September 20, 2021
The Rise of Dark Academia in YA Fiction

The Rise of Dark Academia in YA Fiction

For a book to be considered dark academia, the main setting of the novel must be academic and must explore darker themes and plot lines.

When it comes to literature, it can be hard to cater to young adults. They likely won’t be entertained by middle-grade novels, craving something more complex, but maybe bored by adult fiction, as well. A new, increasingly popular sub-genre of young adult fiction is posing a solution to this difficult task.

The investigation of the murder or other shady activities usually falls to a student, which makes for an interesting academic experience. This genre has made a recent surge in entertainment and is making a splash in young adult fiction for a number of reasons.

Examples in YA Novels

There are many examples of young adult novels with themes of dark academia; even the Harry Potter series has been labeled dark academia before since the majority of the series takes place in a school, and the main characters deal with Voldemort, murder, and other dark activities. But more traditional examples of dark academia young adult novels include One of Us is Lying, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and They Wish They Were Us.

Each of these examples involves a murder plotline, with the investigation falling largely upon the students, and a lot of action revolving around the students’ respective schools. Additional examples are the Truly Devious series, The Ivies, Killing November, We Were Liars, and Ace of Spades.

Why Has Dark Academia Become So Popular?

Now that we’ve discussed examples of these types of books in young adult fiction, let’s ask the biggest question: Why has it become so popular? One reason so many authors are dabbling in dark academia is because it weaves in suspense and mystery, two elements of stories that have always been winners.

Readers enjoy piecing together clues, forming their own theories, and following a twisty path for the majority of a novel. Another potential theory behind the rise of dark academia in young adult fiction is because the genre takes a normal, ordinary part of life, school, and turns it into something unordinary and interesting.

Everyone has attended school at one point, but odds are they didn’t investigate a murder. Young adult dark academia novels are entertaining and suspenseful, drawing in lots of readers, especially those that can relate to the main characters.

Is It Here to Stay?

The next question is will this genre in young adult fiction remain as popular as it is now? The answer appears to be yes. Dark academia novels are still being published year after year, and because the themes and potential storylines are fairly timeless, able to be adapted to changing tastes, technology, and popular culture, dark academia young adult novels will likely continue to stay popular. In fact, some of these stories are being adapted into television shows.

One of Us is Lying, written by Karen McManus, is being turned into a TV show on Peacock, while They Wish They Were Us, by Jessica Goodman, is going to be adapted into a show called The Player’s Table. These dark academia stories are transitioning into other forms of entertainment, suggesting that dark academia is popular enough to keep investing in.

Books like All Your Twisted Secrets, People Like Us, and Five Little Liars, which all incorporate dark academia themes, have exploded in popularity in the past few years. Young adult readers enjoy the mystery element, and how they can relate to the protagonists, so it is safe to say that this genre will remain popular in young adult fiction for years to come.