6 Panoramic view of young adult fiction

YA literature is the term used for a category of written fiction, written for readers between 12 and 18 years old. However as we have already seen how problematic it is to try and describe the child as a concept. The elusive teenager is going to be even more problematic to categorize since this period of anyone’s life is defined by breaking every definition under any parameter that is imposed. That is why categorizing readers within this age bracket must be fluid and based on good synchronic sociological and ethnographic studies that allow us to understand the variety of emerging people in these age groups. It has the same problem we had with ‘child’, our answer cannot be given without using culture as a framework, because time and place determine the type of people emerging at any given age. The definition of both child and adolescent are not fixed or close, but those in the marketing business and creating crafts, have to develop a keen ear to the social changes that are occurring in this demographic.

It is also generally accepted that the topics or genres in YA literature go hand in hand with age and experience of the main character and even though the genre selection is varied, there has been a boom in fantasy, romance and comedic-romantic novels, both on paper and audiovisual. This YA literature is recognized as the transition between children and adult literature and as we have already mentioned, most of the time, the boundaries are artificial or even wrong. The author´s possible opinion about their book and implied audience can be very different to the opinion that the editor or publisher has. The same way we saw with films and series, parental guidance are guides, not norms, so what is consumed in terms of fictional worlds depends on an adult filter. This is a bit different in the teenage world, because a teenager can have more freedom and their social milieu can be bigger than children´s, who normally have less access to friends or social networks. What a teenager consumes on TV, on the internet or in the library can be very different and it could entail a secret world that is not shared with the adult world. This can also happen to kids, especially ages between 5 and 11, when they start developing independence from teachers and parents. Peter Hunt (70) says, that as a reader you take the following pointers into the product while you read: your attitude towards it, your attitude towards life, your knowledge and experience of the medium, your knowledge and experience of life, your culture and prejudices, your race, your class, your age and attitude towards sex. He focuses on books, fiction or paper, but we could apply this framework to every type of cultural product that we have been looking at in this module. In the case of the child reader, Hunt (76) emphasizes the performative attitude kids have. Children want to act or live what they see or read. This performative attitude can be less evident in teenagers as it is not reduced to the active consumption of what they read or see.

Like children’s fiction, YA fiction is entwined in our conception of human beings at those ages. In the English speaking world, Sarah Trimmer is recognized as the precursor of this literature because she introduced the term children’s books (at the time, children were everybody under the age of 14) and young people’s books (aged between 14 and 21). The truth is that this type of fiction generates millions of dollars, euros and pounds globally and it more clearly originated during the middle of last century, with the iconic The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger. It includes topics of angst and alienation as the centre of the novel. Some books that we know as children’s or YA literature – and some films and series – are not produced with a young audience in mind, but they end up being popular in that age group and acquire that status throughout history.

We owe the theme of expansion to not only YA literature, but literature in general and in particular, to children’s literature. YA literature has expanded into taboo topics that were avoided or censored for younger audiences and they started appearing in the 80s. Topics, such as rape, suicide, parental death and murder became popular topics that were recurring themes in products for children and young adults. The wealth of this fiction can also be found in their formats: from traditional books to graphic novels, light novels (published by chapters in magazines or online), mystery, cyberpunk, technothriller, fanfiction and videogame narratives. In the 21st century, diversity has been one of the most controversial topics. Social networks and interaction between readers and authors have fostered a discussion that affects the product and the creative process. The topic of representation of minority groups or cultures has been heavily debated, leading to severe consequences, such as the  cancellation of publications that have not been considered adequate depictions of the experience of certain minority or disadvantaged groups. Authors have received abuse and death threats too. This topic is not just an issue for famous authors. Platforms, such as Wattpad where authors can stay anonymous, have registered this type of interaction between authors and readers that express their opinion about the work, while it is being written or when the author makes it accessible. Generally, many authors explain that these interactions – also called beta readers – are welcome and that beta readers are normally very kind and constructive, but that you can obviously be vulnerable to less positive comments. On platforms, such as the one mentioned above, which works as a social network, you have the protection of moderators that can support you when comments are abusive.

