Today, the young adult fiction genre is huge. In fact, as of 2022, 35.03 million print copies of young adult (YA) books are sold each year. Among the categories within young adult fiction, the fantasy/magic/science fiction genre has outsold all others (by far), selling over twenty million units. Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD, a market research industry leader, said, “Growth has been driven by a variety of authors and series, which were supported by BookTok and word-of-mouth discovery.” Here we discuss the explosive growth of young adult fantasy novels and then take a look at some of the best sellers in this popular category. 

What Is Young Adult Fantasy?

Writers in the young adult fantasy fiction genre create vivid, imaginative stories aimed at teenage readers, usually infusing the plots with coming-of-age themes. Young adult fiction novels explore self-discovery and growth through imaginary worlds, replete with wizards, magical creatures like dragons and fairies, or medievalism.

Some of the best young adult fantasy novels, which have earned the designation of “classics,” include The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, and of course, the Harry Potter series. These stories explore common themes, such as societal issues, self-discovery and transformation, and the overcoming of evil forces or some malevolent threat. 

Top-Selling Young Adult Fantasy Novels

To gain a better understanding of which literary elements will translate into a successful young adult fantasy novel, it helps to acknowledge some of the best sellers in this category. The best young adult fantasy novels in 2023 include:

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Yarros creates a vivid adventure story set at an elite war college for dragon riders. The tension that drives the story derives from the knowledge that those who do not manage to graduate from the college will perish. The author weaves a suspenseful, romantic story arc amid rich world-building.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

This high fantasy novel features a teenage assassin, Celaena Sardothien, who is summoned to the castle ruled by the tyrannical King of Adarian. The story revolves around the protagonist’s quest for freedom, which requires that she obey his every command.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo weaves a fantasy adventure featuring a teenage orphan who comes to realize she has special powers. The story is based upon the classic trope, the tug-of-war between good and evil, with her special powers ultimately saving her love interest, Mal.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Three human orphans are whisked away to the High Court of Faerie by their parents’ murderer, Madoc, a faerie who claims to be their mother’s first husband. After 10 years in Fairieland, the girls become embroiled in a struggle with various evil fairies for power and, ultimately, survival.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

This dystopian fantasy novel is set in the Kingdom of Norta, where the Silvers, who have silver-colored blood, rule over the Reds, who have red blood. The protagonist, Mare Barrow, is on a quest to unify the two classes and bring equality to the people.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This romantic fantasy is set in a world where the characters engage in an interactive theater experience called Caraval. The performances on the Caraval stage have the characters confronting strife amid various adult themes, but the story is ultimately about love triumphing over all.

Crave by Tracy Wolff

The story revolves around Grace, an orphan teenager who moves to Alaska to live with her uncle while she finishes high school. It is at the prep school that Grace meets Jaxon, the holder of deadly secrets, who becomes interested in her. Grace eventually realizes that the students at the school are anything but human. 

BookTok’s Influence on YA Fantasy

TikTok is the perfect social media platform to promote young adult fantasy novels via its #BookTok space, populated by book influencers who promote the genre. One interesting twist is the effect BookTok has had in renewing interest in print books after eBooks have reigned in this genre for so long. Print sales of young adult fantasy have surged since 2020 when BookTok entered the scene. Bottom line – aspiring authors in this genre should keep BookTok in mind when planning book promotions and marketing for their young adult fantasy novels.

Write a Young Adult Fantasy Novel Today

If you are a writer with a vivid imagination and a talent for world-building, consider writing a young adult fantasy novel. Along the way, team up with the editing crew at Gatekeeper Press for access to the full array of editing services and expert book cover design. Call us today or contact us online!