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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

The YA Fantasy Reading Project is on Hold!


Pile of open paperbacks - The Ya Fantasy Reading Project is On Hold
Photo by Gülfer Ergin on Unsplash

If you recall, at the end of the year 2021 I read 38 YA fantasy books (well, a couple that were closer to horror) in order to do research and familiarize myself with the YA genre. This is because of the old adage that writers should read, and if you want to write in a certain genre, you should read it, too! So I started diving into YA to see the trends and styles and how much had changed since I last read YA (so, so much!)


I did a tally and recap of what I read and what I learned about YA, including choosing some favorites and memorable books, which you can read here.


I mentioned for my New Year's Resolution post I wanted to read 39 books in 2022, and they were meant to be YA again.


Well...something happened with feedback from Son of the Siren. One of my chosen mentors from Author Mentor Match Round 9 advised me of the difficulty marketing the book as YA, and recommended submitting it as adult fantasy, particular because of the subject matter and themes. Then Haunted Unicorn Publishing said something very similar.


I did some thinking on this, and some of the issues I was running into with the themes (and how to handle them responsibly with young people) would likely go away if I switched the book to adult. While I have read YA books that were definitely not YA given their subject matter and content, it seems like too much of a risk to submit something so dark and potentially controversial for younger readers. So, I'm taking the advice given to me, and will age up some of the characters and make it adult fantasy.


Because of this, I need to refamiliarize myself with reading adult fantasy! One of the things that's been great about reading YA is that it's so, so easy to find books retelling fairy tales (since my book is doing the same thing), but I only know of a couple in the adult category. It's going to be tougher for me to find this stuff, but I'm going to try.


The goal is to not only see what people are interested in reading and get a sense of style and tone, but also to find comps! Oh, the dreaded comps! Using comps has really exploded with publishing. You see it with sales copy and book descriptions ("______ is perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and The Iron Fey"), but on top of that, many agents (especially through Query Manager) want you to comp your own book as part of their submission process.


Therefore I'm going to suspend the reading of YA and go on an adventure reading adult books again.


Here's what I read for the YA Reading Project in 2022:


Covers to six Young Adult novels

So, that's six YA novels in January and February.


Here's the data I've kept track of so far:


POV and Tense


The most common POV was 1st person (5 books) and the tenses were split 50/50 between past and present (3 books each). The most common combo was first person present. The rundown:


Dark and Shallow Lies (by Ginny Myers Sain) - 1st person present

Before We Disappear (by Shaun David Hutchinson) - 1st person past

White Smoke (by Tiffany D. Jackson) - 1st person present

Six Crimson Cranes (by Elizabeth Lim) - 1st person past

The Bright & The Pale (by Jessica Rubinkowski) - 1st person present

The Midnight Girls (by Alicia Jasinska) - 3rd person past


New Words


I've been keeping track of difficult or new vocabulary words from YA books completely out of spite. In my own writing, I got dinged by people for using higher vocabulary (I didn't use it a lot, maybe 5 words out of 84,000). I thought I'd keep track of how many "big words" show up in the YA I've read. Here are words that I didn't know:

  • pirogue

  • thalassic

  • gasconade

  • caravel

  • oleaginous

  • gravid

  • stolidly

  • sarafan

I had to use Word Wise in my Kindle to look these words up. I had no idea what they were when I read them and couldn't suss out a meaning on context alone. What do you think about these words popping up in books meant for 13-18 year olds?


Book With the Coolest Imagery


The Bright & the Pale - I felt like I was living in those caves with everyone! I also liked the gods and the description of the weather and cold. I just thought the atmosphere and settings in the book were very well-described.


Book With the Sweetest Couple


Before We Disappear - Long live Jack and Wilhelm!!


Book That Had Me Thinking About it After I Read It


Dark and Shallow Lies - death and darkness in the South...the build-up towards the end and the mystery of the rougarou, and everyone's special abilities, plus the romance...the ending was tragic and I felt for the characters, even the ones who messed up terribly. I wasn't sure about the ending...I just kept thinking about it for days. I liked the book; I just was lost in thought about it for a while.


The other books I read were really good, too. Unlike the first go-around with the 2021 Reading Project where there were some duds (which shall not be named), every book I've read so far has been great. That's quite an accomplishment, as I'm really, really picky with what I read.


What's Next?


I've already started the switch over to adult fantasy with the first book I just finished, The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell. It was a haunting book I enjoyed quite a bit! Now I have to sift through all of my adult books (I do already own a lot) and try to find books that may be comparable to my own writing, which will be (and always has been, truth be told), difficult. Please wish me luck!