YA 101: Realistic Fiction

For me, realistic fiction is probably my least favorite genre.  When I read, I want to escape the humdrums of normal life and be swept away by something grander, more romantic, more fantastical than every day life.  I have only read three  pieces of realistic fiction recently that knocked my socks off:  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, and THE FALL: An Autobiography of an Altar Ego by Elle.  However, I own several copies of classic realistic fiction that I re-read to this day:  LITTLE WOMEN, LITTLE MEN, THE ADVENTURE OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH and OF MICE AND MEN.

To find the characteristics of realistic fiction, one doesn’t have to go far from looking in the mirror or examining the world.  The characters are believable, the themes plausible, and the plots convincing.  The language is often colloquial, and there are very view romantic perceptions of the world.  The world is what it is and you and the characters travel along trying to deal with it.

Common themes in realistic fiction, especially YA fiction include problems, humor, and coming- of-age.    Problem themes can include bullying, sexual/mental/physical abuse, drug addiction.  Humor themes have the characters in peculiar, funny outrageous predicaments and they have to use their ingenuity and crafty skills to get out of the mess.  I find this a lot in middle grade novels as younger kids, I think, relate more to this than more serious issues that arise in the later teen years.  Coming-of-age stories are always a winner with teens as they show how the protagonists leaves his innocence behind and grows into a confident, strong individual.  In my opinion, if you’re writing any YA story, this later theme should be prevalent across the board, in any genre you write.  The protagonist has to grow, has to learn.  It’s part of growing up.

What are some good YA realistic fiction novels to dive into?  I’ve been told the following are fantastic.  They’re on my TBR list.



12 thoughts on “YA 101: Realistic Fiction

  1. Blah!

    Nope, not for me. I LIVE in the real world… reading is for fun. I want to go somewhere else. I have enough real-life problems… why would I want to read about someone else’s?

    Take me to a galaxy far far away, baby, or make Earth so totally unlike my real life, that I can forget my problems. THAT’s what a good story is for me.


  2. I’ve read both Wintergirls and If I Stay. Both were well-written with authentic characters and voice, but I cried, especially If I Stay. I prefer the happy fantasy work as well, but you might be surprised how many middle school kids prefer realistic fiction. What do you think that means?


    1. I think middle-schoolers for the most part are still pretty innocent. High School opens their eyes to a lot. It makes sense they’d like realistic because the stories are challenges that other people overcome. I think as people age, they tend to want to read something that distracts from every day life where as young kids are still at the ‘bring it on’ stage. Just my humble opinion if it makes any sense.


      1. Makes perfect sense. I guess I loved escaping to Narnia when I was 12 because my real life was depressing. I certainly didn’t want to read about other kids whose parents were getting divorced at that moment in life.
        I was just wondering if the fact that they seem so disengaged from real life because of all their electronic games and gadgets, they were hungry to experience what they were missing. Wishful thinking on my part!


  3. Great post, Jenny!

    I’m with you. RF is not usually my thing; I too want to be lost in another world, far away from the clutches of reality; but occasionally I am pleasantly surprised and captured by the protagonist’s voice, finding a bit of myself in them or perhaps just someone I would like to know.

    Aristotle looks like it could be a good read, so I will have to do just that and add it to my Goodreads. 🙂 The other three I was not too impressed with. The authors do tackle some serious issues which are prevalent among our young people today, but I found the overall message and theme to be both dark and depressing, without much “light at the end of the tunnel.” Our young people need Hope above all else.

    ~ Cara


    1. I agree with you and that’s why I don’t tend to read them. The Fall, that I mentioned, is very, very dark, but the writing was so compelling I couldn’t stop reading. Give me a sweet paranormal/fantasy/romance any day!


  4. Aristotle and Dante looks interesting! Nice cover. I’ll have to look into it.

    I don’t mind realistic fiction, but the writing becomes super important because the author can’t hide behind the awesome world they created or the supernatural devices they’re using. They need to rely on the strength and beauty of their prose in order to grip the reader.

    I’m currently writing a realistic fiction under a kind of New Adult genre. It’s very difficult. :/


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