Writing and Reading YA


First of all, let me say I am a delicate Southern flower and not created to withstand weeks of drought and 110 degree temperatures.

Second of all, if you would like to sound off on what you want to read in your Christian fiction, get a free e-book, and possibly win 10k dollars, you should take this quick survey for Thomas Nelson.

Third of all, if you are a book reviewer, There You'll Find Me is available on NetGalley for those who qualify.

Let us talk YA, young adult novels. Everyone's reading them, everyone's writing them. I get a lot of emails about the “how to” of writing them. (Tip: don't ask writing advice from someone who indiscriminately and incorrectly uses quotation marks. Like that.)

Here's some blurby info I've been collecting.

1. Check out what those crazy kids are reading according to a librarian. She has charts and graphs and everything. If you want to know anything about trends and what's being checked out, ask your media specialist/librarian. They are the ones who see the circulation (and track that with their nifty computer programs), see what kids and adults are checking out, and see what books they have to reorder because their copies tend to “walk away.” If you're a writer and your books get stolen/not returned a lot, this is a compliment. A very expensive one.

2. YA authors, if you want another source for outreach, go where the librarians and teachers are. Secular YA pubs and authors heavily hit BEA, ALA, National Council of Teachers of English conference, TLA conference, & ALAN. Readers, if you want to see where the upcoming book/author buzz is, check to see who will be in attendance.

3. If you're writing  YA, I highly recommend this download of a RWA 2010 session on YA by Melissa Marr and Ally Carter. It says it's about author brand, but it's more than that. For example, the ladies say that YA writers are now being encouraged to write their books as if they're going to be picked up for movie rights. And a crazy amount of them are. Big story. Big concept. Big movement. Big visuals. Good tip for all of us, especially if you want to keep your reader's attention.

4. YA writers, market to adults as well. Readers, share your YA books with those adults in your life.  Almost half of all those who read The Hunger Games were adults. YA–it's not just for teens anymore.

5. A breakdown of YA book deals.

6. Are we tired of dystopian lit yet? There's still more to come. This will teach us to gripe about those vampires.

7. E-readers for teens/tweens are on the rise. I'm starting to see this in my own students. I have seen this in e-sales of the Katie Parker series, which totally blesses my summer loving soul.

8. Just got back from a seminar on encouraging boy writers. If you have boys you need to buy for or write for, they like blood, humor, action. They don't care as much about character development, which was interesting. And explains a lot, like why I can rarely get into their books. Our instructor kept saying, “I don't get their humor.” And this is why America is screwed up. That and our need for more cowbell.

9. I attended another seminar given by a national literacy specialist on his top 50 YA book picks. He may be from Arkansas, but it's like When Ken Talks, People Listen. I'd heard about his classes for YEARS and now that I'm teaching writing this year, finally had an excuse to go. Scholastic will take this man's picks and put them in their book club. (Can you imagine the power? He basically gave a book talk to 300 people for six hours straight. DREAM JOB.)  Ken says teachers and librarians are making purchases for their libraries with a new deciding component–state and national standards. Arkansas is adopting new curriculum standards and it's a big deal that's not going away, including k-12. Teachers will be buying more nonfiction, for example, because of this. Something they are calling “high concept nonfiction.” (I'm thinking this translates to “fiction that does not bore the crap out of my kid.”) Or buying fiction that has historical components. Or books that have some vocabulary to them. Books that have well-developed characters. Books that take place in different settings, like a foreign country. Books about community. Docu-novels. More graphic novels.

10. Book talks, if done right, sell books. This workshop leader did SUCH GREAT book talks, using a dramatic reading voice, picking just the right passages, and ending with a cliff hanging sentence. I went home and immediately ordered a bunch of books. I realized it's not about reading the most well written passage, the passage most likely to get a laugh, the passage most likely to elicit “Ew, pretty!” But the passage that will make your audience think, “I gotta know what happens next.”

11. We know this, but the lit specialist confirmed that COVER IS KING. Bad cover? Your book is not going to be picked up. Teens are not the only picky buyers. Adults will refuse a book due to a cover also. (I totally do this.) Most of the books the specialist picked had a high concept, high color, vibrant image cover. The few that didn't were accompanied by comments like, “I would never have picked up this book due to the cover, but a librarian recommended it…”

12. I'm currently reading some paid critiques for the ACFW conference and one of the things I asked these writers is “tell me the last 3 YA books you've read.” That did not go well. But then I realized I had really been slacking on it myself, and I totally needed to rectify that, so I'm going to try to read all 50+ picks of these YA books from my seminar list. Here are a few of the lit specialist's choices:

A Long Walk to Water
Around the World in 100 Days
Annexed (really excited to read this story about the time in the attic from the POV of Anne Frank's friend Peter)
Because of Mr. Terupt
Cutting for Stone
The Crossing
The Cruisers
Delirium (dystopian…)
Death Cloud
The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (one of the picks where we discussed bad cover, bad title) (just won Walden award)
Packing for Mars
Okay for Now

Heavy on the boy-centric picks for 2011, which disappointed me.

Here are the ones I came home and ordered, minus Hate List, which I've had for a year and have yet to read.


Okay, so we didn't discuss Beth Moore's book, but at ANOTHER conference, it was highly recommended. Peer pressure. I give in every time. (Please don't ask me to do drugs or jump off a cliff.)
I've already read Delirium from the list (liked it) and next up is The Fourth Stall.

