About conjurors

I am a YA fantasy author who started this blog to share the unusual places I find inspiration for my writing, and to discuss with other artists how they find their muses. My first book of The Conjurors series, Into the Dark, is now available on Amazon.

2020 Cover Art Trends for Young Adult Fiction

The first thing you hear when you’re reading advice on how to make your self-published novel sell is to have a professional cover that fits into the genre you are writing for. But what’s left out of that advice is that cover trends change over time. Whether you’re ready to launch a new release or you’re looking to reinvigorate your backlist with a fresh new cover, it’s critical to be sure that you’re leveraging cover art that is appealing to the young adult audience of today (not five years ago).

Cover art contests are regularly run by several self-publishing sites, such as The Book Designer. These sites can be great resources for inspiration or to get visibility for your own book by entering your cover into one of the free contests. Another way to check the pulse of cover art is to look at best sellers in your genre to see what your audience is clicking on. It’s good to know what’s working, but also don’t be afraid to make your cover different so that it pops out at the reader who’s scrolling through dozens of books.

For the young adult audience, below are five key cover art trends in 2020 that are compelling readers to click “Buy”. Proof that they work? I know that I bought more than one of these titles because I had to see what was inside the pages.

Trend 1: Grabbing the eye by using grayscale with a pop of color

Example: Circus of the Dead by Kimberly Loth






Trend 2: As a variation on the example above, muted palettes are leveraged for a dreamy, fantastical appeal.

Example: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare






Trend 3: Intriguing readers with a glimpse of something beautiful and mysterious

Example: Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian






Trend 4: Pairing vibrant color and detailed graphics to make the viewer take a closer look.

Example: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace






Trend 5: Pairing opposites (like death and beauty) compels readers to take a second look

Example: The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz






What cover art tactics have you seen work well, either on your book or others?

Joan Undone Launches Today! (Book 2 – The Throwbacks Series)

I’m excited to announce that Joan Undone, the second book in my young adult sci-fi series, is now published on Amazon. If you pre-ordered it, you should already have it. If you want to pick it up now, click here. (You can also read the first chapter free here.)

Joan Undone is the second book in The Throwback Series. The first book, Joan the Made, tells the story of Joan Fasces’, who discovers that she is cloned from the famous Joan of Arc on her eighteenth birthday. But being cloned in America comes at a steep price. Segregated and oppressed, clones are forced to act as docile servants to the rest of the Evolved population. Joan can either run from her fate and spend the rest of her life in hiding, or she can join a Throwback rebellion populated by clones of the greatest leaders in history.

If you love edgy young adult fiction like Hunger Games, Ready Player One, or Divergent, give this series a try.

Joan Undone Book Description:
Throwback anger has been unleashed, and the streets of Seattle run with Evolved blood. Joan and her friends, who unwittingly helped ignite this violent uprising, know that they must be the ones to end it.

But stopping the momentum of a movement powered by rage and masterminded by one of the greatest villains in history may be more than even Joan can overcome. In order to stand a chance, Joan decides to temporarily join forces with Strand, the company responsible for institutionalizing oppression against the Throwback people.

With agendas and enemies on every side, Joan and her team must harness their ingenuity and learn to trust each other if they stand a chance of turning the tide of violence sweeping across their city.

Sneak Peek of Joan Undone

The second book in The Throwbacks Series, Joan Undone, will be live on Amazon May 29. You can buy it on pre-order now by clicking here. If you enjoyed Joan the Made, come check out the next stage of her epic adventure. I’ve posted the first chapter of Joan Undone below to get you ready!

Chapter 1

On a street in White Center that’s lined with crumbling buildings and overflowing trash cans, a small crowd of Throwback clones in worn clothes jostle each other with playful companionship, as if their favorite football team has won the Super Bowl. They are all streaked with the same war paint, which is spattered across their clothes and drying on their knuckles.

