3 Things I’d Like To See More Of In YA

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YA books are often quite good at being inclusive of different identities (or aspects of identities). But there are still some improvements that could be made to the inclusiveness and representation of YA literature. What are some things that I’d like to see more often in YA?

LGBTQIAP+ Identities

This is something that we’re seeing more and more of in YA, thankfully, but I still think more is needed. First of all, it’d be nice to see people who identify as something other than gay or lesbian. Bisexuality is finally starting to be represented more often (although more bisexual representation is certainly needed and welcomed), but we still need more pansexual, asexual, demisexual, genderqueer, trans, nonbinary, etc. representation. It’d also be nice to see more of these identities reflected in books that aren’t “issue” books. In other words, I’d like to see these identities be more of a character trait rather than a defining feature at the center of the book’s story.

Mental Illnesses Other Than Depression and Eating Disorders

I’ve always been a big, big fan of YA books that tackle mental illness, likely because I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school (and I’m now 21). But even though I’ve read a lot of books like these, they almost always seem to focus on depression or eating disorders. Sometimes they focus on PTSD (although it’s very rarely actually called PTSD), usually after the main character has been a victim of sexual assault. There’s certainly a good amount of YA dealing with drug addiction, too. But I very desperately want to read and learn more about other mental illnesses. Show me characters with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, etc.

Cultures Besides Mainstream US Culture

This is another area that is starting to be improved and diversified, but I still want to see more of that happen. I have, admittedly, read very few books like this (which I’m hoping to change in 2017) and this is partly because I don’t really know what books are out there that will show me different cultures. Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly but surely taking note of some books that can help with this (largely thanks to Naz at Read Diverse Books) but I feel like it shouldn’t be this difficult to find books that represent other cultures. I shouldn’t have to go searching for these books – they should just be there. So I’d love to see more diversified cultural representation in YA. I’m even (mostly) fine with it happening in the US (for example, if it focuses on immigrants who recently came to the US) – I just want to see cultures that I don’t know that much about.

I could honestly keep going with this, but I think I’ll stop here before this turns into a 2000 word essay (Lord knows I have enough of those to write over the next week). Basically, although I think YA does a pretty good job of being inclusive, there’s still a lot of improvements to be made. These are just a few things that I’d personally like to see represented more frequently in YA.

What are some things you’d like to see more often in YA?


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52 thoughts on “3 Things I’d Like To See More Of In YA

  1. Totally agree with you on all of these aspects – particularly the mental illness one (P.S. it’s not QUITE YA but it almost is; I recommend ‘The Shock of The Fall’ by Nathan Filer (represents schizophrenia really well)). I think I’d like to see more unique settings in YA fiction too. I’m bored of the majority being largely set in US high schools, I’d love to see books set in juvenile prisons, the workplace for a young person, backpacking trips across the world, nightclubs etc etc. Great post! πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m totally with you here – I’d like to see more stories about trans people that are written by trans people. Own stories are big for me. What I really want to see, though, is a change in the way books are marketed. One of the reasons we don’t always know what’s out there by diverse authors is because they don’t get the same kind of advertising budget cis het white authors. I was talking to one of the people on the board of the Tucson Festival of Books, and she said that while publishers will send the white authors to the TFV, the board has to pay for authors of color to get them there. Which is crazy.

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    • I’d love to see more own voices books, too. It’s kind of hard sometimes to tell if they’re own voices though haha And I totally agree that marketing needs to change and spend more time advertising diverse books. If they did, it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult to find these types of stories because i KNOW that they exist but they can be hard to discover. That is really crazy and super unfair! How do they publishers even get away with doing that?!

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  3. I totally agree with you. I’d love to see more hyped up and popular books with LGBT characters, or books dealing with mental illnesses other than depression or ED. And I definitely would love to see more books that are set outside US.

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  4. I totally agree with this – especially with the point about Mental Illness. As someone with OCD, I would like to see more of this depicted in YA fiction on a realistic level. Fantastic list!

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  5. Interesting. I wonder if authors have been focusing on depression and eating disorders since they seem like mental health issues that would be particularly relevant to teens. Hopefully authors will start to branch out a bit more, since so many of these books have been positively received.

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  6. The Impossible Knife of memory by Laurie Halas Anderson is about a girl living with a dad that has PTSD. I really liked it πŸ™‚ I agree. Mental illness is one of my favorite topics. I love learning about them. I wish books represented them better. I wish people understood them better. The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is about a 13yo with ALS. It takes place in Japan. That was really good for a culture difference. I loved it πŸ™‚

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    • I have both of those books on my TBR haha I’ve read a few of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books before and loved all of them. And I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set in Japan so it’ll be great to finally read something set in Japan!

