Genre is a tricky thing — we all know the broad categories like fantasy, historical fiction, and mystery, but there are also so many sub-genres within those categories, and oftentimes they can blend into each other and morph into their own thing. Genre is useful for classifying books, but I don’t think that it should ever be used as a box that we stuff books into. I like to think of genre as a fun entry point, not a barrier. I personally find the possibilities of genre-blending books wildly exciting and I’m a big fan when a writer can seamlessly tell a story that incorporates the hallmarks of two or more genres and satisfies readers.
Now, I strongly believe that YA isn’t a genre, although many people often refer to it as such. YA is a marketing term and age category that includes many different genres and sub-genres of writing, and as YA has expanded so have the various genre offerings and creative blending of said genres. It’s a great time to be a reader, because now if you love historical fiction and mystery, sci-fi and romance, or paranormal and mystery, you don’t have to choose! To celebrate the ingenuity of so many genre mash-ups, we’ve rounded up a small selection of some of the best and most interesting genre-blending YA books that incorporate more than one genre to make for some wildly interesting and clever reads!
Great Genre-Blending YA Books
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Zombies! Historical fiction! Mystery! Dread Nation has it all. In an alternate history where the Civil War was interrupted by the zombie apocalypse, Jane has grown up knowing that a Black girl like her must work as an Attendant, trained in fighting skills to protect wealthier whites. She’s determined to break out of this life, but when a string of disappearances puts everyone on edge, Jane finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that could prove more dangerous than the zombies she must fight off.
Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
I don’t want to give away too much about this book, as part of the joy of reading it is discovering what exactly is going on, but this is a fantastic novel about Jane, a young woman who was orphaned as a child and has just lost her aunt, the only family she’s got left. When an acquaintance from college invites her to her family’s lavish estate for a legendary party, Jane agrees on a whim. But once there, she discovers art and treasures beyond her imagining, and is presented with a choice that will take her life in a few very different directions. Combining mystery, fantasy, and horror in a clever way, this is truly a unique a book that you have to experience for yourself.
The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
I enjoy a good time loop story, which falls somewhere in the realm of speculative fiction, and this one combines time loop and romance! The story starts with Jack and Kate, two teens who meet at a party and fall head over heels in love. Everything is going great…until Kate dies. And when that happens, Jack is inexplicably sent back to the moment they met, where Kate is alive and well. Determined to save her, Jack tries to do things differently, but when you mess with time, there are unexpected consequences.
None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
If you love historical fiction and serial killer thrillers, then this YA version of Mindhunters is the perfect read! Set in 1982, it follows Emma, the survivor of a serial killer kidnapping, and Travis, a young U.S. Marshal candidate, who are recruited by the FBI to help out in their behavioral sciences division. These two 18-year-olds have had uncanny brushes with death and serial killers, and now the FBI thinks they could be useful in tracking down a serial killer they suspect is a teenager himself. But what’s supposed to be purely a desk job turns much more dangerous when the killer sets his sights on Emma and Travis.
The Silence of Bones by June Hur
Historical fiction and detective mystery get a unique mash up in June Hur’s debut novel. Set in Joseon (Korea) in 1800, Seol is an indentured servant with the police bureau. In this time period, it’s illegal for men to touch women, even in death, so Seol assists with all investigations involving women. She’s drawn into the puzzling death of a noblewomen, and when her own curiosity is piqued, she soon finds herself taking more and more risks as she pursues answers on her own, and is shocked when some of those answers lead back to her own shadowy past.
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity and Christopher Baldwin
I loved the clever way this graphic novel mashed up gothic romance and speculative elements! Haley loves all things Gothic, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. But she lives in the modern world, which is rather annoying. Until one day she sees a young man drowning in the river and attempts to rescue him…only when she climbs out of the water she finds herself at Willowweep Manor, which is straight out of her gothic daydreams. There’s a housekeeper full of secrets, a haunted manor house, and three wealthy brothers who have a mystery to solve. Haley’s in paradise! She never wants to leave! But if she doesn’t solve this mystery, she might never be able to escape.
All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
Some genre mash-ups are more subtle than others, and I really loved how on the surface this seems like a historical mystery novel but it quickly tilts towards horror and paranormal intrigue. It’s the 1950s and Michael’s dad is the sheriff of their small town when a serial killer strikes. The only one left alive at the scene is a mysterious girl covered in blood, who seemingly came from nowhere. She’s taken into custody but when she refuses to speak, not even to give up the name of a killer, the authorities are stumped. Finally, she agrees to speak only to Michael, but she’d not going to tell him what he wants to know. She’s going to tell him her story…as impossible as it may sound.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Most people tend to think of westerns as the old mass market paperbacks your grandpa reads, but Davis puts a diverse and magical spin on the western genre in this story about five girls who break out of the brothel that has enslaved them since they were kids, running from a crime one of them committed and searching for a better future. Marked by magical tattoos that could give them away at any moment, they begin the arduous journey toward freedom, but they’ll be tested every step of the way.
Burn by Patrick Ness
Mystery, historical fiction, and dragons collide in this creative book about Sarah, who lives in an alternate 1957 where she and her farmer father have to hire a dragon to help them work on the farm. Sarah is curious about the dragon, despite the fact that resorting to hiring him indicates just how poor she and her dad really are, and she has no idea that he’s come to their farm because he’s got firsthand knowledge of a prophecy that involves Sarah, a fanatical cult, and the FBI.
My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
This is definitely a fantastical (and hilarious) take on royal history for fans of all things comedy! Lady Jane Grey is horrified to find herself caught up in a conspiracy to unseat the king of England, who just so happens to be her friend. She’s even more shocked when it turns out her arranged marriage is to a man who is a shapeshifter. As the plot unfolds and Jane finds herself searching for her freedom while King Edward has to dodge a coup, the two find themselves on a riotous adventure across the kingdom that will go down in the history books…or maybe not!
Want more genre-blending YA books? We’ve got you covered!