The light-hearted back-slapping and high-pitched laughter are at odds with the gruesome reality of the blood that stains the sidewalk bright red and rusty brown. It belongs to Windsom Carter, a politician who voted against Throwback rights. His motionless form is contorted, and large bruises disfigure his face. His utter stillness can only mean one thing. He’s dead.

It’s an effort to push back against a dizzy rush of emotions. The first time I’d seen someone beaten to death since this madness began, I cried, puked my guts up, and was awake for days. Now, I can catalog every detail of the scene that might be useful later, and stuff my horror, rage, and sadness down deep, to process at some future time when the world makes sense again.

Angry mobs of Throwbacks—often instigated by my ex-mentor Crew and his team of rebels—performing vigilante executions of those whose DNA has “evolved” is a reality of life in Seattle now. It began when the Evolved Seattle Police Department’s files were hacked a few weeks ago. Information from every case, open and closed, that passed through their doors became accessible to the public.

Data spilled across the web, and Throwbacks everywhere downloaded file after file, absorbing the magnitude of crimes that the Evolved had been allowed to perpetrate against Throwbacks in their city for years. Hundreds of rapes, beatings, robberies, and even murders had been buried or ignored by corrupt police officers. The streams of ones and zeros were analyzed and decoded, and the anger of Throwbacks everywhere—my people—ratcheted higher and higher.

Crew’s impassioned speeches and calls to action on his vlog became the highest-viewed vids in the country. His supporters even start wearing copies of his signature-style piece, a red armband that glows with embedded lights.

“In a victim-abuser dynamic, it is only the victim who can break the cycle by refusing to accept a culture of violence and exploitation,” he said in a vid that I know by heart. “The Evolved will give us nothing, not even justice. So we must take our vengeance.”

My team and I suspect that Crew personally sent data to families of the victims of some of the worst crimes. The first wave of murders by Throwbacks was horrifying, but the “victims” included serial rapists, brutal politicians, and violent police officers. Or so Crew said. Without a trial, the truth of their guilt will never be known.

As for Windsom Carter, Crew’s assertion that he deserved to die because of the laws he crafted to limit Throwbacks’ rights put a target on his back. He didn’t deserve the ending he got, by any measure.

I video the crowd as they disperse in hopes of tracking down these murderers later and bringing at least some of them to justice. Saving any more Evolved from falling victim to Crew’s brutal executions is my atonement for my mistakes, proof to myself that what I helped destroy can be rebuilt. I had no idea that my work with Crew last summer would be used to launch a violent rebellion that is ripping my city apart. But ignorance is no excuse, and I will not stop fighting Crew until his rebellion is dismantled.

Maybe tomorrow, I won’t be too late.

The crowd’s merriment vanishes as quickly as it erupted. I’d question if their relish for death was real if this was the first time I’d seen it. But as happens every time, their usual gloom returns to their gaunt faces before they’re out of sight. Bloodlust only distracts them from the hunger in their bellies for a little while.

A woman tugs her tattered sweater around her shoulders as she hurries down an alley, the beginning of a question in her eyes. Another man absently rubs the blood on his hands onto his pants, leaving dark streaks. He checks the time on his phone. He wouldn’t want to be late for work.

A delicate monarch chrysalis hangs from the tree branch I’m standing beneath. Inside, an innocent caterpillar is dissolving into goo as it transforms into something beautiful. But the sight of it reminds me of the other Chrysalis, the headquarters of Crew’s evil empire, and I barely resist the temptation to smash it.

High-pitched, wailing sirens snap me out of my thoughts, and I disappear into the closest entrance to the Lab, leaving the body and the stained sidewalk behind.

~ ~ ~

Underneath Seattle, in the labyrinth of tunnels that spiderweb out from the heart of the city, the air has a welcome chill that calms me. I make my way through the Lab to the door that leads to the Bunker, command central for my team, where we work to take down Crew and stop the violence that we helped spark across our city.

