February 5, 2012

Cross My Palm: Historical YA

This is a series of posts I'm doing discussing current trends in YA genres and what might be in store for the future. This is just based on my own observations of books and what I've seen publishers/authors/other bloggers talking about.

Last week, I discussed trends in sci-fi/dystopian YA. This week, it's historical (although some of the books mentioned involve fantasy/sci-fi elements).
  • Spies, secret agents, and detectives seem to be up-and-coming. This holds true for a variety of time periods and settings, from 1500s England to 1940s America. Books like Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley, Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee, The Girl is Trouble by Kathryn Miller Haines, Secret Letters by Leah Scheier, and Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan fall into this category.

  • The '20s might soon be roaring. There are two similar 1920s-America series on the go right now: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen and the Flappers by Jillian Larkin. Libba Bray is also coming out with The Diviners this year. I think if these books do well there might be more on the way.

  • Georgian and Victorian England are still in fashion. These have to be a couple of the most popular eras for YA historical novels, full of Seasons and social graces and romance. (And I must own here that I have a soft spot for these!) Recent and upcoming releases include Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury, Velvet by Mary Hooper, Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey, Courtship & Curses by Marissa Doyle, The Girl in the Mask by Marie-Louise Jensen, The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber, and Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves.

  • Renaissance Italy appears to be a favourite. I'd like to see more stories set in other countries during the Renaissance, not just the birthplace, Italy. But right now Italy, and particularly Venice, in the 16th-century seems to be the trend. 2012 releases that fit the bill are Venom by Fiona Paul, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris, Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill, and Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould.

  • Steampunk is making a name for itself. This sub-genre was already starting to hammer out a niche for itself in 2011, and it looks like it's only going to expand in the next few years. Upcoming titles include: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross, Ironskin by Tina Connolly, Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear, The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent, The Clockwork Key by Kristin Welker, and The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer. 

    But overall in YA, and steampunk aside, historical fiction is most sadly overlooked. Contemporary YA authors may think they have it bad, but I'd say writers of historical YA — especially straight-up historical without any fantastical elements — have it even worse. In fact, it was a bit difficult to suss out trends and themes in the genre, simply because there just aren't that many upcoming releases!

    Have you spotted the trends mentioned here? Have I overlooked any? What do you think the future holds for historical YA? :D


    1. I'm loving this series and analysis! I'll have to check out some of the books you mentioned but I am digging the spies/secret agents/detectives, roaring 20s, and Georgian and Victorian England trends.

      What I would like to see: more diversity in historical YA. It often sticks to England, but I would like to see historical YA set in African countries, for example. But no whitewashing history please!

      What I would like to see LESS of is historical YA that focuses a ton on romance. I want to actually LEARN history, not read about some smooch fest!

      1. Thanks so much, Rachelia! I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying this series :)

        I totally agree with you that historical YA needs to be more diverse (as well as just YA generally!) I'd love to see more variety in settings as well as ethnicities of the characters.

        Also, very true that some historical YA just seems to be an excuse for a romance story, with a bit of "historical setting" thrown in there. While I don't mind some romance, I like the setting to feel very authentic, and if it's an actual historical event that's being related, it's best if they stick close to the facts (at least as we know them)!

    2. I really do need to read more historic YA fiction and the few that I have read I LOVE! Y.S. Lee's Agency series is one of my favorite. It's so hard to remember the names of YA historic fictions! =/

      1. Yay for the Agency series! I feel like more bloggers need to be reading those. Can't wait for book 3! :D

    3. Thanks for doing a highlight on historical fiction! Sometimes it can be hard to find in YA (and especially hard to find ones that are more history- than romance-driven). I can't wait for Libba Bray's next book to some out!

      1. No problem! I know, historical YA isn't saturating the shelves in bookstores the way paranormal is. But it does look like there are some good ones on the way! Libba Bray's The Diviners definitely looks different and will hopefully spur on some more 1920s books :)

    4. I listened to the audiobook of The Girl is Murder and it was fantastic! So I'm really looking forward to The Girl is Trouble. I'll have to make note of some of the other titles on your list too. Thanks for posting!

    5. I honestly love historical so I'm really happy to see this trend! SIGH. Except that sometimes, some of them are not written all that well. I hope that some of these are as good as the Agency series by YS Lee.


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