In order to understand the complications of this type of creative milieu, you can read this article in English by Claire Hennessy, Irish YA author: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/ya-fiction-the-best-of-2020-1.4440478

Let us have a look at the characteristics that we can find in YA fiction as a general rule:

  • They use the first person narrator.
  • They can narrate in the present tense.
  • Orality and heteroglossia is present in the narrative.
  • One of the main topics deals with identity formation (Butlers & Reynolds: 251).

These features are changing constantly and cannot be looked at as general norms. For example, nowadays, with the extinction rebellion movement, there is a need to emphasize the climate crisis that we are living through. We have witnessed a surge in novels that deal with this reality, some of them as dystopias. Another prominent feature is that there seems to be an emphasis on the development of empathy. Because of the emotional baggage that we tend to lug around during that time of our life, many novels and/or videogames, as we saw in the previous section, have focused on the development of this emotional skill. In order to better understand and learn how to be in someone else’s shoes, we empathize with the main character of the fictional world or any other character in the narrative, where we have embarked on a adventure.

Given the importance of the narration in the first person, we will briefly refer to two types of narrators that we can meet, when creating this sort of fiction. What we want to learn is how to differentiate between the narrator that is the subject of perception – s/he who sees – and as speaker – s/he who speaks. Narrator identity is built by their actions and their words and it is very difficult to have an image of the narrator in a fictional world or it can be a personal experience. The narrator builds the world and it is their way of constructing, seeing and speaking about it. That is why, when we try to comprehend who this ‘teen’ narrator is in the first person, we must understand who they are (identity), how much they know (education), which point of view are they taking (position), when they narrate (life moment or history) and how they narrate (his engagement with the story) (Tabernero Salas, 158-9). In terms of developing empathic skills, the last feature (engagement) is extremely important:

  1. If we have a participating narrator, they engage with the story as a main character or secondary character.
  2. If we have a non-participative narrator, also called extradiegetic, they do not engage with the story as an observer and can be completely depersonalized.

Another interesting aspect could be the presence of more than one narrator. The functions of narrators are narrative (as they transmit the story), administrative (organization of the story), communicative (orientation and explanation), testimonial (manifests its relationships with action if there is any), and one of the most interesting ones, ideological function (we see it in the comments that the narrator makes as they position themselves or positions us to see them).

YA literature in Spanish: The boom of the last few decades.

We are starting this part of the chapter with a podcast by three YA authors vindicating the status of YA literature in general:

Episode 21 (36 minutos): (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

According to the latest numbers, YA and children’s literature is by far the best selling fiction, but the names of the authors are not recognized, as it can be mixed in with adult fiction. Authors, such as César Barceló has sold more than 600.000 copies of his novel, Las Lágrimas de Shiva. The following are usually mentioned among the classics of YA Spanish literature: Campos de Fresa by Jordi Sierra i Fabra, which deals with drug addictions:

David Vallejo describes the book


Nada by Carmen Laforet in 1945, which deals with a young girl during the post-war period:

Corazón de Papel with illustrations by Carol Medina:


or Relato de un Náufrago by Gabriel García Márquez:

Summary of this book


This boom has generated many writers, who produce very different texts and audiovisual materials that we use, to get a general and global idea of what is currently cooking in YA literature in Spanish. In this article, you will be introduced to some of these authors with very interesting works available:


An example is Begoña Oro, who was born in Zaragoza and writes for children and YA with a romantic and realistic approach. She has won many awards: el premio Artes y Letras de Literatura Infantil in 2108, el premio Lazarillo de álbum illustrated by Paloma Corral and premio Jaén with a scientist Alberto J. Schuhmacher for Tú tan cáncer y yo tan virgo.

