What's Up in YA

Alien Contact, Two Giant Storms, and More Recent Microtrends in YA Literature

Hey YA Readers!

What’s Up in YA? is sponsored by In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Elliot is smart, just a tiny bit obnoxious (he is thirteen years old), and perhaps not the best person to cross into the Borderlands where there are elves, harpies, and — best of all as far as he’s concerned — mermaids. In Other Lands is an exhilarating a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world — even if it means giving up your phone.

Happy Eclipse Day to those who are able to see this once-in-a-lifetime-but-maybe-twice-in-OUR-lifetime-because-it’ll-happen-again-in-2024 event. Your newsletter scribe is in southern Illinois at a massive party for the occasion.

Last week’s newsletter teased the topic of microtrends. What is a microtrend? Unlike a full-scale trend — think something like the rise in dystopia following The Hunger Games or the mermaid reads trend from years gone by — a microtrend is something that’s not a huge trend but a series of common threads that run among a number of books in any given time. They’re almost like weird coincidences, odd little moments of “huh” that arise when you see book descriptions or read a number of books in a row that all feature a specific thing within them.

Microtrends are fun to look at and think about, particularly because it’s impossible to ever predict what they might be. It takes looking at tons and tons of books to see the commonalities because the things they have in common aren’t necessarily the sorts of things you’d think would have a surge around them.

Let’s take a peek at some of the interesting microtrends that have and continue to emerge in YA lit over the last year. Since not all of the book descriptions highlight the microtrend, I left them off; you can click the links to see them. 


Hurricane Katrina

This particular microtrend is interesting in part because it’s been a couple of years since the big anniversary of the storm, so seeing it appear more than once since stands out.

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy



Superstorm Sandy

This one makes some more sense to me, as the giant superstorm is coming up on its fifth anniversary.

A Hundred Hours of Night by Anna Woltz

The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski


Drug Cartels in Mexico

There’s actually a pretty sizable trend relating to books set in Mexico or along the border this year, but this specific trend is worth noting. These are all books that explore some aspect of the dangerous drug cartels throughout various parts of the country.

Disappeared by Francisco X Stork (September 26)

Juan Pablo and The Butterflies by JJ Flowers

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick


Compared to Thelma and Louise

Do you pay attention to the comps books get? I do, if only because I’m curious what the flavor of the season is when it comes to them. This year? We’re seeing quite a bit of Thelma and Louise read alikes. I’m not sure how much of a comp this is for teens; it feels like one meant more for adults and those who serve teen readers.

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Looking for Group by Rory Harrison


Alien Contact

I teased this in a “3 on a YA theme” post earlier this summer. Aliens have always been around in YA lit, but it seems we’re seeing an influx of alien-human encounter titles this year.

Of Jenny and The Aliens by Ryan Gebhart (this cover makes knowing the title near impossible, doesn’t it?)

Landscape With Invisible Hand by MT Anderson (September 12)

What Goes Up by Kate Kennedy


Their Fathers Are Shop Owners

This was a commonality between two books I read nearly back-to-back and it’s one that I really love. Both of the girls in these stories have fathers who own stores. . . and those stores and their fathers happen to play good-sized roles in the story.

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Fan Cons

There are a boatload of books about fandom, about fan fiction, about geekery, and more. They’ve been having a moment for a few years now. More recently, though, it’s been the fan convention as backdrop to stories about teen geeks and nerds.

Don’t Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci (January 2)

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (March 27)

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde


Score Sweet Cheap YA Reads!

If you want a few good reads for few dollars, you might be interested in these.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson ($1.99) is a long-standing YA classic.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten ($1.99) will scratch your itch for a solid thriller.

Tell The Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan ($1.99) is about magic, romance, and revolution.



Thanks for hanging out this week. We’ll see you again next Monday.

–Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars

Currently reading When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn.