Friday, 11 November 2011

The Next Big Thing

Dark Parties author Sara Grant considers trends in teen fiction and asks ‘what’s next?’

Tis the season for trend pieces. A look at the year behind and a prediction for the year ahead. What’s hot? What’s not?

Unfortunately my crystal ball is busted. I thought I’d try the Magic8Ball app on my iPhone, but when I inquire about teen fiction trends, the only response I get is: ‘ask again later’. So I decided to do a little informal research. What I found was no surprise. Dystopian, supernatural and urban fiction will continue to be popular in 2012. More generically, most of my sources agreed that teens want lots of action paired with a little romance. [One of the best teen fiction trend articles I found was from Teen Librarian’sToolbox.]

My debut novel Dark Parties is dystopian. It’s one of seven dystopian novels by debut writers published in the U.S. this year. I’d love to say that in 2007 when I started writing what would become Dark Parties, I knew that dystopian was going to be the next big thing in 2011. But nobody knew it back then. The first agent who read Dark Parties told me she didn’t think she could sell dystopian fiction. The truth is I was writing the story I felt compelled to write – and I got lucky.

I’d suggest that writers shouldn’t be worried about what’s hot in 2012. The publication process is typically a long one. Even if your manuscript is done and dusted, it could be a few years before it appears on bookstore shelves. My next novel is scheduled for publication in 2013. The book I’ve just started – if I’m lucky enough to sell it – most likely won’t be published until 2014. That means I’m writing for readers who are in their tweens (11-13 years old) now. If you are interested in tapping into the future teen zeitgeist, consider how current tweens and the world will change over the next three years. (How’s that for an impossible and mind-blowing assignment?)

Because mash ups were popular on Glee and in bookshops, I wondered if I could unearth a future trend by pairing some of the bestselling books of all time with current tween fads and faves. I’m not sure I’ve uncovered a blockbuster – but you never know:
·         A Tale of Two Biebers
·         Le Petit-Prince William
·         The Vampire, the Zombie and the Wardrobe
·         Anne of Twitterland

In all seriousness and based on nothing but my gut and obsession with all things teen fiction, I have a feeling that space, westerns, and thrillers might be staging comebacks. I’m also hoping that soon we’ll see something uproariously funny storming the teen charts.

Having said that, my next project doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. I’m writing what inspires, obsesses, and challenges me. My best advice is: don’t worry about trends. Write and read what you love. Originality and great writing will win out. Don’t follow trends. Be the next big thing!
What are your predictions for teen fiction in 2012 and beyond? What do you hope or fear will be the next ‘hot’ read for teens?

Dark Parties will be published by Orion in January 2012. Find out more about Sara and her book at 


  1. Good advice. When you're starting out (as i am) It's easy to confuse the need to 'know the market' and 'write appropriately for it', with the hunt for trying to predict what themes are going to be selling. Nice clear advice here though
    (oh, and i'd not trust that crystal ball of yours: it seems to be working in reverse - it thinks your book WILL be out LAST january!)

  2. I really enoyed reading this. I normally write for younger children but am working on my first YA, so this was really useful. I agree, we should write what is inside us, and have to hope others will be eager to read it. Oh, and I love the cover of your book - very inviting.

  3. I think Sci-fi and historical are going to be the next big thing in YA - with a little romance thrown in of course! Things seem to go in cycles and it's about time for these things to come round again.

  4. As you might know, I've already made my "supremely educated guesses" for next year's hot trends:

    I have to say that I've been trying to run away from trends, but it's quite hard to escape people's urge to put your work in a box. There are a few dystopian aspects in a manuscript I've recently finished, but some people seemed to get hung up on that, despite the fact that the book as a whole doesn't fit in that genre. But I've heard from other authors about how their agents choose to play up one aspect or another of their work when submitting it, depending on what genre is hot at the time.

  5. I hate the genre thing. I think 'YA' is enough of a genre on its own.

  6. Me too, Keren. Boook sellers and publishers need to know that whilst they're busy promoting and perpetuating a 'trend', there are lots of teens and young adults out there searching for books that have become far harder to find because of them.

  7. OK - I'm about to start my hilarious western for teens!! Some good ideas as always Sarah but I agree, I just have to write what is inside me and hope that I can gain a readership. But well done you!!