This is a review of this book, written by a young reader:



Her YA novel Pomelo y limón won el premio Gran Angular in 2011, given by the publisher SM, and el premio Hache in 2012, selected by more than 1000 young adults. Croquetas y wasaps is one of the most famous novels and it was included in the best 10 YA books in 2013 in El País. After a trip to Miami, she wrote ¡Buenas noches, Miami!, which was awarded the Premio Eurostars Narrativa de Viajes in 2014. Some or her works have been translated into German, Catalan, Korean, Euskera, Lithuanian, Portuguese and soon Turkish and Persian.

Promo Croquetas y Wasaps:


Presentatión of Pomelo y Limón:


Explanation by Begoña Oro about her creative process and the impact of Pomelo y Limón:


Nando López, born in Barcelona, but has roots in the South, has a PhD in Hispanic Philology and has worked in the publishing world and as a postprimary teacher. Amongst his narratives and plays, these titles can be found: Nunca pasa nada (Antígona, 2019), #malditos16 (2017), La edad de la ira (2017), Los amores diversos (2016), Federico hacia Lorca, co-authored with Irma Correa & Barro, De mutuo desacuerdo (Antígonai2015) Cuando fuimos dos (Ed. Ñaque, Madrid, 2012), Tour de force (Ed. Antígona, Madrid, 2011), El sexo que sucede (Ed. AAT, Madrid, 2005), Darwin dice (published by Ed. Anagnórisis in 2012, directed by Simon Breden and performed by Vaivén Teatro), Saltar sin red (directed and performed by Ainhoa Amestoy), Distrito Cabaret (performed by El Hambre at Festival Madrid Sur) or Tres formas de lenguaje (directed by Aitana Galán) (Wikipedia). As a novelist, his first novel, In(h)armónicos won the national award Joven y Brillante 97. His next novel, La edad de la ira, was the third finalist in Premio Nadal (2010). This novel deals with homosexuality in adolescence and is set in a school. At the moment, they are working on an adaptation for TV with the Atresmedia Premium channel.

Review of la Edad de la Ira:


His novel La inmortalidad del cangrejo (Baile del Sol, 2013) appears on the list of best homosexual novels in recent Spanish literature that is put together by Encubierta magazine, together with works from Susana HernándezÓscar EsquiviasÓscar Hernández Campano & Roberto Enríquez. He was selected to participate and tell his story «Nunca en septiembre» in an anthology of gay Spanish authors Lo que no se dice (Dos Bigotes, 2014). Besides the teenage LGBTQI community, this story focuses on bullying because of gender issues.

In March 2020 he published Hasta nunca, Peter Pan and we should also mention his trip into crime fiction with Cuando todo era fácil & El sonido de los cuerpos. His work is so extensive that we cannot include everything he has published so far, but you can look it up on his webpage https://nandolopez.es/biografia/

Interview with Nando about his last novel:


He has written comical essays about his job as a secondary school teacher, such as Dilo en voz alta y nos reímos todos and a sequel, En casa me lo sabía.

Beatriz Osés García is a Spanish language and Literature teacher in Madrid. Her narrative is characterized by antiheroic main characters, her sense of humour and suspense with paranormal nuances and elements from crime fiction. There are mystery and peculiar characters in her plots and she also dabbles with travel literary elements. Another aspect that features in her style is her linguistic precision to refer to complex worlds that daily routines inhabit. She has been granted several awards but we will only highlight here el premio de Novela Juvenil la Brújula for cuentanubes in 2021. She was a finalist in premio Les Mordus du Polar 2017 for Erik Vogler: Los crímenes del rey blanco and also for el Premio Nacional for El columpio de Madame Brochet (2018) and lastly, the renowned Premio Barco de Vapor for Los escribidores de cartas (2019) and for Un bosque en el aire (2021).  Her entire bibliography is on her website https://es.literaturasm.com/autor/beatriz-oses-garcia#gref

