What's Up in YA

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Hello YA Readers. . .

This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Swoon Reads


Swoon Reads publishes the latest and greatest in YA fiction with the help of readers and writers like you. We’re dedicated to the undiscovered, and we seek out the very best in bright, new bookish talent. From heroic epics, to alien adventures, to all-the-feels romance—if you’re loving it, we’ll publish it. We involve our community in every step of the publishing process, and work closely with selected writers to get their book ready for publication. Together, we bring new stories to life, because we believe that great books are better shared.


I began drafting this newsletter before the election and found myself unable to pull together anything worth sharing in the hours after. Instead of sharing links or a book list or anything else I could muster — all of those things felt stiff and inauthentic — I reached out to a YA writer and asked if she’d have something positive to say in all of this.

And she did.

Please read what Justina Ireland asks us to think about and asks us to do in the wake of news so many of us find unsettling, surprising, upsetting.

Let her words stir you into action.


Donald Trump has just been elected president and I know for many, many readers it feels like a punch in the gut.  For many young people and young adult readers, especially those with Muslim, Jewish, Black, Latin@, Asian, and LGBTQIAP+ identities, what has transpired feels like a personal attack.  And it is.  We have been told by a large portion of America that our truths, and our Americanism, isn’t true citizenship.  We are not the real America.

We have been attacked in our own home. It’s every fear, every whispered thought about the dark corners of white America’s hearts, being made real and whole.

It is a validation of the worst kind.

For the longest time whiteness in America has not been defined by what it is, so much as what it is not: it is not Muslim or Jewish, it is not Black or Brown or Asian.  But now whiteness for the first time in our country’s history is being defined by what it is: it is uneducated, angry, sexist, and afraid. It is resistant to change and to facts, and would rather reside in an idealized past that never was rather than embrace a vibrant, globalized future.

This definition of whiteness, and by extension the United States, is the antithesis of all that is Young Adult literature.

YA has always been daring.  It is when it defies and deconstructs current societal norms and prejudices that YA literature is at its best. YA books have broken down walls and forged new pathways.  They have held a hand out to the most marginalized of our society (even if that hand was not frequent enough) and forged understanding across lines of disability, race, neurodivergence, religion, gender, class, and sexual identity.  This is what makes YA great, and it is what we must focus on as our light in the years ahead.  Books have the unique ability to help us understand what it feels to be ourselves and others in the same instant. Great literature validates our humanity and the humanity of others.  We must harness our love of the written word and use that light to plot a path forward.

While the country may take a step backward, Young Adult literature must not.  We must continue to push forward, to ensure the voices and lives of teens are depicted with sensitivity and nuance and the core truth of what really makes America great: not a hegemony that doesn’t truly exist, but those differences that enable us to see the world more fully and honestly.

We must continue to embrace stories of those voices silenced by the fearful, and we must ensure those stories reflect an honest truth and not the stale lies of the past.  It is the bravery of Young Adult books, Middle Grade books, and children’s books as a whole that will teach younger generations of all colors that there is no reason for fear, that instead of trying to “Make America Great Again” in a flawed mimicry of the past, we can make it better than ever before.

Let’s go read, write, and share some amazing books.


justina-irelandJustina Ireland lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows, both currently available from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. And her forthcoming bookDread Nation will be available in 2018 from the HarperCollins imprint Balzer and Bray. You can find Justina on Twitter as @justinaireland or visit her

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