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  7. I agree with everything on this list, Kourtni! All of these things are so important and I hope as we get more books, we get more diverse stories that tell of narratives outside of the ‘mainstream’.

    Reading this I kind of had a thought: I wonder if sometime in the future, what we now call “diverse books” will no longer be called “diverse books” because they’re so commonplace? It’s kind of hard to imagine and I wonder what other terms will be used then.

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  8. Great post! I agree that we need more books with LGBTQ characters that do not focus on coming out. One of my favorite is Everything Leads to You because it didn’t make it a ‘big deal’ but still a big part of the character’s life ❀ I also really love books dealing with mental illness! I studied psychology in uni and I've been making conscious effort to read more about it for a few months now πŸ™‚ I'm writing a blog post about it and I could give you some recs if you're interested. I read and enjoyed a lot of books dealing with bipolar and schizophrenia before ❀ also yes to more diverse culture, esp Asian (because I am Asian haha) it's nice to see various cultures in books! πŸ˜€

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  9. Yesss. I love this list and agree with everything! I’d love to see more focus on lesser known orientations/identities and mental illnesses or even just the darker side of MI. I feel like most times everything wraps up nicely and that’s not always the case in real life.

    I’d like to see these identities be more of a character trait rather than a defining feature” also THIS!!!

    I’d love to see less focus on romance in YA. I’d love to see more friendships and family relationships.

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    • Yesss, family relationships are another thing that I’d love to see more of! Parents in YA are the most absent and neglectful parents I’ve ever seen hahaha It’d be nice to see more family relationships that reflect real-life scenarios (not that there aren’t absent parents/family members in real life, but they’re certainly not the norm).

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  10. YES TO ALL OF THIS! You took the words right out my mouth, Kourtni! Seriously it’s like we were on the same thought pattern, especially when it comes to mental illness. I struggle badly with ADHD and have been thinking about how I would love to see it represented more in YA. Also, schizophrenia is something I feel is rarely represented and when it is it isn’t done very well. I read a book that did a terrible job with it this year. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a character with social anxiety because I’ve not read a book with one before. And everything you said about LGBTQIAP+ characters and different cultures. Yes! We need more books with all of that.
    As far as what else I want to see in YA. I really want to see more things about learning disabilities. Namely dyslexia. I know there are a few but most stick to the stigma of the inability to read whereas I know a lot of people with dyslexia who love reading. My little sister is dyslexic and a major bookworm so I’d love for there to be a book with a character she could relate to in that sense. I also want more books with friendships and family dynamics that don’t include romances. I love romances but sometimes they’re pointless amidst all of that. Fantastic post! 😊β™₯

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    • I feel like I recently heard about a book that was going to talk about social anxiety but I’m totally blanking on what it was! ugh. I totally agree with you about schizophrenia being represented really poorly. It’s rarely represented at all but when it is, the person is almost always portrayed as violent and dangerous which is just… not accurate representation. It’s certainly not the norm for people with schizophrenia to be murderers or kidnappers or whatever else people come up with! I would looove to see more learning disabilities (or any kind of disability, really). And yes, more friend and family relationships would be lovely too! πŸ™‚

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      • I’ll have to try to search around and see if I can find anything. There’s so many books being released its hard to keep up haha.
        Exactly! I mean I don’t know anyone with schizophrenia but I’ve seen comments from people who are on books that cover it saying how wrong most authors get it. There’s such a heavy stereotype when it comes to schizophrenia in YA and I just wish at least one author would do it justice.
        Definitely any kind of disability.
        There’s so much that still needs to be covered in YA. Hopefully in the future we’ll start to see more of all of it. 😊

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  12. I love books where the characters’ queerness are important to the plot, but books where they’re normal character traits are even better. Oh, and people with pronouns other than he/him and she/her

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  13. I’d love to see more representation of what OCD actually is in fiction. It’s become so misunderstood with any person who might like to keep things neat automatically claiming ‘I have OCD’ without understanding the disorder. It’s almost like it’s become a ‘trend’ to have it. I’d also love to see more representation of characters who are something other than gay or straight (because to be honest I can’t think of any off the top of my head!)

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    • I 100% agree. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is the only book I can think of where a character had OCD. I think Adam Silvera’s newest book, History Is All You Left Me, talks about OCD too, but I haven’t read it yet. OCD is definitely used as slang for “I like things to be clean” which is just… not at all what the disorder actually is.
      If you haven’t read Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, I’d definitely recommend it! One of the main characters is bisexual and all around it’s a fantastic book. πŸ™‚

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  14. I think it was great and not even just for genderfluid readers, but also for people who have never read about or met a genderfluid person before. I couldn’t agree more!

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