The author explains the character Erik Vogler:


Beatriz speaks about Bosque en el Aire:


Victoria Álvarez is another young novelist from Salamanca, who has also been granted several awards. Her specialization is historic novels and some of the titles she has written include: Hojas de dedalera (2011), Las Eternas (2012), Tu nombre después de la lluvia (in 2014), which is the first book from «Dreaming Spires», that as Laura Tarraga says, has enthused her readership. The series follows with Contra la fuerza del viento (2015) and El sabor de tus heridas (2016) closes her trilogy. In this link, produced by Laura Tárraga, you can see a complete list of her works: https://www.lauratarraga.com/victoria-alvarez/

Review of la Voz de Amunet:


In Tarraga’s podcast (including video), she chats with Victoria to point out the key features in a historic novel:


Fantasy revisited and reinvented: Laura Gallego, Javier Ruescas, Iria & Selene and Haizea Zubieta.


Laura Gallego is a Spanish author focused on fantastic fiction. In 1999, she won premio El Barco de Vapor for Finis Mundi, a medieval novel. Three years later she won again with La leyenda del Rey Errante. She has twenty-seven novels and some children’s books, with a million books sold in Spain alone and translated into sixteen languages, among which we can quote English, French, German and Japanese. She started writing at 11 years of age and publishing at 21.

Memorias de Idhun is her most popular trilogy and in 2020 it was adapted for a web TV series, produced by Zeppelin TV and broadcasted on Netflix.


(first season trailer) (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

The second season came out in January 2021, based on la Revelación. Unfortunately at that point, the Twitter account for this writer confirmed that Netflix had cancelled the series after two seasons, due to the lack of agreement with the platform.

With more than a million books sold, this trilogy (which is in fact 5 books) focuses on the life of three young adults, Jack, Victoria & Kirtash, whose destiny it is to change the fate of Idhún forever, due to the prophecy that the six dictated. There were going to be six books: BúsquedaRevelaciónDespertarPredestinaciónConvulsión & Génesis, but the publisher and author agreed on condensing every two books into one. It has a total of 2259 pages. In 2009, it became a graphic novel and was published twice a year, once in spring and again in autumn.

Javier Ruescas is an author from Madrid and he is a YouTuber. His first novel was the trilogy of Cuentos de Bereth (Versátil, 2009). In 2009, after several rejections from companies, he published Encantamiento de luna, the first part of the trilogy. In 2010, he got el premio Literatura Joven awarded by III Feria del Libro de la Sierra Oeste in Madrid. In the same year, he published Cuentos de Bereth II: La maldición de las musas y Tempus Fugit, ladrones de almas (Alfaguara). In 2011, Cuentos de Bereth III: Los versos del destino came out. His most reknown work came out in 2013, Play. He has collaborated with Francesc Miralles to publish Pulsaciones. In 2015, he started the trilogy Electro, together with Manu Carbajo, and its sequel, Aura, which also came out in 2015. The final book, Némesis, was published in 2016. He is one of the founders of the digital magazine for YA fiction El templo de las mil puertas. In 2013, he was selected to be a member of the Spanish hub Global Shapers, the biggest network, made up of fewer than 30 leaders from around the world, created by World Economic Forum. He is the administrator of the website crepusculo-es.com, dedicated to Twilight, and nowadays, he’s a well known booktuber with more than 276 000 subscribers on his channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/ruescasj (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

The authors describes his novel Play:


A reader reads the first part of Tempus Fugit:


Iria G. Parente & Selene M. Pascualare are two writers whose work is devoted to YA literature in Spanish. They have authored the Marabilia saga (Nocturna, 2015-2019), the trilogy of Secretos de la luna llena (La Galera, 2016-2018), Rojo y oro (Alfaguara, 2017), Antihéroes (Nocturna, 2018), the biology of El dragón y el unicornio (2019-2020), Alma y los siete monstruos (Nube de tinta, 2020) and the Olympus (2020-), as they describe themselves on their wepage. Brave as they are, they have created worlds together and they are especially apt at creating diverse characters in order to amplify the kind of voices that are found in the current literary milieu. https://creandoentredos.com/

Their work is mostly fantasy and it develops further into this prolific domain in Spanish literature at the moment.

