Posted On August 30, 2010 by Print This Post

Young Adult Romance Sub-genre: Hot? Not?

Today, we’re continuing our segment Year of the Sub-genre with a look at young adult romance. I’m pleased to welcome New York Times Bestselling author Simone Elkeles and Young Adult Librarian Amy Alessio to the discussion. Amy has graciously agreed to stop by a few times throughout the day to answer your questions. Simone’s on a crazy book deadline and will check in if she gets a free moment.

So let’s get to it!

Tracey: How would you define the young adult sub-genre?

Simone: Young Adult literature is such a broad category, which is what makes it so exciting to be a YA author.  I have infinite possibilities; every day more sub-genres are added to the genres you typically find adult literature (romance, mystery, science fiction).

Amy: From books of all lengths, graphic novels, enhanced e-books and video game book-tie ins, there is something to capture the attention of all young adults these days.  Mostly a YA book will have a main character who is a YA, or is non-fiction on a subject of interest to young adults presented in a teen friendly format.   The Young Adult Library Services Association ( defines young adults as people ages 12 – 18, but it’s a little harder to define the genre, as it has as many formats and subjects as adult materials.

Tracey: What is your opinion of the state of this sub-genre today?

Simone: Young Adult literature is really on the rise.  It’s so great teens are reading more and being so passionate about books they love.  I think teens are finding that their opinions about books really matter, and authors are trying to write what they’ll like.  It’s also great that a lot of teachers and librarians really know what teens want to read, so definitely ask them their opinion because they are a great resource.   I’m so lucky to be writing teen romances and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Amy: We are in the golden age of young adult literature. The Michael Printz Award ( for Excellence in Young Adult Literature has been around for over ten years, and YALSA also has awards for debut authors, nonfiction for teens and impact of a book or author. There are also lists of graphic novels, teen favorites and more. The Harry Potter series drove hardcover sales of books for young adults into a new tier for publishing, and was followed by the popular Eragon series, Twilight and now the Hunger Games. Subjects cover issues of interest to all teens – from GLBTQ and racially diverse teens to every literary genre and titles in settings all over the globe (and beyond). While SE Hinton began to bring teens powerful issue type books with gangs and lower income teens decades ago, many new authors are writing now about the realities of today’s teens.  (By the way – 5th graders read SE Hinton now…)

Tracey: What sub-genres do you feel are hot right now?

Simone: Vampire Romance seems to be very popular right now.  The supernatural romance is also a big sub-genre right now.  Thanks to the wonderful book The Hunger Games, Dystopian literature is also a very hot genre for teens.

Amy: I see more and more nonfiction readers among teens, as more publishers are offering interesting things for them. I still see a lot of paranormal romances, but more with new creatures like werewolves, zombies and angels.  Maggie Stiefvater and Lauren Kate are frontrunners among those. There are a lot of dystopian futuristic titles that are pretty grim but still popular.  I’m writing a reference book on teen mysteries, and I’m happy to see that we are finally seeing more mystery and suspense titles even for older teens. The Pretty Little Liars TV show is helping there too.  And I’m also really thankful that more diverse characters and cultural storylines are heading into the forefront. My teens at the library are happy to see themselves in books.

Tracey: Do you see any areas of this sub-genre writers should avoid? Move toward?

Simone: In writing for teens, I try to keep my language as natural as possible – I write how I talk.  I remember that one of the reasons I hatedreading as a teen was because the language of the books I was required to read was so flowery and BORING.  I have a short attention span, so I write what I think I would have liked as a teen.  Writers should avoid writing for teens if they are not young at heart and don’t have a passion for it.  Don’t force it.

Amy:  There are definitely genres on their way out. But keep in mind that teens are usually only reading YA from about 7th grade – 10th grade, so new teen find trends all the time. I believe publishers are getting tired of vampires for now.  The designer chick-lit gossip girl type of books seem to be growing up into better plots and less superficial titles now, too.

A while ago I interviewed some editors from Simon and Schuster, Candlewick and Harlequin Teen on what is coming up for a YARWA newsletter. All three were interested in steampunk, horror but not vampire (read the excellent Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey), angels, realistic teen stories and more. Everyone is looking for something different. New writers should read recent award winners and best sellers and think how to approach subjects in a new way.

Tracey: What do you like best about this sub-genre? The least?

Simone: Teens are the best fans!   They are passionate and the emails I receive definitely inspire me to write more books.  When I get an email saying a teen hated to read but because of my books now loves to read it really is amazing and surreal.   What do I like least?  Nothing, really.  There are so many books out there for teens, there’s something for everyone!