Inside the Bunker, Marie and Harriet are alone, poring over street maps on Marie’s oversized tablet. They are my best friends, and two of the brightest minds in the world. Not just because they’re cloned from Marie Curie and Harriet Tubman, but because they understand how to look at problems from angles most people would never think of, and they have the courage to take action when most people would run and hide.

Harriet looks up at my arrival, and the frown lines bracketing her mouth deepen as she takes in my expression. I send the vid files from my phone to Marie’s tablet, and together, we watch the gory scene from the streets above.

“A group of Throwbacks must have stalked Mr. Carter and corralled him into a less crowded part of the city,” Marie surmises. “I’ll run facial recognition software on the crowd to see if we can get a positive ID on anyone.”

“There are too many people for it to have been a few stalkers,” Harriet says, her usually warm brown eyes narrowed in disgust. “Other Throwbacks must have seen what was happening and joined in.”

I bury my head in my arms and let my shoulders slump. Another day, another defeat. The gentle pressure of Harriet’s hand on my shoulder grounds me. It’s rare for the Bunker to be empty, so for once, I allow myself a moment of weakness.

Later, it will get crowded as everyone trickles back from the missions that have been set for them. Monitoring news feeds, keeping a watch on the Chrysalis for activity, and chasing down any reports of violence in our city is all-consuming.

There aren’t enough of us to make a dent against Crew’s organized strikes and angry Throwback mobs calling for a revolution—and demanding blood. Our team has prevented a few executions and beatings, but the violent momentum pushing Seattle toward chaos only grows.

The National Guard will be sent soon, and I’m starting to think it might be for the best, even though they’re sure to lock up some innocent Throwbacks. Someone needs to restore order.

I lean my head back against my chair, shutting my eyes. Images of Windsom Carter’s distorted body rise in my mind, and I shove them back down. Later.

“What happened? Is she okay?” Nic’s voice jerks me out of my stupor.

His pale, angular face hovers above me, and I try to decide whether it’s concern or annoyance in his narrowed eyes.

“I’m fine,” I say.

“You need to sleep. You’re going to make a stupid mistake if you don’t get some rest.”

“I should listen to you, Machiavelli. You know a lot about making stupid mistakes,” I reply, regretting my words as Nic’s face freezes and the warmth in his eyes dims.

“You’re enough of a bitch fully rested. Go sleep before you say something that makes one of us kill you,” Nic retorts.

“Soon,” I allow, eyeing his messy hair and the shadows under his eyes.

None of us is sleeping well anymore, though we never talk about it.

My phone buzzes with a message from Justus.

On my way back to you. I’ve got news.

I’m unaware of my smile until Nic speaks. “Let me guess. Message from Captain America?”

I’d never admit it to Nic, but he’d come up with the perfect nickname for Justus. He’s just as honorable, brave, and gorgeous as the fictional Captain America. The perfect guy, at least to me. But as unattainable as the cartoon character because he is Evolved, and sexual contact between us would kill me.

The door swings open, but it’s Elizabeth and Sacajawea who come in, not Justus. They are our eyes and ears inside of the Chrysalis, spying on Crew.

I immediately sit straighter. “What have you found?”

“Let them catch their breath,” Harriet says, giving me a scolding glance.

Harriet brings Elizabeth tea from the food and drink dispenser, and Elizabeth takes it without thanks. Typical. I wonder if the original of her clone type, Elizabeth I, had better manners.

While Elizabeth and Sacajawea get settled, Sun emerges from our paltry armory. He may get his strategic mind from Sun Tsu, the author of The Art of War, but his warmth and insights are all his own.

“Is there news from above?” Sun asks, his dark eyes assessing Elizabeth’s face like it’s code that only he can read.

She takes a deliberate sip of her tea before speaking. “Crew is planning to raid the Evolved police headquarters. They are going to slaughter the officers and take possession of all the weapons in their armory.”

The Bunker goes quiet.

Even Marie looks up from the tablet she is usually glued to. “Do they have the people and the weapons to do that?”

Sacajawea’s eyes dart to each of our faces. “Yes.”

“What’s his plan?” I ask.

