Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

YA Fiction Finds

While working on Dauntless last year, I steeped myself in the world of YA fiction. Although the heroines are much younger than me, much about these books resonates in a universal sort of way. On the secular side, they tend to be clean, action-packed, and not afraid to ask the hard questions about life. On the Christian side, they are actually edgier and more real than many of their adult counterparts. Teens won't tolerate anything fake or cheesy, and since I won't either, YA fiction is a great fit for me.

Here's a quick overview of the books I read during that time to help me understand the YA fiction market. In future posts I will share some of the books I've read more recently.

In the Christian world Melanie Dickerson, Lisa Bergren, and Anne Elisabeth Stengl are some of the big stars. I've been enjoying Melanie's great fairy tale retellings for years, and they certainly helped provide inspiration for my series. I read Lisa Bergren's Glamorous Illusions enjoyed it, but didn't really connect with her River of Time series, although many of my adult friends loved it. As for Anne Elizabeth Stengl, I had a hard time getting into Heartless, but her vivid imagination and beautiful voice kept me reading. And I'm so glad I did. I was completely impressed by the gorgeous allegory in this story.

Perhaps my biggest surprise was to learn that a book I stumbled on last year and looooved, Prophet by R. J. Larsen, is considered YA I gobbled up this book in just a few days and enjoyed every word. I was mesmerized by her strong, courageous, spiritual heroine. I've been looking for an excuse to buy books two and three, and never even realized they were YA until my agent mentioned it to me. These books are called speculative, but I would describe them more as fantasy set in the Biblical era. Whatever they are, they're awesome, and I highly recommend them.

In secular fiction, I found I have a real penchant for YA dystopian fiction. Of course I started with The Hunger Games series. Read them straight through. I could easily do a whole post about how they inspired me to find my inner strength and stand against injustice. I have to admit, though, that I wasn't crazy about the existential ending to the whole series. It was kind of a downer. Although the ending was realistic, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted something more triumphant. And I read Matched, which was pretty interesting as well.

I also gave Twilight a try, something I probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't for research purposes. This book did have a special sort of magic. I couldn't put it down. And yes, it's romantic on an epic scale. While the vampire element seemed completely fantasy-like and didn't bother me, I cannot in good conscience recommend it, especially not for teens. I felt the message of the book was that love conquers all, even if your boyfriend is inherently evil. Therefore, I felt girls could use this as a justification to get involved with destructive individuals like abusers and addicts. In fact, Edward's craving for Bella's blood is flat-out described as an addiction. There's a very real possibility he might kill her. The impression is given that playing with fire is somehow romantic. As a woman who has had a good bit of experience with both the pros and cons of romance, let me offer my opinion, it's not! While I don't think the author had bad intentions, I also do not think she fully thought through her responsibility to her young readers. 

So those were the books that helped me grasp the feel of the YA fiction world. Feel free to share some of your own favorite YA novels.


  1. Heard of Larson's books, but interesting that you should say they were set in the Biblical times- as on the cover of, I think the third title, the model's costume looked decidedly 15th century- AD that is.
    Never personally had any remote interest in the Vampire/Twilight craze at all. It intriguing though that it seems to have made all things vampirish look good, sexy and attractive, when the the past, such things were firmly considered evil (vampires were thought to be murderers or the such who had died unshriven). Morbid, I know.

    1. Well, I only read book 1 of the Larson series. It was definitely her own created world, but had the feeling of the Biblical era to me.

      The interesting thing about the Twilight books is that the vampire, Edward, is fighting his own evil nature. He was turned a vampire against his will and has joined a group of vampires dedicated to not hurting people, but there are evil vampires in the book as well. From that perspective it contains an positive message that we can choose to overcome our own evil natures.

    2. Its a positive message, but is that actually possible, by purely natural means? Call me a skeptic, but I don't really think mankind can entirely overcome what is evil and bad about him by his own effort.