Amy: Many adults are finding YA books great pleasure reading as YA authors have to capture readers’ interest quickly and sustain it. I have given The Hunger Games to many happy adult readers. I like that YA literature is always reinventing itself. I do wish there were more quality mystery series for teens now though, more books with intelligent teen boys that aren’t fantasy, science fiction for girls and definitely more diverse characters. I wish more publishers would develop bigger nonfiction lines for teens too that include intelligent, thought provoking subjects and not just Cosmo-type quizzes.

Tracey: How do you think this sub-genre has changed in the last five years?

Simone: I think book trailers are really revolutionizing the entire book industry, but especially in YA literature.  Teens are very visual.  They might not read a book critique to find out what books they might like.  But, if they find a book trailer on YouTube that catches their interest, they’re probably going to read the book and tell their friends about it.  I filmed a book trailer for Rules of Attraction (the 2nd book in my Perfect Chemistry series) that looks just like a movie trailer.  It’s been a big hit on youtube with over 70,000 hits!

Amy:  Paranormal stories really grew, and graphic novels gained acceptance. Everyone is doing them these days – from Meyer to Evanovich to Patterson. Television and movies have really boosted mainstream interest in YA books also, both graphic novels and traditional print titles. Five years ago I got a lot of challenges from folks who wanted me to remove graphic novels from the library. Now we hear more about video games!

Tracey: Advice you have for writers who want to break into this sub-genre?
Simone: I will give the same advice I give any aspiring author.  Don’t give up!  It took me 5 years to get published, and believe me, I got plenty ofrejection letters in those five years!  Now I’m on the NY Times bestseller list.  It’s been an amazing journey and I hope it will last for a long, long time!

Amy: People who want to write for teens should strive to learn about the books they read and what interests them, and try to write in a realistic way about their life.

I see a lot of new YA writers who contact me at the library wanting to ‘teach teens writing.’ Most libraries have longstanding teen advisory boards as well as writing and/or drawing clubs already. Try and market in a new, creative way – not just a facebook, but facebook trivia and games. Or design a craft program based on something in the book. There are many reference books in creative teen programs for ideas (I’ve co-written two…). Offer libraries something special for Teen Read Week or Teen Tech Week. If you don’t know about those, go to and learn more.

Get to know some teens and have them check your writing to see if dialogue is realistic or if terms are dated, and get their opinion.  Remember they don’t hold back! Respect very smart and savvy teen readers and do not try to teach something with your writing other than how to enjoy a book!

* * *

Thanks Amy and Simone!

RU Crew, what is your take on the YA sub-genre? Share with us your favorite book(s) and why.

Be sure to stop back on Wednesday when Tracey Devlyn shares a personal story about emphysema, courage, and love.

Amy’s Bio:

Amy Alessio is a Teen Librarian at the Schaumburg Township District Library, where she has enjoyed teen input for over 12 years.  Nationally known, Amy has given over 80 presentations, including programs at RWA, ALA, PLA and RT. She co-authored A Year of Programs for Teens (ALA Editions, 2006) , with another volume to be published in 2010 and a guide on teen mysteries for 2011. She reviews teen titles for Crimespree Magazine and, and is currently on the 2011 YALSA Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee. She has edited other professional titles, including Excellence in Library Services for Young Adults (YALSA, 2008). Amy is the author of two adult romantic suspense short stories. Her first Young Adult mystery is being published in 2013. Her first young adult mystery is under contract for 2013.

For over four years, she has also blogged about Vintage Cookbooks, her passion. She now enjoys talking about the fun food and recipe trends she sees in her collection of over 350 titles.  She is training her two young sons to bake and cook with her (or instead of her…) .Find about more about her, the blog and the schedule of her programs at

Simone’s Bio:

Simone Elkeles is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Her funny way of looking at life and the world around her has an effect on the people she hangs out with. If you hear people laughing, you’ll probably find Simone not far away.

Simone has also been voted the Illinois Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English.

Simone went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and received her Bachelor’s of Science there in Psychology in 1992. She continued her education at Loyola University-Chicago where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Relations while working for a manufacturing company creating diversity programs for their employees.

She loves animals (she has two dogs – a labradoodle and a German Shepherd), kids (she also has two of those) and her family.  In her spare time she’s the Hockey Mom for her kids hockey teams and is an active Girl Scout leader specially trained in outdoor education.  She also spends time mentoring other teen and adult authors. (she also loves sushi, which you can probably tell by reading her books).

Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances.

For more information, please visit her website

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28 Responses to “Young Adult Romance Sub-genre: Hot? Not?”

  1. Morning Amy! and thanks for posting Simone!

    Amy, my husband is a huge fan of the Joy of Cooking – 1931. How to cook your squirrel and possum. =)
    (for those of you who didn’t read Amy’s bio, you’ll have NO idea where that comment is coming from…lol)

    I’ve got an idea for a YA in my head…but am currently working on an MG. I agree about the word choices, seeing if it not only “rings true” but also is something that won’t go out of fashion in a few years.

    What do you think about the use of cellphones and texting and Facebook in a YA book….it’s something that every teen uses these days, but who’s to say ten years down the road we won’t have JD Robb’s version of a PPC attached to our arms?

    thanks for posting with us today!!!



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 30, 2010, 9:50 am
    • Carrie,
      I have a later edition of “The Joy of Cooking” and it still has the squirrel recipes in it. :mrgreen:

      Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 30, 2010, 6:29 pm
    • Carrie-
      Being a 20 year old, YA reader myself, I’d like to let you know how I feel about using language and terms that are “hip” to a younger generation. Language is hard because so many teenagers and young adults use different words. I really think it’s a demographic factor and not something that you can please everyone with. Some readers will want it to sound more adult, others will be wondering why a 16 year old main character is sounding like they’re 30. However, I also believe that if you create a character you can make them speak any way you want to as long as the voice and speech match up with the personality. It’s all about balance! As for terms to use… cell phones are great and will be around until we can communicate telepathically lol, texting isn’t going anywhere soon so that’s a safe one, and social networking is also fine but you should probably make up a name because a year ago Myspace was the big site and now it’s all about Facebook! Hope this helps =)

      Posted by Sarah C. | August 30, 2010, 8:27 pm
  2. When I was a teen, I read alot of the YA books, still read them now because they are fresh and have quick plots. I read alot of books about “true life” -stories about crushes,first loves, high school exeriences, etc.- Are those sorts of themes making a comeback?

    Posted by Tamika Spruill | August 30, 2010, 10:05 am
  3. Welcome Simone and Amy. I don’t write YA, but I think the thing that would terrify me about writing one would be keeping up with teenage lingo. Do you both hear complaints about the lingo being wrong in certain books?

    Thank you both for being here.

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | August 30, 2010, 10:35 am
  4. Good morning! I was delighted to get to guest post with Simone on the YA theme. Simone is near me geographically, we have been on some panels together and I am very fond of her and her writing! My teens never believe me that I know someone as cool as Simone!

    I’m going to combine a couple questions here about lingo and/or technology. I do see it in some books, but I think it will date the book quickly. You absolutely can make up a social networking title and page – some sort of technology that is like something real, and that may help. Good point like JD Robb’s – I want one of those myself. I do think TXTing is permanently here to stay – so you may be ok there, but get a teen to help you with the abbreviations. For lingo – it works if the book is set in a specific period and that is clear. I would make it at least 30 years past though to work. Groovy?

    For romance themes – those never go away either, but the first crush ones tend to skew younger now like 6-8 grade. You can guess what firsts are covered in high school books more often now…Teens will always have questions and confusion about choices and experiencing something virtually in a book can help them make the right choice for them in real life.

    Posted by Amy Alessio | August 30, 2010, 10:58 am
  5. Great post! I immediately ordered Perfect Chemistry on my kindle.

    Lucie J.

    Posted by Lucie J. Charles | August 30, 2010, 11:21 am
  6. Thank you Simone and Amy for taking time away from your very busy lives and post at RU! I appreciate your insight very much.

    Here’s my questions: Does a writer have a better chance at publishing in the YA market if they wrote the ms in first person POV rather than third?

    Looking forward to reading your answer. Have a great day!

    Posted by Mika Temple | August 30, 2010, 12:24 pm
    • Hi Mika!

      I’m so glad you found the lecture okay.


      Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 30, 2010, 12:48 pm
    • Hi Mika, my name is Sarah and I am an avid YA reader, as well as a young adult myself, at 20 years old. I read your question to Tracey about whether first or third person POV is better and would like to give you my opinion if that’s alright. I personally enjoy reading from a first person POV. When I really get into a book and can totally immerse myself in the reading, this perspective makes me feel as though I am the main character. It makes the plot of the book all that more exciting because I can imagine what it would be like for me to be the hero or heroine and I can really place myself in the book. Third person POV is still fun and a great read but my preference is definitely first person.

      Posted by Sarah C. | August 30, 2010, 8:09 pm
  7. Amy! Good to see you here. Simone, nice to meet you!

    What an awesome discussion. Thank you both for taking the time out to chat with us.

    Any advice for aspiring YA writers? Any dos and don’ts?

    Simone, could you share with us about The Call?

    Thanks! 🙂

    Posted by Martha Ramirez | August 30, 2010, 12:25 pm
  8. Hello everyone,

    Simone is on a tight deadline, so I’m not sure if she’ll be able to make it over here today. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks so much for hanging out with us today. What first drew you to get involved with YA fiction on a professional level?

