What are kids interested in?

Fennywhipple

Registered
Joined
Jun 25, 2023
Messages
20
Reaction score
12
I'm new here so please bear with me. I've written a few children's picture books that seem to be well received. I would like to venture into YA. I have a few stories and ideas I've written down and outlined. Then it dawned on me, I'm a boomer. I write about my childhood, and things I did and learned. my stories are similar to the Stephen King movie "Stand by Me" I enjoyed that movie but I wonder if kids now days like that kind of story. Is there any info about what today's kids are responding too? I think I may have answered my own question. Harry Potter. Or maybe I could throw a body in there somewhere. I guess I'd just like to hear thoughts from other YA authors.
Thanks Fennywhipple
 

Unimportant

No COVID yet. Still masking.
Staff member
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
20,799
Reaction score
24,982
Location
Aotearoa
I'm new here so please bear with me. I've written a few children's picture books that seem to be well received. I would like to venture into YA. I have a few stories and ideas I've written down and outlined. Then it dawned on me, I'm a boomer. I write about my childhood, and things I did and learned. my stories are similar to the Stephen King movie "Stand by Me" I enjoyed that movie but I wonder if kids now days like that kind of story. Is there any info about what today's kids are responding too? I think I may have answered my own question. Harry Potter. Or maybe I could throw a body in there somewhere. I guess I'd just like to hear thoughts from other YA authors.
Thanks Fennywhipple
Young adults are interested in stories whose characters are dealing with the same problems that the young adult readers themselves are. Problems that are largely unique to that age group of 14 - 18, who have passed puberty and are now making the massive, radical changes into adulthood. Whether it's fantasy or contemporary or dystopic fiction or romance, the problems are the same, just with a different wrapping.

But if you're going to write YA, I would strongly urge you to read a lot, lot, lot, lot of recently published YA in your chosen genre(s).

ETA: your question will probably get a lot more traction if it gets shifted to the actual YA subforum. If you hit "Report" (the button at the butttom left of your original post) you can ask the mod for this section to move your thread.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SWest and CMBright

ChaseJxyz

Writes 🏳️‍⚧️🌕🐺 and 🏳️‍⚧️🌕🐺 accessories
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2020
Messages
4,524
Reaction score
6,206
Location
The Rottenest City on the Pacific Coast
Website
www.chasej.xyz
How are you defining "kids"? Because the older (i.e. YA) kids know that the author of Harry Potter spends her Harry Potter money on stripping rights from people like themselves and their friends. The nice thing/curse about social media is that it's very easy to learn the morals and beliefs of authors, and lots of people choose not to give money to authors who want them dead.

Go on Amazon or the New York Times and look at the YA best seller lists. Go to the library and ask the teen (category) librarian what's the most popular. Or go on TikTok and see what's trending on BookTok.

A lot of those books are current YAs, but some are backlist titles. Like The Great Gatsby lol. Some are adult books (like Ice Planet Barbarians). Some are tied to IP, like the one about Sally The Nightmare Before Christmas. Lots of different stuff on there. But you gotta go out there and do the legwork yourself to see what's selling, especially if there's a specific subgenre you want to do.
 

Undercover

I got it covered
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 1, 2010
Messages
10,434
Reaction score
2,058
Location
Not here, but there
I write YA and my kids are older now, but were young adults not too long ago. They're 26 and 29 now. I sound so old. I'm in my forties though, and again, I write YA and MG too. I just go with my heart and what my kids grew up like too. My last published book was YA, which will be 6 in Nov. I didn't really do the texting thing in the book, I had her go to the library. And it worked. But things have changed a lot since then.

I think you need to see what's popular on TV too. People watch TV all the time. You can learn what's popular there. A lot of movies were books in the beginning. On the internet, I just say "online." And that seems to work. You can be vague. You don't have to use cell phones a lot, if you're not super savvy with it. I don't think you have to actually say what site you're using, if you needed to do that in your novel. You can make one up.

Or you can write a historical, 80's and the 90's is historical now. I'm really getting old. lol

But the main thing to remember, which you mentioned in your post, write what you know and like and what you're familiar with. It will make it easier to write. Most of all, write what you love. Kids nowadays still have the same interests such as sports and school clubs. The newspaper, things like that. You can do a post apocalyptic world and not need any internet or school. Or a fantasy. Like Chase mentioned. Fantasy might eliminate all your techy problems right there. Don't hold back, swearing here and there can work. Just don't overdo it. And what Unimportant said, see what the kids are dealing with now. All of this is so important, otherwise it won't work. I wish you good luck with it all.
 
  • Wow
Reactions: Elenitsa

Maryn

Baaa!
Staff member
Super Moderator
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
56,305
Reaction score
27,093
Moving this to YA, since that's what it's about.
 

Jazz Club

It's not wrong, it's dialect
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 18, 2021
Messages
4,117
Reaction score
6,433
Location
Northern Ireland
What are kids into these days? Kids are like adults, I guess, in that they're all into different things. Some are into partying, some not so much, some really into their hobbies, some really into their friends, some worried about school and college, others not so much. But what's common in most great YA stories are universal themes of growing up, finding your identity and place in the world, gaining independence, maybe first love (though a YA book doesn't have to include that).

YA is acutally a marketing category, not a genre. It subdivides into genres. So you can have YA thrillers, YA fantasy, YA romance, YA horror etc etc. YA just means a story with teenage protagonists told from a teenage point of view, and dealing with themes that are common as you grow up. As opposed to adult books with teen protagonists, which also exist but which don't tend to see the world quite so much through the teenager's eyes. There's that bit of distance and irony in adult books, which isn't present so much in YA.

