As much as I enjoy young adult books, there will always be things that aren’t featured, included or found as often as I would like them to be. But as they say, you’ll never get what you want unless you ask for it. So here are 8 things I’d love to see more of in YA in the future:
Characters & Families from Different Cultural Backgrounds
I’m definitely not alone on this one. As a white, Australian woman from a middle class family (we’re extremely boring), I absolutely love reading YA books featuring families and characters with different cultures, customs, and ideas. It’s such a personal way of learning about how other people experience the world as well as the things that bring them joy and the difficulties they experience. This is massively important from a representation standpoint but in terms of narrative, boy does reading about the same types of characters get extremely repetitive and tedious.
This is a slightly controversial one. In fact, I wrote an entire discussion post about it. Despite what some people claim, sex is an important part of the lives of a lot of young people. It can be difficult in some settings for them to get information about it or to find realistic depictions of the circumstances surrounding it – consent, protection, health, communication, preparation, etc. Especially since many of the books that do deal with it commonly find themselves banned. I’m not looking for super explicit sex scenes, those don’t belong in YA in my opinion, but I would love to see characters talking about it in a healthy and realistic way, and, even better, without shaming one another for it.
Friends Growing Apart
I’m used to finding two types of friendships in YA: 1) the ride or die friends that give us major friendship envy, and 2) the characters who were childhood friends before one became a massive jerk. As anyone who’s ever, well, lived knows, sometimes friends just simply grow apart. It’s not because someone did something wrong but simply because at one point your paths diverged. Maybe it’s a new school, a change in interests, or an increasingly busy schedule? One minute you’re speaking to each other every day and the next you can’t remember the last time you saw them. It can be a hard thing to accept, especially during teen and early university years, and I really wish it was something featured more in YA as a part of growing up.
(Speaking of Friends) More Great Friendships
YA stories have a tendency to focus a lot on romantic relationships and while I love a good romance, I have a special place in my heart for fabulous friendships. New ones, old ones, all ones. Give me some more platonic, and well developed, relationships in my YA.
Academic Pressure & Other Future Pathways
The pressure of academic success is familiar to a lot of YA readers. With the expectations of family, teachers, and academic institutions on top of you, it’s very easy to feel suffocated and burnt out. Over an extended period, it can have a profound impact on mental & physical health, and socialisation. This pressure is also connected with people’s hopes for the future, specifically university. Many students see university as their only choice and some are so focused on getting into a specific course or school simply because it’s what’s expected of them or they feel they should do, they don’t stop and think about what they want. The minute something disrupts the plan, they feel their life is over. I would love to see more characters dealing with these obstacles and books showcasing other pathways as options.
Smart AND Strong Heroines
I adore books which feature kick-ass female characters (provided they also have a personality). There’s something warm and fuzzy about seeing a heroine defeat someone with their epic magic or superior sword fighting skills. Yet, what I wish I saw more of is women with the ability to take people down with their mind. I want to see ambitious women, women able to outsmart those around them, women who understand people, and more importantly, women who know how to get things done when a physical assault just won’t do.
Non US & English Settings
Let’s be honest, the majority of big name YA books, if they’re not in fantasy/dystopian worlds, are set in either the United States or England. There’s nothing wrong with these locations but they’re just two of many, many countries in the world. It would be great to read some stories set in other places. Think of the untapped potential! If you can’t physically travel, at least you should be able to do it through books, right?
More Bisexual & Asexual Characters
The fact that gay and lesbian characters are starting to become more and more common in books is something that makes me immensely happy. However, I often feel as though bisexual and asexual characters have been left behind somewhat. These two sexual orientations often face a lot of misunderstanding and judgment, and I’d love for them to get their time in the spotlight.
And that concludes my YA lit wish list! What things do you wish were more commonly found in YA books or, if you’re not a big YA reader, just books in general? Characters, themes, plotlines, it’s all fair game!