    What do you think separates highly successful YA authors from some of the lesser known ones–voice, communication?

    Please tell us a little about your YA mystery coming out in 2013.


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 30, 2010, 12:54 pm
  9. Hello all!
    I am so enjoying reading your comments and questions.
    Hi Mika: I find POV questions hard, though. I can think of YA bestsellers in both third and first right now. I do not know that YAs have a preference, as long as they can be pulled into the story emotionally. Whichever way it is easiest for you the author to make that happen is the way to go. Specific editors may have a preference, but I don’t know of any talk of a trend either way on this. You may want to get some teen opinions on your writing. That may help guide you on what is working and what my not be as strong.

    Hi Martha! Dos and don’ts of publishing for YA are also hard to pin down in this rapidly changing area. Do get familiar with YALSA and the awards/selection lists. Do join a critique group, and attend conferences and workshops with editors who are heavily invested in YA to see what they are saying and looking for. Do keep writing. Don’t give up. Don’t forget why you want to write for YAs – because you love it.

    Hello Tracey! Thanks again for having me today. I fell into YA services. I was a preschool librarian who asked the library director why we didn’t have a Teen Advisory Board. He suggested I start one, and with the help of many coworkers, I got pulled immediately and deeply into that area. I still love it, even though one of my former TAB members is now working with me and going to library school herself. (that gives you an idea of time) I have always liked YA books, except when I was one! Writing YA is the easiest fit for me. While I have to do tons of drafts of even short short adult mystery stories – the YA voice is easier. I was so uncomfortable at that age, that resonates and is easy to remember.

    My mystery, The High Ground, is about sixteen year old Joelle and her search for a murderer. She is trying to clear her brother’s name as he is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend. In the meantime, she is embarrassed by her family’s hobby of Civil War reenacting, so some scenes take place at Living History events and even at a faux CW ball. It was a lot of fun to write, and I had 3 years of rejections on that before someone bought it!

    Posted by Amy Alessio | August 30, 2010, 1:15 pm
  10. I really enjoyed reading that! It’s interesting that vampires are kind of on the way out, although I’ll believe it when I see it, since it seems like I see more and more of them. The YA novel I published is pretty mainstream teen lit, and I’m glad there’s room for that.

    This is a great site!

    Posted by Caren Lissner (author) | August 30, 2010, 1:15 pm
  11. Hello again:
    I missed one – Tracey’s question on what pulls some YA titles into the bestselling category.

    Do the titles have a theme teens can relate to while still pulling them far enough out of reality to escape? Twilight had an angsty crush and bumpy first love along with the smoky brooding vampires that pulled in reluctant readers. The Hunger Games has a tense, suspenseful ride going along the dark themes. Harry Potter had a smart, funny boy who made plenty of mistakes while trying to mature into his destiny in the magical world. Simone’s Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction bring plenty of gritty reality into powerful romance stories. These books all respect teens and what they are going through, and keep them turning pages.

    Posted by Amy Alessio | August 30, 2010, 1:20 pm
  12. Hi All!

    Just this morning I read an article about adult women reading YA fiction. Below is the link.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | August 30, 2010, 3:28 pm
  13. I agree with you. That’s why my new release (the first in a series of three) is realistic. Just to be different!

    I also chose YA for this project because it gives me the freedom to write what I felt compelled to.

    Please visit my blog and leave a comment. Thanks!

    Posted by David A. Bedford | August 30, 2010, 4:18 pm
  14. I loooooooooooooove this series,cant wait till simone makes the next book!!!!!!! 😛 😛

    Posted by DAISY | August 30, 2010, 5:57 pm
  15. Hello Amy!
    I read a lot of Beverly Cleary’s YA decades ago…The Luckiest Girl, Fifteen, Jean and Johnny, and Judy Blume’s first YA novels. I remember reading Go Ask Alice, which was considered too adult by some parents. No cell phones back then, but I had a phone extension in my room which was a big thing. 😆


    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 30, 2010, 6:28 pm
  16. Thank you, Amy!

    The High Ground sounds like a great story.

    Thanks so much for sharing. 3 years huh? I hear this a lot.
    Perseverance is indeed a necessary trait.

    Posted by Martha Ramirez | August 30, 2010, 7:38 pm
  17. Amy & Simone –

    So sorry I’m late to the party today. I just moved to the west coast and am still not acclimated to the time difference!

    This may be way off base, but it seems the YA novels are aimed a bit more at girls, while middle grade seems boy-targeted. That may be a personal bias since I have a 10-year-old son. Any comments on this?

    Thanks so much!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 30, 2010, 10:59 pm
  18. Amy and Everyone–

    Thanks for the lively discussion on the YA sub-genre! I learned so much yesterday.


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 31, 2010, 7:42 pm


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