What is YA Transgressive Fiction?

Shannon Waite
3 min readAug 17, 2023

PREFACE: If this is your first trip to my blog, I write a lot of transgressive fiction and my blog posts are resources for other transgressive writers. I offer book reviews, transgressive topics for inspiration, research on social change, and creative writing techniques. The article below is meant to support writers looking for information and/or ideas. Welcome!

Young Adult (YA) Literature is another tough genre to pinpoint. Romance is easy, horror is easy, but YA and transgressive fiction both seem to include other genre elements, thus hiding under other genres.

When defining YA lit, I ask myself:
Is it a genre written for young adults?
Do the characters need to be young adults?
Do the stories need to be about common topics that young adults like?
Is it all of the above?

I think about things that I read as a young adult, which included transgressive fiction. I asked for Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted for Christmas and my mom, who bought it for me, told me that the bookstore clerk told her that people had passed out from reading it (I couldn’t wait to get through it — and I didn’t pass out). There’s no way this would be considered YA, right? But I was his audience and, indeed, YA.

So what makes something YA Lit? Southern Connecticut University says this:

“The term “young adult literature” is inherently amorphous, for its constituent terms “young adult” and “literature” are dynamic, changing as culture and society — which provide their context — change. When the term first found common usage in the late 1960’s, it referred to realistic fiction that was set in the real (as opposed to imagined), contemporary world and addressed problems, issues, and life circumstances of interest to young readers aged approximately 12–18…”

I appreciate they acknowledge that this genre can change as culture and society and the interest of young adults change.

But considering that YA lit refers to a realistic, contemporary world that addresses problems and life circumstances… doesn’t this sound like transgressive fiction? Or at least Mild Transgressive Fiction?
I guess it might depend on the concern we’re addressing, but please, we all have to know that kids deal with taboo things too.

Which leads me to what this blog post is about:

Transgressive fiction doesn’t talk about YA transgressive fiction enough — I mean, ever. When Googling “Young Adult Transgressive Fiction”, the same pages come up that appear when searching for “Transgressive Fiction”. This includes listings of the same novels and authors that adults who are interested in the genre are reading. The stories that are listed aren’t about teenagers (but is that a characteristic of YA lit? If YA lit just has to address problems that interest young readers, can they be about adult characters?). The ones popping up on Google would never be on the YA Lit shelves.

But there are stories that are written about teenagers dealing with transgressive topics, transgressive topics ESPECIALLY for teenagers. Many adults like to pretend teens are too young to be involved in violence and sex, but by trying to keep them away from those plots, these topics become even more “transgressive” for this age group. Right?

Here I list some contemporary novels, probably identified as YA novels, that are either outright transgressive or mildly transgressive.

Push by Saphire
Losing It by Keith Gray
Ask the Passengers by AS King
One Death, Nine Stories by
Marc Aronson (Editor), Charles R. Smith Jr.
Go Ask Alice ????
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Books by Ellen Hopkins (like Crank, Burned, Glass, etc.)

So it appears that YA transgressive fiction, while not really identified as a genre, does exist.

Are there any other books you would identify as Young Adult Transgressive Fiction?

(Which I guess, at this point, I’m just defining as books focused on transgressive plots with teenager main characters.)

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Shannon Waite

Shannon Waite is an author focused on transgression and social change and, largely, how to combine the two. www.shannonwaiteauthor.com