Since you obsessively refresh my page every hour to see if I’ve updated wordcount-o-meter (no, it’s okay, there’s no shame in admitting it), you must be well aware that I am now racing (inching) with glorious swiftness (agonising lethargy) towards finishing this draft of Castor. In a fit of wild optimism, I even suggested to myself that I could get it done within the next two days. This was before I’d had breakfast, though, and anything I say pre-breakfast should be regarded as the rantings of a crazy man.
Naturally, I’ve been procrastinating. I know, I’m shocked too.
See, I’ve been thinking I should read more contemporary YA. Mostly it’s because a lot of recent genre YA has been…uh, not to my tastes, but also because I sort of skipped contemporary YA when I was a teenager. I was under the ridiculous impression that it was all either mushy hyper-sanitised romantic comedies or hilariously over the top Issues Novels where Someone Dies and also the main character Learns An Important Lesson. Crazy, right?
Looking through lists of contemporary novels on Goodreads, I’ve started to notice an odd trend in the kinds of titles these books tend to get. Other people have already pointed out that a bizarre number of PNR/dystopian YA that follow the ‘one word adjective’ school of titling, but I figure I can still ruin contemporary titles for everyone. (If you don’t believe me about the dystopian title thing, try to guess which of the following one-word titles are real and which I just made up. Answers at the end of the post! 1:Entangled 2:Scored 3:Spellbound 4:Deserted 5:Starcrossed 6:Glitched 7:Matched 8:Enshrined 9:Luminous 10:Warped.)
There are some similar trends in contemporary. Or, hell, maybe they’re not ‘trends’. Maybe this has been going on for decades and I’m only just noticing it. Either way, I’m going to do the blog equivalent of pointing at it while raising my eyebrows suggestively.
Title Category The First: ANGST. METRIC TONNES OF TEENAGE ANGST
(I was going to use actual titles for this, but that’s probably the kind of thing I should stop doing if I don’t want agents to find something horrifying when they Google my name. So instead of real examples, you’re getting cop-out fake examples. Enjoy!)
You probably know what I’m talking about here. These are usually long-ish titles that suggest teenage romance, tragedy (cancer! car crashes! estranged/dead parents! ANGST!) and bittersweet endings. They practically write themselves: What Happened After, The End of Us, Why I Left. (I’m just assuming none of those are real. Please don’t tell me if they are.)
This kind of title walks a pretty fine line. When I was a teenager, I would practically break out in hives at anything that suggested a book might contain teenage relationship BS. See, I already thought teenage relationship BS was a big pile of teenage relationship BS, mostly because
I was just that mature I was two years older than most of the people in my class at school and also an asocial git. Yes, I get that teenagers are all jacked up on hormones and everything that happens to them is THE END OF THE WORLD and ugh. Seriously, I get it. Reading about it just never appealed to me when I was that age.
That’s not to say that these titles can’t work, of course. You just have to accept that some assholes are going to draw unfair conclusions about your book based solely on what you decided to call it.
Title Category β: Long and Odd and Kind of Cheesy
These are also really popular among certain general fiction authors. I will never understand why.
These were teenage-Sean’s kryptonite. To be honest, though, I can’t really complain too much about this, since it’s one of those title conventions that exists to tell readers that they’re looking at a certain kind of book; it’s really not the publisher’s fault if you just don’t like that certain kind of book.
For some reason, these books tend to be particularly well-represented in awards shortlists. Maybe the judges only consider titles with a minimum number of independent clauses? Who knows!
Title Category #3: [Verbing] [Girl's Name]
Catching Julia. Saving
Private Ryan Gloria Ashfield. Finding Jane.
Once again: all made up, or so I hope. I don’t really have anything to say about this one except to point out that it exists and is kind of hackneyed by now. (There are some interesting variations on it, though. I always thought Like Mandarin was a cool title because it conveys this interesting sense of ambiguity.)
Title Category This-Post-Is-Getting-Too-Long: Rom Com-a-riffic
Light, fluffy, usually plastered across an offensively pastel cover. Like with the ‘quirky’ titles, these ones signal to the reader that they’re holding a particular kind of book. If you don’t like that kind of book, they are definitely Not For You.
And there you have the sum total of my first Contemporary YA research expedition. Next time I might get around to reading some contemporary YA. It’s going to be exciting, I’m sure.
(Quiz Answer: They’re all real except for ‘Enshrined’. Several of them were supposed to be fake, but then I checked Goodreads and realised that someone had actually used them. And yes, I am aware that my own book has a one-word title.)