“No one at our level is given that information,” Elizabeth says, eyeing me like I’m an idiot. “But I expect that he plans to use poor, angry Throwbacks off the streets as the first line of offense. Their blood will pave the way for Crew’s real soldiers.”

“There must be more to the plan than that,” Nic says. “He’ll have a contact inside the station. He wouldn’t risk an outright attack unless he was sure of the outcome.”

“I suspect he has many contacts inside the station,” Sun says, leaning forward, giving us a better view of the intelligence behind his dark eyes.

“Does that mean this attack is unstoppable?” Marie asks, shaking her frizzy hair out of her eyes.

She’s the only one who allows her fear to show. The rest of us eye each other, stone-faced.

“We’ll have to warn them,” a low voice says.

I whip my head around and see that Leo, a professor from Seattle Secondary and clone of Leonardo da Vinci, is tapping his index finger against the wall of the Bunker. Everyone in the room has been his student at one point or another, and our tension eases by a fraction. It’s a deep comfort and relief to have at least one brilliant, experienced member of our group who shows up every night to keep us on track.

“The Evolved police will not believe that their headquarters can be taken, and suggesting that they have traitors in their midst will enrage them,” Sun says, and our faces swing to Leo to hear his reply.

“They will listen if they hear it from one of their own.”

The door to the Bunker opens again, and Justus steps through. His presence lights up something in me that had gone dark this afternoon as I’d stared at the spreading stain on the sidewalk.

Before I can greet him, he turns back and holds the door open for a girl with short, wildly curly hair. She whispers something in his ear, and he flashes her a smile—the one he usually saves for me. My gaze catches on their connected hands, especially when they don’t immediately let go.

“Meet Kat. Our newest Evolved recruit,” Justus says to the room.

I hate her.

A smile blooms on Kat’s face. She’s pretty, and her eyes gleam with a mischief that makes me suspect that under other circumstances I might like her. But, under these circumstances, it only makes me hate her more.

“Welcome to the team,” Harriet says. Traitor.

“What skills do you have?” I ask.

“Good to meet you, too,” Kat replies with a little smirk, and everyone laughs.

“Sorry. Her mind is always on the next scheme,” Justus says, stepping close enough to give my shoulder a friendly nudge.

“With a mind like yours, I bet you can’t help it,” Kat says. “Justus says you’re brilliant. That you’re going to remake the world.”

“She is,” Justus says.

The light in his eyes when he looks at me is still there, and I relax a little.

“Sorry, Kat. We’re glad and grateful to have your help,” I say, extending my hand.

Right before I clasp Kat’s hand, my foot catches on the leg of a chair and I trip. Justus catches me before I smack my skull on a nearby table.

“You’re exhausted,” he says, his tone gentle. “Let’s get you to a cot. After you’ve slept, we’ll talk strategy. Kat has an idea.”

The rest of my irrational jealousy vanishes as Justus leads me out of the main room. Nic snorts as we pass by, but I ignore him.

One of the rooms in the Bunker is filled with cots and bunkbeds, for those of us who are living here for now. I settle into my little corner, and Justus sits on the edge of my bed.

He brushes a finger down my cheek before yanking it away, probably remembering that physical contact between us could turn dangerous.

But I pull his hand back and clasp it. My pride usually keeps me from showing how much I still love him, but I’m so exhausted, body and soul, and the need to have him near is too strong to ignore.

“Stay a minute,” I mutter, letting my eyes slide shut.

Justus’s hand squeezes mine. “As long as you want me.”

How to support an indie author for free – a first experience with the Kindle Scout Program

Check out this wonderful post onKindle Scout by my fellow indie author, Allie Potts!

Allie Potts Writes

A way to support #indieauthors for free and an Introduction to #KindleScout - www.alliepottswrites.comThis is the launch week for a young adult science fiction book called Joan the Made written by Kristen Pham. While I always enjoy celebrating my fellow indie author’s bookbirthdays, this one is special as it is the first book I helped bring to market through Amazon’s Kindle Scout Program.

