Ms. Kepner’s Teen Storytelling Class from Kealing Middle School recently spent the day at BookPeople with YA Specialist, Shannon, talking about what makes a YA book great and some of their favorite stories. Here’s what the class had to say about what they find most important in a YA book!



What are the most important qualities of a YA book?


A great Young Adult book needs special and important qualities. The First thing a YA book needs is a good description of the characters and their backstory. It also needs a topic that teens will love. I like books that take the character – and us – on an amazing journey. I also enjoy when the author writes the book with different perspectives; it gives me a better look at the other characters as well. These are the most important qualities I look for in a YA book.

-Adolfo A.


YA books are set apart from other types of books in that they need to hold the attention of the reader, most of which are teens. YA books need to be compelling and fast-paced; we have short attention spans. If the book is too slow, we’ll get bored and stop reading.

In addition to being structurally good for teens, the content has to be something we’ll want to read. Most books for teens are about teens and the struggles they suffer through. It’s important for us to be able to see that others understand how we feel. We need to see characters that we can relate to, finding solace in the worlds outside our own and comfort in the commonalities.

Teens are at a really vulnerable point at this stage in life, and they need to know that even if they feel alone, it’s not the end of the world. There are still wonderful things in the world, and no matter how much despair they might feel, there are people out there reading the same books as you, feeling the same things. The books that teens cling to for normalcy need be enjoyable AND helpful to connect themselves with others. It’s the fandoms that help shape the YA world. Armies of kids rallying over a world that someone made up? That’s pretty special. It’s good for teens to see their own world in another. That way, we can relate to the characters in the story and the people in the real world who appreciate them too.

-Lucy S.


In young adult literature, one important characteristic is humor. This is important because many young adults find humor a way to connect to the book, it makes it more realistic and relatable. In hard times, humor can really help teens. It’s important to incorporate that when the characters are in a tough situation so that they can relate to it more. It’s also important that YA books include realistic aspects. Teens tend to like the books that reflect what they’re going through, because that can help them. Even if it’s a magical book, having elements of reality are super important for the reader.

-Anna S.


There are many important qualities in young adult books. One of these qualities is the setting. I think that in order for young adults to be interested in books there must be an interesting time and place. That could be something relatable like a normal school setting, or it could be something that is completely different from our normal lives, like a different country.

Another important quality is the problems and issues that the characters face. They must be things that young adults experience, like school challenges, family issues, conflict with friends, etc. These are themes that readers can relate to, so they are easier to imagine what the character might be facing.

-Maddie B.


YA books reflect the lives of teenagers and young adults, so the qualities of a great YA book should reflect the conflicts they face in life. Since teenagers are about to take on the adult life, protagonists in books should also face most of the same problems. Also, if great books relate to real teen life and encourage the readers to stay strong, the readers will not feel so lonely, as if they don’t have anyone in life to help them with their problems. Great YA books also include romance (just to make it interesting).

-Elizabeth L-C


In my opinion, the most important quality of a great YA book is creating relatable themes and situations that a younger audience can turn to. During the teenage years, teens will begin to face more adult issues. It is important that they can learn from these at a younger age, to carry these lessons into adulthood. Most likely, teens won’t be able to directly connect to an experience just like in The Hunger Games, but the idea of doing anything for your family (like Katniss did in that series) is a theme that might connect with a lot of people.

-Megan F.


Young adult literature novels have a lot of different characteristics that make them so interesting. One of the main traits is the ability to relate to the characters and story. In most books there is a character that you can relate to, and that is a very important aspect of young adult novels. Another important quality of young adult literature is that they have to catch and hold a young person’s attention so, as an author, you would have to know and understand what teenagers like in a story. An exciting first chapter is crucial in a person’s interest in the story.

-Claire G.


The most important qualities in young adult books are realistic life issues, romance, and life lessons or morals. These qualities can help young adults through depression and unfairness, guiding them in a way to learn how to act and respond. These lessons could have the power to keep teenagers from making poor or fatal decisions. The romance and life issues could make them feel like they are not alone in trial and error. Overall, the stories could add joy into their lives.

-Gella A.


