My reading list always feels almost overwhelmingly long. Between book recommendations from friends and the New York Times and classics I somehow didn’t have to read in school, constantly updating to include new releases, I will probably never end up completing it. But thanks to the joy of reading and discovering new worlds in books, I’m a-okay with that.
I began writing young adult fiction a couple of years ago, while I was (and am) arguably still a young adult. However, after getting through most of the first draft of my first novel, I realized that though my own YA voice was still clear, I was losing touch with some of the YA novels that had so inspired me as a teen.
So on one trip to the Strand Bookstore I ended up browsing the YA section instead of my go-to New in Fiction table. I read the titles (many of which were lines from Shakespeare or Closer, so that was fascinating) and soaked up the cover art.
I ended up grabbing Christina Moracho’s Althea and Oliver. It was advertised front and center as something that John Greene lovers would eat up, so how could I not? Plus the cover art was simple and intriguing.
There were elements of the book that I loved and some that I wasn’t so sure about, but it was undoubtedly clear how helpful it was to be reading the types of voices that my characters also have. Often when I’m reading a great book I find myself thinking in the voice of the protagonist for a while after I’ve put it down, and soon these wonderfully crafted teenage voices blended with and supplemented the voices of my own characters (who are always in my mind).
I have since made a point of browsing the YA novels whenever I go to a bookstore and peppering one in between the other adult fictions on my never ending list. I was recently send a ore-release edition of Danielle Younge-Ullman’s Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined, which will be released for public purchase soon. She’s represented by my literary agency, so it was extra exciting to get a glimpse of a published author’s work in my wheelhouse.
Not only is it very helpful to know what’s popular and what’s selling in your genre, reading these books has helped me get in the mindset of my (hopefully) future readers. Ideally, I’m given rich and emotional experiences through these narratives, and it keeps me constantly thinking about what else the YA demographic wants to be reading. Plus, it gives me lots of high school nostalgia which I find super inspiring!
I’d love to hear about your own experiences reading in your genres, and if you have any YA novels to recommend, please please send them my way.
BookHive does beta reader editorial research for authors in Fiction (all kinds), YA/Middle Grade and Memoir. $699 for 8-10 beta readers; $1099 for 16-18 readers. The results are a 35+ page report full of both qualitative and quantitative feedback. www.bookhivecorp.com
Tallie Gabriel is an actor, writer, and BookHive social media maven. She’s a member of InViolet Theatre and Artistic Assossiate of BEDLAM Theatre in NYC.