I say that like I put in a lot of work.

For those who aren’t as familiar with the ever mysterious world of independent publishing, the Kindle Scout program is a way for authors to get a little financial and marketing boost from the all mighty Amazon without sacrificing all their creative control or signing away their rights for future works in the worlds they create under the guise of non-compete terms.

As I am still in the midst of rewrite, I have yet to try my hand at gaining access to the program with one of my own books…

View original post 539 more words

New Dystopian Novel Launching Today

I want to give a huge thank you to all my friends and fans who supported my Kindle Scout campaign to publish my young adult dystopian novel, Joan the Made. My novel was a winner, and it is now on sale on Amazon for $3.99.

If you love edgy young adult fiction like Hunger Games, Ready Player One, or Divergent, this series just might be your new favorite. Joan the Made tells the story of Joan Fasces’, who discovers that she is cloned from the famous Joan of Arc on her eighteenth birthday. But being cloned in America comes at a steep price. Segregated and oppressed, clones are forced to act as docile servants to the rest of the Evolved population. Joan can either run from her fate and spend the rest of her life in hiding, or she can join a Throwback rebellion populated by clones of the greatest leaders in history.

Get your copy here and let me know what you think. If you leave me a review and send me an email to let me know, I’ll even add you to my list to receive the next book in the series, Joan Undone, FREE when it releases in May of this year.

Happy Reading!

Vote for Joan the Made on Kindle Scout

After much writing, editing and general agonizing, I have finished the first book in my new trilogy, Joan the Made. This young adult series is set in the near-future, and follows Joan Fasces after she discovers that she cloned from of one of history’s greatest heroines—Joan of Arc. (Check out the full description of my novel below.)

I’ve decided to try to publish Joan the Made using the Kindle Scout program. Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. The books that receive the most votes are published by Kindle Press.

Please vote for Joan the Made here. You will receive a FREE copy of my book if it is selected.

Book Description:

On Joan Fasces’ eighteenth birthday, she discovers that she is cloned from the famous Joan of Arc. But being cloned in America comes at a steep price. Segregated and oppressed, clones are forced to act as docile servants to the rest of the Evolved population.

Joan can either run from her fate and spend the rest of her life in hiding, or she can join a Throwback rebellion populated by clones of the greatest leaders in world history.

Author Interview: Allie Potts on Writing Near-Future Science Fiction

It’s rare to find a science fiction series that approaches world building in a truly new, fresh way. But in her series, Project Gene Assist, Allie Potts does just that. The first book in her series, The Fair and Foul, explores the idea of merging the human brain with the internet. Allie Potts weaves complex characters with futuristic technology that is at once highly original, and utterly believable.

In this interview, Allie shares how she went about creating vivid, real characters who inhabit a terrifying but thrilling new world.

What was the original inspiration for your science fiction series, Project Gene Assist?

I had just finished reading an epic fantasy series which featured the classic chosen one locked in an age old battle between the forces of good and evil and found myself wondering how that story line might have played out if the hero didn’t particularly believe in either. I veered somewhat from the original idea, but it helped keep my characters human.

You have created highly sympathetic characters in your tale. How do you approach character development?

Each of my main characters have a guiding motivation and a fear which I establish during the outlining process. These two attributes cause them to make decisions during the plot that aren’t always the best, but are at least understandable under the circumstances, which I believe makes them more relatable. After all, who isn’t guilty of poor decision making sometimes?

Your protagonist, Juliane, has a unique voice. How did you develop her personality?

I read Lisa Randall’s book on Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs to get a sense of a tone (she’s a brilliant mind in the field of particle physics and cosmology) and attempted to channel a few of my professors (both male and female) for mannerisms, but I also found myself sticking my nose up into the air while writing her early scenes. She’s not necessarily the most likable character I’ve ever written, but Juliane doesn’t care if people like her as long as they respect her.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?

The best thing I have done was to engage with the community. I commented on other blogs. I responded to comments made on mine. I interacted in Facebook groups, offering help and support where it was requested. In short I have focused on the relationships rather than the sales conversions which, in the long run (and face it, writing is a long game) has expanded my reach beyond what I could have done alone.

Also, never ever make a book related announcement on the same day as a Star Wars trailer gets released. In fact don’t compete with anything related to Star Wars. Pay attention to Comic-Con and mark those days on your calendar. I know this from experience.

What is the most unusual thing that has ever inspired your writing?

Probably a fire hydrant. It wasn’t particularly well kept and caught my eye. The next thing I know I’m writing a whole thing about it, comparing it to a garden gnome. The second most unusual thing is probably a paper clip I saw embedded in the asphalt. It made me sad – here was something that would never ever achieve it’s purpose in this world all because someone else was too lazy to pick it up and move it.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Hmmm. I can hum and whistle at the same time. Does that count?


If you’d like to learn more about Allie Potts’ novels and get a sense of her funny, insightful writing style, check out her blog

How Much Violence Is Too Much in YA Literature?

As a writer of YA science fiction and fantasy, I’m no stranger to writing my heroines into some violent struggles. Whether it’s emotional abuse or outright warfare, somehow these themes are embedded in the hero(ine)’s journey.

But I am also sensitive to the fact the readers of my stories are not adults, like me. When I grapple with violence in my writing, I am aware that my words carry the potential to be a force for good, or to be damaging. Walking that narrow line, without condescending to readers who are smart, sensitive people, is not easy.

Below are the yardsticks I keep in mind when violence erupts in my stories.

Avoid gratuitous violence.
It’s easy to use graphic violence for it’s shock value. As writers, we want to make our readers feel something when they engage with our work. However, it’s not appropriate to use violence or trauma as a shortcut to actual writing and character development. For example, I’ve noticed a number of YA novels recently where the main character is a rape victim. The topic is not explored or an organic part of the story, but rather used as a way to generate instant sympathy for the protagonist. Inevitably, the result is a character that is a shell of a person, defined by what is done to them, rather than who they are. A character that is no more than a victim, rendered lovable only by their trauma (and drop-dead good looks, of course), is not a safe message to pass to a young adult audience.

Focus on the emotional drama of a violent event rather than the gore.
Young adult fantasy seems to have a different metric than other YA literature when it comes to the level of acceptable violence. In fantasy, YA heroes and heroines wield weapons, fight in wars, and kill enemies. But handling that level of violence when writing for young adults requires some delicacy. As a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas, one aspect of her work that I have always admired is her ability to address the psychological impact of the violence in her stories. She includes enough information to set the scene, but doesn’t plunge into the details of gory acts. The reader’s horror is evoked by the reaction of the protagonist, rather than the gore.

Do your due diligence when addressing issues of abuse, depression and suicide.
As writers creating fiction for young adults, we have a responsibility to make sure that our novels do not encourage destructive behavior. A recent example is the Netflix video series 13 Reasons Why, based on a novel of the same name. The story centers around a girl who commits suicide. For teens who are depressed or suicidal, reading about others who act on those feelings can be triggering. That doesn’t mean that authors should avoid those topics. Rather, do your homework and learn what experts say should be emphasized and avoided to craft a story that acts as a force of good (or at least good entertainment).

Address the consequences of violence.
After writing a scene where a character endures violence, remember that the pain lives on long after the act is over. That means that characters need time to heal, and may suffer from PTSD. Aside from the fact that this will make your story deeper and more resonant with readers, it is particularly important for YA audiences to understand that violence has long-lasting repercussions.

Write a book description that makes any violence in your novel explicit.
If your book includes violence, make sure that readers are aware of what they are getting into before opening your book. Your book description should make it clear that you are touching on a sensitive or triggering topic. When marketing your books, reach out to age-appropriate readers, and include disclaimers about the violence.

A Mom’s Take on Maui’s “You’re Welcome” Song from Disney’s Moana

Maybe it was because my 5-year-old decided to write a letter to Santa about all the things mom had done wrong that day.

