A couple weeks ago, I had a short conversation with a mutual on Twitter about Quiet YA, which only reminded me of how much I love the books that fall under that umbrella and how many of my favourite happen to fall underneath it so I started wondering, why do I love Quiet YA so much? But first and foremost, what is Quiet YA?
Quiet YA are YA books with low stakes, meaning no end of the world, no crumbling governments, no big plots involving…well…involving huge stakes. It doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t have anything substantial, but rather that the substantial part ends up being a personal stake, something that in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that big but is big to the character. They’re often books that end up being more character than plot driven.
Now, slightly related to this, but while I was preparing to write this post, I discovered that some people mean underrated books when they say “Quiet YA” – especially since it was coined by the #QuietYA blog – which led me to doing some research
(and by that I mean, literally asking on Twitter) and I found that it’s a 50/50 case, some use it for the former and others for the latter. And I do understand that to some extent because because a lot of the time low stakes book end up being underrated, but thing is, not all underrated books are low stake books, so it can’t be used interchangeably…do you see where my problem is? THAT BEING SAID, to each their own but for the purpose of this post Quiet YA = Low stakes books.
Why do i love them? A love letter to Quiet YA
They’re often character driven stories
And if you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you know those tend to be my favourites. Nothing pulls at my heart strings more than a well crafted character with depth, flaws, emotions and complexity that go beyond being a hero or a villain, good or bad. And yes, these exist even in plot driven stories but I love when the story focuses on them, their ambitions, their emotions, their aspirations, their personal journeys, etc… it’s actually through this specific taste in books I have that I discovers that deep (very deep) down I’m an emotional person and a sucker for stories that are emotionally challenging that push me (or the main character) to dig inside me and poke at some raw nerves and broach sensitive topics.
They’re deeply human
If you think about it, if you strip people to their barest forms, if you take off the layers of appearances, the way they dress, the way they present themselves to you, what they choose to show, what they choose to hide, every assumption you have of them, what do you have left? You’re left with who they are as a person, bare and exposed and I think that books that do all that, that show you a character’s biggest vulnerabilities, their secret hopes, their dreams and the ways in which they hope to attain them, their feelings, traumas, their relationships, etc… show you both the best in human nature and the worst. And everything else in between. And it makes them approachable, it makes them real.
It makes them relatable
This is the biggest thing with Quiet YA stories, what makes them so valuable. Maybe not every Quiet YA book out there will be relatable to every person out there but I know that many of us can see at least *small* parts of us in quite a few of these books. Even when the parallel isn’t perfect, there’s always this one quote, one sentence, one paragraph, that makes you feel seen and understood, it makes you feel less alone in the vastness of the universe. And sometimes it’s more than a quote, it’s feelings, events, and things the characters are going through, sometimes it even feels like the book was a direct excerpt from the story of your life, and I don’t know about you…but nothing feels better than being told “hey, you’re not alone, maybe things are not okay now, maybe not for a little while but they will be”.
There’s also the fact that realistically speaking, we aren’t all bringing down systems, fighting monsters and overthrowing governments but we all have our daily lives, daily struggles, internal battles and Quiet YA books tend to reflect that, that even though whatever the character -and you by extension- is dealing with might not be the end of the world technically but it might feel like*your* world is coming down around you and that’s as valid, it’s not dramatic and you shouldn’t just suck it up because there are bigger issues, you do whatever you gotta do and take the time you gotta take to work through them.
They make you feel things
I am one huge sucker for emotional reads. If you go through all my favourite books, ALL of them have made me feel some type of way, no exceptions made. And I don’t mean shock or fear or… I mean they’ve made me feel unfiltered joy, heartbreak, sadness, anger, etc… and usually it’s a mix of all of the above and more. I need books with which I can engage emotionally, books that break down my barriers and make me feel something, anything, with the sheer intensity of the sun (hyperbolic but you know what I mean). I don’t know what this says about me, but I apparently I like to have my heart stomped over and over again by literature.
I think that I’m rambling and not making any sense at this point, but one thing I did right in this post, is I went on Twitter
(again) after word vomiting and asked people why they love Quiet YA and these are some of the awesome replies I got:
“Even in books with huge, world-ending stakes, I think it’s the quiet, personal stakes that really make the story and its characters compelling. I like Quiet YA because it focuses on those deeply personal, human, relatable stakes. ” Priyanka Taslim – @bhootbabe.
“What I appreciate about Quiet YA is its ability to make the ordinary extraordinary. Victories and defeats feel specific to the main character. Personal. It’s not as black & white as good and evil, saving the world, etc. It zooms in and magnifies the everyday, the mundane. And what Quiet YA does oh so well is make those every day realities feel ENORMOUS. Even if it’s not the end of the world, it could be the end of *someone’s* world – a friendship, a relationship, A Big Change like Babe’s [her main character] for example.” – Lillie Vale, author of Small Town Hearts – @LillieLabyrinth
“I love Quiet YA because I tend to see myself in and relate to them more. I’m never going to save my entire society, against evil, or have a super dramatic emotional arc in my own life. I love Quiet YA stories for magnifying the value, beauty and emotion of the everyday.” Taylor Tracy – @tayberryjelly
“I love Quiet YA because the most low-stakes events and the most intimate feelings are sometimes the most disruptive and life-changing. You don’t have to save a whole country in order to grow up, you just have to save yourself over and over in the most mundane way.” Léa – @WHNapologies
All of this to say that Quiet YA is amazing, and deeply connected to who we are as people. And if you ask me, it’s quite frankly necessary and it has played an integral part in shaping me into the person I am today. I fee like every Quiet YA book I’ve read and loved has left just the littlest imprint on my heart, some have left something bigger, but bottom line is when I look back to the person I was a few years back, before I discovered these books, she’s nothing like who I am today. These are the books I go to when I’m looking for a safe haven or the complete opposite. When I’m looking for healing, for comfort, for validation, understanding, love, or even catharsis, I know where to look. I know they will deliver.
Some Quiet YA books I adore
book title = goodreads page
- Running with Lions by Julian Winters – Bisexual soccer boy tries reconnecting with his childhood best friend and they fall for each other. This also deal with body image issues and it’s so soft and pure. I just love how wholesome this book is, it made my heart grow ten sizes.
- The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum – Unlikely friendship turned romance between two sapphic space nerds. Has found family components as well. I still struggle explaining just how much this book made me feel but know that I’ll treasure it forever (review)
- Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale – Small beach town girl has to deal with life changing events like a best friend break up, the return of the girl who broke her heart and falling in love with a summer boy. Every time I think of this book, I get a warm safe feeling that I wish could last forever (review)
- A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti – A girl who processes her grief and trauma the only way she knows to: by running across the country. Shows that healing is not linear in the slightest. This book made my angry cry and sad cry multiple times while commuting and listening to the audiobook. (review)
- How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake – Two girls fall for each other while one is being emotionally abused by her mother and the other is grieving hers. Explores friendship and found family too. This book absolutely tore me apart each time I read it, for a different reason each time but it also made me hopeful and I adore it. (review)
- Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram – A teenage boy who struggles with depression goes to visit his family in Iran for the first time and befriends the neighbor’s kid. Dives into family bonds, friendship and dealing with a mental illness in such a honest way that it left me yearning for more. (review)
- Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – A girl finding herself away from everything she’s familiar with, her place with her family and friends and maybe even a bit of romance with a dimpled boy. I read this a couple years ago and it stuck with me ever since. (review)
- We Are Okay by Nina Lacour – A girl grieving, and dealing with crushing depression all on her own after shutting everyone out and her journey towards accepting help from the people who love her. This…This gem left me silently crying into my pillow well into the night, it simultaneously left my heart feeling full and hollow. (review)
- Like Water by Rebecca Podos – After her father’s diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a small town girl refuses to make any future plans, up until new person shows up in town, breaks down her barriers and challenges her more than she’s really ready for. This book is messy and real and so so so worth it. (review)
- When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – A trans boy and the girl he’s in love with who also happens to be his best friend try to find themselves in a world that doesn’t necessarily welcome them as well as how they fit in each other’s lives. This is one of the softest, most gorgeous books I have ever read in my life and everyone needs to pick it up. (review)
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan – After he mom dies by suicide, the MC has to navigate grief, guilt and her heritage that she is a bit disconnected from when she flies to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time, all while she sees her mom in the form of a bird. The way this book navigates depression and grief and family bonds hits the mark like no other book. (review)
- Girls made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – A snow white meets Frozen retelling where the queen believes herself unlovable and incapable of love, only catch is that her step-daughter whom she adores loves her as well. The two of them navigate their love for each other as well as the rivalry that arises with the being royalty. And listen, the complicated love between these two is strong and unbreakable and it’s really rare to find platonic love crafted so well. (review)
Most of this list is contemporary, only the three last ones are speculative and out of the three only the last is proper Fantasy which makes me a bit sad because I would love to read more SFF Quiet YA which I know there are some I haven’t read and have yet to find but I just wish more existed.
That’s it until next time.
What are some things you love about Quiet YA?
Recommend me some of your favourite Quiet books!
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.