This has been your 2011 YA report. Otherwise known as Reason No. 504 why you don't want to sit by me at a dinner party.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 15 comments
Shauna - August 3, 2011

Am I the only one who can’t submit the Thomas Nelson survey because it won’t accept my checkmarks on one of the last questions on the last page (the one about preferred ages of characters)? I tried on two different computers and kept getting the same error message.

I love dystopian lit, which is odd considering how depressing and disturbing it usually is—though the YA books I’ve read thus far are still not anywhere close to being as disturbing as 1984 or Brave New World, except possibly Mockingjay.

Jenny - August 3, 2011

I am a total Hunger Games groupie, and this is not my chosen genre. Didn’t even know what dystopian lit was until I had read it. Really hoping they don’t make the movie trashy but stick with the story of the book.

I have been trying to broaden my scope of reading, so I am grateful for the recommendations. The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie has me interested by the title alone. I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the 1st time since the 8th grade (many moons ago) a couple weeks ago. I think it is now one of my favorite books.

Katie - August 3, 2011

Ahhhh! There You’ll Find Me!! Seriously Jen, I loved it so much. I think I’m gonna be reading it again very soon. 🙂

Mississippi Mama - August 3, 2011

Great advice and great input! And I read a ton of YA (and I’ll be 35 next month, so I don’t fit the demographic) but I’ve never read nor even heard of any of those you listed, with the exception of Delirium. Huh.

Amy - August 3, 2011

“Annexed” sounds great! Going to buy it tomorrow–thanks, Jen!!

Kristin - August 4, 2011

Very interesting post! I read a lot of YA books, and “tween” books, too. Now I’ve got go go add some of these recommendations to my Amazon wishlist. =) I especially want to read the Grimm book.

I’m sort of a fan of dystopian novels. I think it all started when I read “The Giver” a year or two ago and loved it. I’ve read two or three others since then, and I’ve really enjoyed them. I can appreciate this trend much more than I can the dreaded vampire/paranormal trend.


Helen - August 4, 2011

Thanks so much for the post. I love it when you give us books to read that you are reading!

HopefulLeigh - August 4, 2011

Interesting stuff, Jenny! I’m not planning to write YA but I’ve been reading more of it the last few months. In fact, I just received word that Delirium is in at the library.

Jenny B Jones - August 4, 2011

LOVED the Giver. Nothing has topped that. Not even Hunger Games for me. And Mississippi Mama, you do fit the demographic now. Adults are major targets for mainstream YA.

I’ve just started The Fourth Stall and it is funny. Very good pick for a boy reader.

Jenny - August 4, 2011

The Giver has been in my by the bed stash of books for a long time now. After that comment JBJ, it just jumped to the top of the pile.

Shauna - August 5, 2011

If you’ve read The Giver, you should definitely read its companion books Gathering Blue and Messenger. Love that series. (The second book doesn’t have anything to do with the first one and isn’t a sequel per se, but the third one ties all three books together.)

Amy - August 8, 2011

I was going to ask who recommended SO LONG, INSECURITY as a YA book… Good read.

While I was GOING to read DIVERGENT (YA book), you convinced me to read THE HELP. I am reading THE HELP, which I think may become one of my fave books of ALL TIME. I appreciate this, I really do, but how are you promoting YA with that sort of recommendation? Egads!

What’s funny about the list from the “experts” is that I haven’t heard of many of those books.

From that list, I own Annexed (Kindle) and Delirium (Border’s closing sale). I’d like to read Cutting for Stone.

Here are some hot picks, which may not all be what the literary experts like. However, they’re what people are reading…

1. Dear Bully– 70 YA authors talk about bullying (releases later this month. I have the ARC and LOVE it!)

2. Supernaturally by Kiersten White (just released. Follow-up to Paranormalcy)

3. Wolfbane by Andrea Cremer (just released, follow-up to Nightshade. Werewolf books…ahhh!)

4. Crossed by Ally Condie (Coming later this year, follow up to Matched.)

5. Vanish by Sophie Jordan (to be released in fall, follow up to Fireflight)

6. There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones (HIGHLY ANTICIPATED!!!! YA follow up to adult novel SAVE THE DATE.)

7. A bunch of stupid angels falling in love with humans books. Barf.

8. Vamps, angels, Greek goddesses and edgy fringe good-looking teens in a dystopian society do a bunch of stuff, involves lots of love triangles.

9. I’m tired of making this list, but 10 would make it such a complete number.

10. ……..

capillya - August 9, 2011

I’ve heard good things about The Fourth Stall! Also, I want to go to conferences where people keep me awake for 6 hours talking about books. And believe you-me, I’m not a meeting person. I fidget and can’t sit still and I’m ready to DO, but the idea of being sold on books sounds absolutely lovely.

Also, I had no idea that half of the Hunger Games readers were adult. This makes me happy. =)

Johanna - September 5, 2013

Hi Jenny,

Just wanted to ask if you were interested in answering a few questions for an interview on my blog? I understand that you may not have enough time.

Thank you so much for all the characrers and books you have introduced me to!!! I have truly loved reading whatever God inspired you to write. Please know that you are one of my favourite authors, one that got me into reading. My favourite books of yours are “There You’ll Find Me” and “Just Between You and Me”. You much have had such fun writing them 🙂
Looking forward to reading your next novel!!

Blessings Johanna

skyler madisson - May 18, 2014

Hello Jenny

I just wanted to say that I absolutely love your books! I have read your “Charmed Life” series at least 10 times and “Just Between You and Me” almost as many. I can’t wait to read more of your books!


Leave a Reply: