Recommended Reads: Quiet YA & NA

A few months ago I first came across the term “quiet YA” in a post by Fadwa @ Word Wonders. (If the concept is new to you too, I would highly recommend Fadwa’s post as it has a detailed explanation, some reasons people love the genre so much, and some titles to start with!) Although some people also use the term to describe books that fly under the radar / aren’t highly hyped, 

technically, “quiet YA” is about literary books with more character focus than plot focus. (x)

So rather than end-of-the-world or smash-the-dystopian-patriarchy plots, “quiet” books usually emphasize internal and / or interpersonal conflicts and development. I used to explain my reading preference as “slice of life,” which I think is an accurate but different categorization — sometimes I find myself in the mood for one or the other, or something that combines both. 

I’ve been gradually building a Goodreads shelf for these, but it’s still a little sparse so your recommendations are appreciated! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite examples of Quiet books.

Note: the distinction between Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) books is a topic for another day, but suffice it to say I’ve included both in this list.

  • I adored Sarah Dessen books in high school, and This Lullaby is definitely among my top three of her books. There’s a close-knit friend group, a cute guy in a band, and some great coming-of-age themes.
  • Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is a more recent favorite, but wow I loved it. It’s more internally focused, in that the narrator Daniel is very much the focus of the narrative — but his best friends and his family play important roles as well.
  • Although I wouldn’t recommend After by Amy Efaw to just anyone — it follows a teenage girl who abandons her newborn baby in the trash after a pregnancy spent in denial, taking the reader through the juvenile justice system as well as the complexities of guilt and redemption — it was a difficult read in the best way. It’s complex and emotional, and really makes you think.
  • Hopefully you aren’t yet tired of me shoving Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl at you yet, because here it is again! This is the book that made me extra excited to go off to college and extra proud to be a fanfiction writer / active participant in fandom, and it has terrific mental health rep and a realistic first-ever romantic relationship.
  • I read and fell in love with Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale around the time I was first discovering quiet books and [non-erotic / romance genre] NA novels, so it might forever be my go-to example for either of those categories. The main romance is a pretty big focus, but so are the friendship troubles, difficulties of transitioning into adulthood, and the different interests and passions each individual character nurtures. (My review is linked above if you want to know more about it!)
  • Nina LaCour has written quite a few lovely quiet YA and NA novels (many of which have LGBTQ+ rep, this one included), but Everything Leads to You is one of my favorites. Fresh from high school graduation, up-and-coming production designer Emi has been tasked with making “something great” happen while she occupies her brother’s Los Angeles apartment for the summer … which leads her to unravel the secrets of a deceased Hollywood legend as she pursues a romance of her own.
  • Why yes, it’s another YA contemporary romance! But It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura is so much more: it tackles social issues as the main relationship (between a Japanese-American girl and a Mexican-American girl) encounters them, and the main character’s changing but ultimately sturdy relationship with her parents is fantastic to read about too.
  • Although I know not everyone will appreciate My Name is Mina by David Almond, I personally adored it. Formatted as the journal of a young girl, it’s very stream-of-consciousness and contemplative; if you enjoy meandering narratives and aren’t put off by generous use of exclamation points and varying fonts, I would absolutely give it a chance. (It’s technically a prequel, but you don’t have to read Skellig at any point to enjoy My Name is Mina.)
  • Another early favorite of mine, Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass brings together three teenagers (all part of a much larger community) to witness a total eclipse. There’s friendship, and wonder, and good times all around.

Have I missed any particularly awesome Quiet YA (or NA, or even MG or Adult) titles? Do you have a preference for Quiet or high-stakes YA?

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33 thoughts on “Recommended Reads: Quiet YA & NA

  1. Quiet YA is a new term to me but it makes a whole lot of sense. That interpersonal conflict really is underrated sometimes because without all the big battles facing the world, it has a lot of heart. None of the books you have listed, I have read LOL However, your post makes me look at things differently 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t heard of either of those, thanks for bringing them up! have you read them, and if so would you recommend them?

      based on the Goodreads synopses, I do think How It Feels to Float could definitely qualify; A Danger to Herself and Others might too, though I’m not 100% sure whether mental health storylines (as important as they are) technically fall under the “internal and interpersonal” umbrella 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve read both of them and reviewed on my blog, not to self-pimp, but I’ll leave the links below in case you were curious 😛 I really enjoyed both of them and would definitely recommend them – Danger is more suspenseful (because of the unreliable narrator) and HIFTF is more angsty, so be prepared for ~FEELS~ if you try out the latter.

        I like the idea of quiet YA because ‘fate of the universe hanging in the balance’ books get a bit exhausting at times. don’t get me wrong, they definitely have their place and one of my favorite books this year was Defy The Fates which is the final in a trilogy which is ALL ABOUT SAVING THE UNIVERSE (!!!), but it’s so full on if you read a few of these in a row. that’s why I enjoyed the two books I mentioned, they’re a nice change!

        “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”

        definitely applies to those two books! getting out of a mental ward is a big thing to Hannah, lol 😉 I’m not as sure about this one, tbh, but definitely as soon as I read that bit you quoted about how it’s more character focused than plot, I immediately thought of HIFTF, which I LOVED because of that, but a friend of mine found frustrating because ‘nothing happened’. and there I am like ‘BUT CHARACTER GROWTH???’ just so much of it was internal, but for me as someone with depression, I saw the strides the protagonist was making and the small victories in the most mundane things like getting out of bed. so yeah, quiet YA 🙂

        https://dreamingofcats.wordpress.com/2019/04/22/book-review-how-it-feels-to-float-by-helena-fox/
        https://dreamingofcats.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/arc-review-a-danger-to-herself-and-others-by-alyssa-sheinmel/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. no I absolutely agree! for a while it felt like all anyone was reading was YA dystopia / rebellion, and I was so sick of it tbqh – some were great, but for the most part “exhausting” perfectly sums up the experience!

        I personally tend to think of my mental health conditions as slightly separate from me (ie, “I am not my anxiety”) though I know it’s different for everyone; I certainly didn’t mean to diminish her struggles, just that I wasn’t completely sure if it was necessarily an “internal” conflict since I consider my mental health to be partly outside my control if that makes sense? (though maybe that might still count as interpersonal; I do agree that the stakes are more personal than societal, which definitely sounds more like quiet YA!) you would certainly know better than me about this specific classification since you’ve actually read the book though 😜

        and thank you for linking your reviews, I’ll definitely check them out!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I also first came across the term ‘Quiet YA’ in Fadwa’s blog post and I think my most favorite Quiet YA book is Eliza and her Monsters.

    Btw, I only have read Fangirl from this list and I didn’t really liked it that much. But After catches my attention. It sounds like a great and rollercoaster read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ah I’ve heard lots of good things about Eliza and Her Monsters! a lot of these seem to be polarizing, people love or hate them (or don’t care either way, lol) but then again, so is reading in general!

      it’s been a while since I read After, but if you do read it I hope you enjoy!

      Like

  3. Ooooh that’s a neat concept, thoses are my favorite aswell ! I didn’t knew there was a name for that 😅
    Thank you for the recs, some are already on my want to read, but i’d go add some others !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Quiet YA is totally new to me, but I feel like it’s definitely the sort of book I would grab because I love character development more then anything else in a book. “It’s Not Like it’s a Secret” is getting Immediately added to the TBR pile!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OH MY STARS SO MANY NEW BOOKS TO ADD TO MY LIST! I honestly never knew this term existed, however, I am honestly super here for it? Like this is a term that so envelopes the things I love. However, could it be said that quiet YA could be used as another term for contemporary fiction? As most (not all, but most) of contemporaries are focused on characters and not necessarily the plot.

    There is never too much recommending of Fangirl. Please never stop.

    If you are looking for some solid recs Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a solid quiet ya as are: Golden by Jessie Kirby, My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, literally anything by Mariana Zapata (New Adult contemporary romance author), Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde…well really anything by Jen Wilde cause she is a bop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh how the turntables 😜

      I think there’s definitely a lot of overlap between quiet books and the contemporary genre, though technically you could have quiet speculative fiction (speculative quiet fiction? idk) and some contemporaries have broader / more external plots? so in my mind the venn diagram of the two is almost but not quite a circle 🤔

      also oooooh, I’ve heard about several of those books but have only read Ari & Dante. thanks for the recs, Sam!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ….hoards this post and saves it
    Guess what post will be showing up in my wrap up for fave May posts???
    Honestly, thank you for sharing the new term, and I think that this is more of my thing when it comes to romances within this quiet category. I really want to read Small Town Hearts and After now….needs to get to GoodReads

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Quiet reads is a new term to me but I totally love it! I tend to not read much contemporary, but when I do I prefer the character driven story focused on the internal struggles. Like almost exclusively.

    Thanks for this list, now I know what to pick up next time I am in the mood for a contemporary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. honestly it’s interesting to me that it’s taken this long for a term like this to emerge, though maybe it’s been around longer but no one was really using it? but it’s definitely a huge help in explaining and finding the kind of books I know I’ll enjoy!

      and if/when you pick up any of these books, Kal, I hope you enjoy them 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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