Trailer Antiheroes:


Review Antiheroes:


We shall focus on the reading of one of the stories they offer for free on their webpage, as an ending to their Antiheroes, in which they talk about the surprise that Alicia gets from her friends. Since this character can read minds, it is not easy to surprise her: https://creandoentredos.com/2020/02/14/relato-feliz-cumpleanos/

Haizea Zubieta appears as a creator of stories on her webpage. She has been publishing novels since 2019, starting with Infinitas, and in 2020, Tocar el cielo. In 2021, she published a third novel about a Third World War in Spain, called Tres. Her dystopian novels are clearly urban and filled with interesting depictions of interesting depictions of gloomy futures https://haizeamzubieta.wixsite.com/autora

Let us listen to the novelist talking about her first work in this interview:


In order to understand the impact of her last novel, let us listen to this review of Tres


We will have a taste of her fresh and direct style in this free story titled ‘Te Veo’ appearing on https://www.editorialcerbero.com/teveo/ (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

With this very brief trip into YA literature, through some of the most significant contemporary authors in Spain, I wanted to showcase the variety of genres and format and the extraordinary quality of the writers, which not only sell a lot but have conquered the hearts and minds of their audiences and expanded the fictional worlds in their readers’ imaginations. We have not even dipped our toes into the ocean that separates us from the new world of publishers in the Spanish speaking world beyond Spain, because if we dived in we would never end this little journey. However, we may repay that debt in another module or in another book, and delve into the YA fictional worlds in Spanish on both sides of the Atlantic.

We have also left aside the world of series and films destined for youths or starring young adults because we do not have any more time and space in this module, but we will have some suggestions in class and here are some references, so you can start exploring this domain when you have the time.


Genette. G. (1998) Nuevo Discurso del Relato, Madrid, Cátedra.  Available in English in the Hardiman library at 808.0141 GEN as Narrative Discourse Revisited, this book introduces all the technical words you need, to refer to each aspect of the creation of a fictional world.

Tabernero Salas, R. (2005) Nuevas y viejas formas de contar. El discurso narrativo infantil en los umbrales del siglo XXI, Zaragoza: Prensas universitarias de Zaragoza. Chapter 3 focuses on the human agents inside and outside the book and is very interesting to deeply understand how to build/create in children’s and YA literature.

Laura Tárraga Podcast – YA literature for writers (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC) : https://open.spotify.com/show/6A726erC1nMokH3JurWrkt. Episode 48 is very interesting as they touch on the cultural issue of writing about a foreign country and episode 29 is about how to write for different ages, episode 25 speaks about how to be a writer on Wattpad by Andrea Smith, episode 6 is with David Orión and discusses how to write a trans character and episode 2 focuses on mental health in YA literature with Beatriz Esteban.

Beatriz Osés Podcast (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC) –https://open.spotify.com/episode/3lb0fJi8a4T2mhinEe37ft

Another podcast we recommend a lot is Genre Breaker (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)https://open.spotify.com/show/4WrPoblhu2fV6FqyUzpKf5 especially episode 3 as it speaks about the importance of YA literature in the deconstruction of patterns and norms.

As we do not have time to cover everything, and we have left terror fiction uncovered, we recommend it to you and there is a link here, in case you want to read through it during the summer, (writer Laura Tejada): https://contactolauratejada.carrd.co/

I would also like you to read an article about the type of readers and the amount of them that are available in Spain and that love this type of fiction https://www.eldiario.es/cultura/libros/fandom-entregado-literatura-juvenil-espana_1_8300489.amp.html?__twitter_impression=true&s=09


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