There are many important qualities that make up a great young adult book. One of them is that it has to have relatable and interesting scenes for young adults. Right now, young adults have romantic drama, parties, friends, secrets, and the realization that they are finally reaching adulthood. If you want to write an awesome YA book, you need to put it in circumstances that will remind the readers about their own lives. Books that relate to your life and remind you of events that happened to you make it much more interesting! Also, you need to put in problems that happen to young adults today. You should incorporate bullying, peer pressure, school pressure, and troubles with relationships. When you put these in, teens feel more connected to the plot of the book and the book in general.

-Isa L.


In my opinion the most important qualities of a great young adult novel (or novella) would be a short climax for each chapter, eventually building up to the climax of the whole book. I also like interesting character(s), and a brief-but-descriptive writing style. These traits give the reader a feel for the book without protracting it.

-Daniel B.


Important qualities of YA book can vary, but they all connect somehow. The first quality I personally think of is parental problems; in most YA books the connection between child and parents is significant. Secondly, there should be relationship/friend dilemmas. And lastly, there should rarely be an all-happy outcome. What I mean by that dramatic cliffhangers and unhappier endings keep the reader coming back for more. I also think that good stories build conflict, leading the characters to a resolution.

-Sofia R.


I think the most important qualities of a YA book are that the book reflects a young adult’s feelings and experiences, as well as offering a realistic depiction of teen life. I believe these qualities are important as they allow a young adult to connect with the character and therefore the book. When given characters years older or younger than ourselves, it can be hard to find a common ground. Kid’s books seem too young, and adult books feature situations we have yet to go through. This leads us to turn to YA literature, which commonly focuses on teens in high school, and while we might not yet be at that point in our lives, it’s only a few short years away. These books help us to navigate the world.

-Cezi R-S


In my eyes, good young adult books share several important qualities. These qualities make me feel like I am in the book with the main character, not reading the book on the sideline. I love to dive into books that have heaps of details and plot twists. When an author uses many details, I know what the character is feeling, and what they are seeing and hearing. When authors uses plot twists, I end up yelling at the main character, as if I am right next to them.

-Kristin S.


Young adult literature books, in my opinion are the hardest to write. The teen community has lots of attributes that authors have to compensate for because young adults have a short attention span and keeping the book moving is the most important part. Among keeping the book moving, authors also have to think about ways to connect the characters in the book to the readers by taking situations in the real world and inserting them somehow into the book. Some of these qualities include young love, identity struggle, friendship bonds, trouble in opening up about themselves, action, and more. These factors, in my opinion, are the better qualities of a YA book.

-Ava D.


In my opinion, the most important part of a YA book is that the book deals with issues and problems that teenagers face. Also, YA books teach adolescents about the world beyond their community. With YA books, teenagers have the opportunity talk about literature that they could probably relate to.

-Karen P-L


The three most important elements of a young adult book are romance, tragedy, and adventure. Romance is a very important part of every young adult novel because it is something many teenagers deal with during their young adulthood. It’s a huge part of life that many teenagers fantasize about, so it’s very captivating to read about. Tragedy is interesting because teens can see what it is like to go through struggles and difficulty that they might face, and how the characters deal with those problems. Last, but certainly not least, is adventure. To me, adventure is the most important part of any young adult novel whether it is emotional or physical because a young adult’s life may seem boring and plain, but with this element they can live a more adventurous life through reading.

-Olivia G-E


The most important qualities of a YA book are the elements of surprise, betrayal, danger, sacrifice, and love. Surprise makes the reader want to learn more about what happened. If you add in betrayal, it makes the reader angry and worried about what happens next.  Danger makes the reader fear for the protagonist and it keeps the reader nervous. With sacrifice, it can make readers sad and in some cases, really grieve for that character. When you put in love, it makes the reader happy and emotional and, if it is at the end of the book, relieved in some cases.

-Kaleb A.


The most important quality of a great YA book would be the plot. Without an interesting or developed plot, even if the story has a lot of other good qualities, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. Part of the reason I like the books I do is because the author keeps you stuck to it, wanting to know what happens next. Another quality that makes a great YA book is the sentence structure. Complex sentences complete the book. They sound really smooth and connected compared to short and choppy sentences.

-Morgan P.


