoyable and serve as an escape. If a writer’s good enough to have a book published, they should be good enough to intertwine “the moral of the story” with the plot, action and drama so that it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated. Thankfully, it seems like the tide is turning – just look at the enthralling blurb for Vendetta by Catherine Doyle and the vast array of other sensational Irish and UK YA novels scheduled for release in 2015!
Fionnuala: Hmm… I don’t really think there’s necessarily anything in particular for me here, because all the UKYA that I’ve read has been brilliant and diverse and it’s just such a varied genre in my experience. It does count as a genre right? Or well, whatever you call it ;)
Emmanuel: Probably my answer for the previous question! Maybe more consistent character development, especially with male love interests. Also more unique, out-there stories!
Rita: Again, seeing characters who are from smaller, lesser-known countries would be good. Everyone knows France, Spain and Germany over here because their languages get taught in schools, but what about other countries? And yes I'm biased here because I'm Portuguese, but I would love to see more of the Portuguese culture! For example actually, the oldest treaty in the world is between Portugal and England, and it is still valid today. Charles II's wife was Portuguese (Catarina of Braganza), and she introduced marmalade, forks and the time you have tea. And what about other small countries too? Belgium? Luxembourg? There is a whole world out there that you can represent! :D
Claire: What YA trend – anything from trilogies to dystopian futures to cover designs – are you absolutely sick of?
Arianne: Dystopian is my least favourite genre at the moment, simply because it’s been overdone. There’s more to storytelling than jumping on a bandwagon. It’s becoming more difficult to find unique perspectives in dystopia - notable exceptions, however, include Legend by Marie Lu, which is fantastically written and utterly thrilling, and Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, which, while terrifying, highlights current issues of gender inequality and misogyny which are hardly mentioned in other recent dystopias at all.
Fionnuala: I think this is more of a sub-trend (if there’s such a thing…) but I’m so sick and tired of dystopias containing romances. Like, can we please just have a dystopia where the main character(s) aren’t love interests? Or even an LGBT romance in a dystopia. I’ve never read a dystopia or apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic book with an LGBT romance.
Emmanuel: Anything with a girl's face on it, or a couple kissing.. Just, no, please.
Rita: I don't tend to get sick of things - normally things are made different each time in YA - but perhaps love triangles? Love triangles have been done so often now that they're no longer that unique, so it makes the job harder for the author because they have to make it unique in some way. When this happens, I LOVE it, but when it’s not written well, it just doesn't turn out as good, unfortunately - it has to be done brilliantly, for me.
Claire: What cool stuff is happening in other fields (age groups, genres, other storytelling media) that you wish YA did more of?
Arianne: The genius writing and audience-capturing drama of great TV and movies are already having an influence on YA, but for me, seeing exceptionally-written, shiny, funny, sweet rom-coms in the style of Nancy Meyers in YA would be excellent! I’d also love for there to be more high-profile YA events being organised, like there are for other types of entertainment/media. Not only do we have some fantastic home-grown writers here in Ireland, we’re just a stone’s throw away from a whole horde of hugely talented UKYA writers – it’s time we convinced more of them to drop by sometime!
Fionnuala: I’m definitely not an expert on all the YA genre has to offer, so my answer is purely based on what I’ve read and what I have experience with. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of mystery/thrillers (Gone Girl is a total winner in that category, obviously) and quite often they address a lot of psychological and philosophical aspects, which I really enjoy. Obviously dystopian YA novels also address some darker elements but often I feel like authors don’t take full advantage of all the potential there is to work with that.
Rita: Hmm.. I'm not sure if this is answering the question, but I would like to put this out there: YA is a big thing, but I'm not sure if it gets as much recognition as it should. I see it all the time: There was book festival near me, and they had two YA authors attending. Only two! I understand it can be hard to get authors when they have such busy schedules, but a lot of the time, I think that people forget that Young Adult fans exist too. We're right here waiting for the world to finally get over the fact that books aimed at whatever age range CAN and WILL teach you things! Shouldn't a book for any age be able to do that? YA isn't a genre - it's something that's inspiring a future generation, and shouldn't that receive just as much credit?
Claire: Aspiring writers often pitch books as ‘X meets Y’. (I have joked on Twitter about wanting a ‘Gilmore Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ book. Actually, I’m not entirely sure I’m joking about it…) What ‘X meets Y’ (no matter how insane) would you like to see in YA?
Arianne: Sherlock meets Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve always wanted to see a contemporary, upper-YA retelling of teenage Sherlock Holmes. Just imagine: dark, messy, complicated and clever like the adolescence hinted at in Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock, along with the devastating emotional impact of Jennifer Donnelly’s writing. I’d be hooked.
Fionnuala: You’ve basically given me a chance to propose any combination in the world, so this is me being totally nonsensical and fantastical! The following combination of things would make my life complete. (I’m not even joking, my entire life would be put on hold to see this book created.) I would absolutely adore it if a YA “Supernatural meets Throne of Glass” book came into existence. Someone just please make that happen, even if it’s only fan-fiction.
Emmanuel: Percy Jackson meets Aliens!
Rita: This was a bad idea… You’re letting me go free with this...?! Nope. I have no restraint. UNICORNS MEET LLAMAS AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD WITH RAINBOWS JUST AS YELLOWSTONE ERUPTS.
And there you have it! What did you think of our discussion?
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