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Three book covers of MG and YA books.

Exploring Common Themes and Evolving Genres in MG and YA Literature

Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.         ~ Angie Thomas


Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live. ~ Natalie Babbit

It can feel daunting and also exhilarating to keep up with the ever evolving themes in MG and YA literature. Below are a selected few that have held the test of time but are in no way a comprehensive list.

Middle grade and young adult literature popular themes listed with a smattering of MG and YA novels.

Evolving Genres

What type of stories do your students like to read? Genres give students a way to explain what they enjoy reading and also help them find similar types of stories or storytelling. Every genre has particular parameters that MG and YA authors are expected to adhere to, but in recent years, authors have pushed those boundaries and new categories or sub-categories of MG and YA have emerged. Let’s take a look at the Science Fiction genre.

Science Fiction

Who doesn’t love a little scientific innovation? Within the genre are several sub-categories of text including hard and soft science fiction, cyberpunk, steampunk, apocalyptic, and more. But just because a student likes The 5th Wave doesn’t mean they will enjoy Ashes of Twilight. Why, they are both apocalyptic stories? The answer lies in the type of apocalyptic story they tell. The former is an alien invasion story, while the latter focuses on civil rebellion. There are other categories of apocalyptic stories including environmental disasters and zombies. Who knew the world has so many ways to end?

Other MG and YA genres are similarly diverse in their storytelling, so make sure you ask students what it is that they like about the novel they are reading before you suggest another book. The more they tell you about what they enjoy about the story or storytelling, the easier it will be for you to suggest specific titles.  

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Themed Booklists

Our themed booklists will help you find books that appeal to all kinds of readers, including kids who are reluctant to read for fun. 

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Motivation and Engagement

Blending Multiple Genres in Theme Baskets

The theme-basket concept of literature instruction combines several approaches known to work with marginalized readers, students with learning disabilities, and ELLs.

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