A great YA book has characters that we can relate to. It also usually has an aspect of romance, even if it is only a tiny bit. Most have an aspect of a different world, but many also take place in the real world. Real world problems that teens would have also draw teens to read a book. Another important component of great YA literature is the author understanding the situations the readers are in.

-Claire W.


As good as young adult literature is, there are some very distinct qualities that go along with that. One of them would be comedy. Every teenager loves to laugh! When reading, we imagine ourselves in the world with the characters the author has created, laughing at their jokes and at their misadventures; this is one of the best things I like in a book.

Another important quality in young adult literature is imagery. Establishing a setting, a world, a base for your favorite character, is very important in the sense that the reader has to be able to imagine the story happening in his or her own head.

-Hannah C.


The most vital qualities that Young Adult literature requires is many fantastic elements that could range from action to fantasy to romance. What a book truly needs is the ability to captivate the reader’s interest. Teens often deal with real world problems every day, and so their literature majorly reflects those concepts. Common genres of YA include action or adventure, a utopia or dystopia setting or plot, fantastical elements, magic, mythology, mystery, romance, and other fictional stories.

-Morgan W.


Young adult books need a lot of aspects to become successful. One of the most important qualities it needs to have is relatability for teens, like contemporary issues and problems. Young adult books are designed to make the reader feel emotions. Teens often feel alone, which is why dystopian books where someone’s situation is worse than yours are such a hit.

When the reader can relate it helps them get engrossed in the book, and provides another perspective the reader can compare with the main character and their situation. This makes them feel more interested in the book, getting closer to all the characters so that when events happen in the book, they have strong opinions about it. For example, someone who can relate to the book with their own life might feel strongly when a character dies, or have an opinion about the characters love life. That’s why you will see some common themes in young adult literature like romance because those topics are most relatable in a teen’s life.

-Miloni P.


There are many important qualities to a great young adult book. One important quality is that most of the issues are reflected in the typical life of a young adult, and while they read it, if they have experienced it, they should feel as if that book has been written to show the struggle. In other words, it allows readers to escape out of reality into fantasy, but in a way that is familiar. Similarly, it reveals the realities of life for young adults who may have not experienced this yet. It also introduces readers to unique diction and writing style that can be used as an example for their own writing.

-Savitha S.


The qualities that I think make a good YA book are issues teenagers have to deal with. I think the book should have a storyline with an explanation. And lastly, the book has to have characters that are really different. I think there should be issues that young adults deal with, because if there’s not then the book won’t really appeal to young adults, because they can’t relate to the book. The last main thing I think makes a good YA book is having a large diversity of characters, because in real life friend groups are usually filled with a lot of different people, and that would make the book even more realistic.

-Shania N.


It seems like new YA novels are being released as faster than you can say “dystopian,” and though I would like to think we live in a world where everyone can be a New York Times Bestselling Author, not all of us can be J.K. Rowling. To write a great Young Adult novel, there are a few key elements that you need to incorporate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending as much as the next girl, but I’m a sucker for a great love and a greater loss. A beautiful love story blooming like a flower in a crack in the cement, totally unexpected yet beautiful. Then a giant army boot comes in and crushes that flower under its black rubber heel. It creates interest and conveys challenges for a writer to put their character through and for a reader to watch them overcome. It makes for a great storyline and a need-to-know-more feeling that will keep the reader wanting to turn page after page.

Another thing that make for a fantastic YA story is the inexplicable satisfaction of an otherwise closed off or shy character stepping out of their comfort zone for the first time. Though I do love a good “The Main Character Is Super Shy and Dorky At First But VOILA! Now They Are In A Steamy Romance With A Gorgeous Yet Also Dorky Teen Boy And Miraculously Now They Are Doing Everything They’ve Ever Wanted To Do Ever In Their Entire LifeTM “ type story, they are incredibly far-fetched. Maybe the character with crippling anxiety tries to be more outgoing and reaches out to people about it; or the very closed-off character opens up about their mental health and home life in hopes to get some help; or maybe even the happy-go-lucky person is going through a hard time and they let down their sunshine-and-flowers-esque front because they can’t carry it all on their own while also pretending to be the happiest person ever. All of these make for great character development and an interesting journey within.

Obviously, there are many more, but these are things I love to see in a great Young Adult novel.

-Alli E.