Maybe it was because my 3-year-old refused to let  me brush her teeth for the umpteenth time until I showed her pictures of rotten teeth on the Internet.

Or maybe it’s just that writer’s block will do strange things to a person.

But that night, when I watched Disney’s Moana for the first time with my husband, and I really sympathized with Maui when Moana came to drag him off on her quest. When he sang the “You’re Welcome” song, all I could think of was my own kids.

I’m always in need of a creative outlet, so I decided to write a spoof of the song. For fun, I added some funny parenting pictures for your viewing pleasure. The singing is by a talented artist, Celeste Notley-Smith. Check it out and let me know what you think!


2017 YA Fantasy Trends

captureThe crop of YA fantasy novels this year has been a true delight. It’s still February, and I’ve already ripped my way through hundreds of pages of adventure, anguish, and romance. As a reader, it’s been a blissful escape during a year that has been tumultuous for so many of us already.

As a writer, I’m also excited to see that there is a changing of the guard in terms of the kinds of stories being released. I mean no offense to gritty urban fantasy, heroines who seem born knowing how to fight off all kinds of monsters, and epic battlefield clashes, but it’s refreshing to find stories writ smaller, and more intimately, than ever. The new themes and personalities that are emerging keep writers on their toes and readers enthralled.

Here are some of the themes that I’ve found to be both popular and powerful this year.

capture3Parental (and family) drama takes center stage.
This year’s heroines are not the orphans and loners of yesteryear. They must navigate family politics and expectations, and break out of the childhood roles that bind them in order to find their identities apart from their parents. In Stephanie Garber’s novel, Caraval, the heroine has a father who brutally beats her and her sister. Part of her journey is not only physically escaping his control, but breaking through the mental trauma that defines her. What I love about the emphasis of the integral role of family on a protagonist, for better or for worse, is that it leads us away from the view that you can separate an individual from where they come from. Heroines who are the products of their history feel more personal, and believable.

capture4The power of art to change us and define us.
I have enjoyed the YA fantasy of the past few years taking a concrete approach to strength in its heroines. These women could fight the biggest monsters, wield the most magic, and us their wits and logic to overcome any obstacle. But I didn’t know that I was missing heroines with artistic, sensitive souls that gave them strength. Now, I can’t imagine a heroine without one. My favorite example is from S. Jae-Jones’ novel, Wintersong. Liesl, the protagonist, is a composer, and the power of music is a theme that acts as the glue holding the story together. It deepens and intensifies both the reader’s understanding of the protagonist, and lends believability to the “specialness” that makes her unique to a goblin king.

capture2Love interests who are happy to be “beta” males.
Praise all that is good, this year the alpha male appears to be taking a backseat to a subtler, more fragile and human male specimen. Bulging muscles and overconfidence are taken off their pedestal for men who are interested in the arts, slender in their build, and comfortable letting a woman take the driver’s seat. Sigh. I’m halfway in love, just thinking about them. A prime example is the character of Jest in Marissa Meyer’s Heartless, which was released last November, but I’m still counting in our 2017 trends. Jest is a performer and a lover. He’s heroic in his own right, but he never robs Cath, the protagonist, of her choices. There is the risk that he is too perfect, but I’ll take that when I see a heroine with the ability and choice for forge her own future.

Novels that play with our sense of what’s real.
Maybe it’s because so many of us are questioning if our news, our politics, even our own opinions can be trusted, but there is a distinct theme that I’ve found winding its way through YA fantasy this year. The current crop of protagonists not only don’t know who they can trust, but they also must question the reality of the very world they inhabit. From Caraval to Heartless to Wintersong, the heroines’ stories are upended as they question what is real, and what is part of a game. Maybe that’s what many of us our wishing – that we might wake up, like Alice, and discover that the upside-down world that frightened us was nothing more than a dream.

Any other trends that have caught your eye this year, or books that you’d recommend to a reader always starving for a good YA fantasy?