A Wolf in Kid’s Clothing: Upcoming Trends in YA Fiction

This morning I was looking through catalogs of upcoming releases in Young Adult books. I’ve already been pretty vocal around here on the trends that are happening in YA fiction, so people won’t be surprised to learn that I’m bugged about it. But you might be surprised at what some of the new trends are. Not talking about vampires, demons, fallen angels or other supernatural things. This is something new.

I was looking specifically for YA books to review, so I was browsing the teens and young adult sections when I came across a cover that looked more like the poster for Magic Mike than a YA novel and I thought there had to be some mistake. So I looked the book up on Amazon and found that no, it wasn’t a mistake. It’s a new YA book that’s slated to release in September and it’s about a boy who is determined not to be a virgin anymore when he enters the Coast Guard Academy. Except he’s gay. That’s right. Slated for release this fall is a whole group of books for YA readers (ages 13 and up) that focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual (LGBT) romances. More disturbing than that is the fact that it’s relatively ‘hidden’ that it’s a gay story. The cover art has three men with their shirts off on the front (it looks as if teenage boy’s faces were photoshopped onto grown men’s bodies) and on the back blurb, it talks about one of the boys being tempted by all the girls on the island. It’s not til nearly the end of the blurb that you realize another boy is gay and trying to have sex with another boy before he starts at the academy.

In doing some more research, I discovered that the publishing company specializes in Gay and Lesbian romance and love stories and that most of their stories are romance. Here’s a small blurb taken from the company’s website:

“(site name redacted) are all about romances: focused reads presenting passion, sexual attraction, and compelling connections in a tightly written, engaging package. Our Young Adult line…features a protagonist aged 14-21 in stories within all fiction genres that delve into questions of identity, gender, sexuality, self-esteem, peer relationships, ethics, and life issues. (Name redacted) our newest line, offers erotica for every pleasure.”

If this were only one company with releases pushing into the YA Market, I’d be less concerned. But in truth, there’s a whole group of them – all coming from different publishers – that will be released into the YA market this fall. And a majority of them haven’t openly advertised right away that they are LGBT books. For example, you won’t find two boys on the front cover kissing or two girls on the front cover wrapped in embrace. What you’ll find is a book that looks like it could come from any publisher anywhere – with engaging photos of teenagers on the front in some activity. It’s not until you do a little more research into what the book is about that you’ll find it’s actually LGBT. In many instances, like the one above, even the blurbs seem harmless until you get to the very end or two one or two sentences in the book itself.

It’s obvious that there’s a deceptive policy going on here when the true plotlines of the books are ‘hidden’ at the bottom of the blurbs or even inside the book. Spending a paragraph talking about a girl finding her one true love and then as the very last phrase in the blurb, pointing out that her one true love is a girl – isn’t up front or honest about what people are going to find.

These books are targeting young readers (As I mentioned earlier, the recommended age on the book I’d discovered was for 13 years and up.) and there are many of them set to release within the next few months.

How can you be sure of what your kids are reading? Here are a few tips:

  • Read the back blurbs very carefully – all the way to the end. As mentioned in this article, sometimes the relevant facts and information were left until the very last sentence.
  • Research the author or publisher very carefully first. Check websites. You’ll know right away what their missions or goals are and whether they fit with your own.
  • If it’s a sequel, look up the first book and see what people had to say.
  • Check with a website you trust (like Radiant Lit)  to see what the books are like.  We are reading the books so you don’t have to. We give honest reviews and opinions that let you know exactly what to expect in the books.

The biggest and most important tip is to STAY INVOLVED with your kids. It’s not easy. They’re being talked to from every angle and viewpoint these days and they’re getting conflicting messages. It’s not easy. Did I already say that? But it’s so worth it!

*This article originally appeared at Radiant Lit.