I don't know how much you know about it, but I'd echo the advice to go and read a lot of recent releases to see what authors are doing these days.
 

Catriona Grace

Mind the thorns
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 1, 2021
Messages
4,391
Reaction score
4,486
Go to the local library and ask the children/young adult librarian which books are most popular. Check those out and read them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Elenitsa

Unimportant

No COVID yet. Still masking.
Staff member
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
20,799
Reaction score
24,982
Location
Aotearoa
Go to the local library and ask the children/young adult librarian which books are most popular. Check those out and read them.
Crikey, my eyes crossed as I read that and I saw "Go to the local library and ask the High Priestess librarian which books are most popular." !!!!!
 
  • Haha
Reactions: Catriona Grace

KimJo

Outside the box, with the werewolves
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2005
Messages
4,028
Reaction score
356
Location
somewhere in Massachusetts
Website
karennacolcroft.com
If you're a boomer, a lot has changed since you were a teen. For example, technology has advanced drastically, which has led to new ways of bullying. (I'm Gen X, not a boomer, but even with my generation, bullying was confined to school, the neighborhood, and occasionally phone calls that my parents could listen in on since the corded phone was in the kitchen. Nowadays, kids bully each other in school and the neighborhood, but also online, through apps, and through text messages and cell phone calls that parents are completely unaware of.)

But some things *haven't* changed. The basic concept of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, with the associated puberty, hormonal and body changes, trying to figure out one's place in the world, trying to decide whether peers matter more than family or vice versa, and on and on... The *external* trappings of teen-hood have changed, but the *internal* feelings and thoughts are, in some ways, very much the same.

So as others have said, read modern YA books. If you have any teens in your life (relatives, neighbors), talk to them about what their lives are like. See what is being written about for today's teens and what today's teens are actually living. Watch TV shows aimed at teens as well.

But also... you could write a YA book set in *your* teen years. Show what life was like in the 1950s or 1960s or whatever era you were a teen during, but also show that teens then went through some of the same issues as teens now. Would it sell? I don't know. But when I was a teen, I sometimes preferred to read books set in the past that showed that people "back then" dealt with similar issues to what I was dealing with. For me, at least, for whatever reason, those books helped me feel less alone than books set in what was then the "present day."
 

Sage

Supreme Guessinator
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 15, 2005
Messages
65,088
Reaction score
23,811
Age
44
Location
Cheering you all on!
Just a note that Harry Potter debuted 26 years ago as a MG. It is not representative of today’s YA market in any way. (On top of problems with the author)

Definitely read a bunch of current YA, particularly in your genre. When looking for what’s popular in YA, some folks will still suggest books that came out years ago, and those will be fine, but the market continues to change, so make sure to get newer books in the mix. Even those will likely have been written at least two years before publication date.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Elenitsa and Maryn

CMBright

Cats are easy, Mice are tough
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
6,224
Reaction score
9,130
Location
Oklahoma
To (mis)quote a support coach, if you've seen one child [], you've seen one child []. As true of typical teens as ones with ADHD. I've learned (here on AW) that YA is defined by a teen protagonist going through teen problems involved with coming of age. Along with adults can be mentors or other archetypes but never protagonists kinds of guidelines.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Elenitsa

knifeeffect

Registered
Joined
Sep 11, 2023
Messages
24
Reaction score
40
Location
Texas
Everyone else here has really good advice. I started working on my YA manuscript when I was still IN the YA target audience, and even now that I'm barely out of it, the market has already changed drastically from where I remembered it!

As others have said, Harry Potter is middle grade, but it ushered in YA as a new genre. The industry didn't really have a concept of YA before the 2000s - there was just children's fiction and adult fiction. Obviously, there were books for (and by!) teens, like The Outsiders, but not a lot of them, and not in their own separate market.

There are always exceptions to the rules, but you might be surprised to find that a lot of YA skews very old these days. The themes are the same (fitting in, finding one's identity, coming of age, etc.), but the market is (anecdotally, at least) favoring readers aged 16 and up, which means no protagonists younger than 16. You'll probably find a lot more sex and swearing than you might expect from books specifically for teens (even compared to once-controversial violence like The Outsiders). Romance is HUGE and has dominated mainstream YA science fiction and fantasy.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Elenitsa

Nether

might be running from mannequins
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
6,317
Reaction score
13,046
Location
New England
I write about my childhood, and things I did and learned. my stories are similar to the Stephen King movie "Stand by Me" I enjoyed that movie but I wonder if kids now days like that kind of story. Is there any info about what today's kids are responding too?

iirc, Stand by Me is an adult recollecting on their childhood. As a result, that's not really YA (plus the kids from Stand by Me are younger than YA ages).

That's not to say that you can't use your childhood as inspiration. However, you need to make sure it's still relatable to modern teens. First love and first heartbreak are pretty universal. Other things can be lost in translation. The other potential pitfall is remembering events from your youth but not remembering the perspective of youth. Teens and adults see things very differently.

And, as knifeeffect notes, you really want protagonists between 16 and 18. The conventional logic is that youths like to read characters up to two years older than them, which is why going lower than 16 can pose problems.
 

jayelmitchell

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 10, 2023
Messages
57
Reaction score
132
As others have stated, focus on issues relevant to the age group. Growing up, navigating social circles, discovering romance, etc. But what I really want to stress is don't "dumb down" the material. This is a mistake I've noticed in some YA books I've read. Young people are pretty good at picking up when they're being pandered or condescended to, and nobody likes that feeling.