It began innocently.
A full name here, a full name there.
But in the year 2017, something happened.
It continued in 2018.
And in 2019? 2020? It hit fever pitch: the full name on YA book titles.
Full names have always been part of book titles. They’ve also always been part of the YA book title landscape — not included above include Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Here’s To You, Rachel Robinson, among others. But until 2017, it was only a few titles per year making use of a full character’s name. Since 2017, it’s exploded into a trend in titles that deserves a little recognition and a little discussion.
Full names on YA titles is a trend I am so into. It’s really a way to differentiate book titles, as after years of titles featuring “Girl” or “Girls,” “Noun of Noun and Noun,” or the single word title. Certainly, it’s easy for all of them to blend together. But, they also stand apart because those names are unique.
Something that makes full name titles special is the moment of recognition that readers may have with them, especially as we’re finally seeing YA books that better represent the inclusive world we live in. A reader browsing a book shelf and spotting a name that looks like their own is powerful. And that’s possible — Hispanic surnames, as well as Asian surnames (from all across the continent, East and West) — are right there for readers to see and connect with immediately.
There’s also a feeling of epic storytelling that comes along with a character’s full name in the title. Tirzah Price brought this up during an episode of Hey YA where we talked about this trend, and there’s a lot here to chew on. Since full names have been part of literary title history (Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, A History of Tom Jones, Jane Eyre, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anna Karenina, and even up to more modern classics like Harry Potter), using it for a book title infuses the sense of history and legacy before the reader even opens the cover. That more diverse names is especially noteworthy here, as the literary world becomes more inclusive and allows characters to be part of this history while also questioning why they haven’t been part of the history all along.
Though the representation here isn’t huge, there are a handful of YA titles, particularly in the last three years, that invoke the full name of a well-known figure. The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, not pictured above, is one example, as are Dear Rachel Maddow and Jack Kerouac Is Dead To Me. Worth noting that Grover Cleveland is like the president, but not the actual president, whereas for Jack Kerouac and Rachel Maddow do refer to the actual well-known people.
Maybe one of the most interesting aspects of this trend, though, is when the titular character isn’t the main character. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is one example; The Summer of Jordi Perez and Tyler Johnson Was Here are two more examples. The name sparks connection or intrigue with the reader, but the twist in that not being the main character adds an additional layer.
2020 has a pile more full name YA book titles hitting shelves that aren’t included here, as this trend doesn’t seem like it will be dying down any time soon. A book display of these titles, both old and new, would be eye-catching and engaging. Liz G, who tweets at CosLibrarian, did one in her library and it’s hard not to love:
— Go 🌮 (@cosbrarian) August 8, 2019
Obviously, the above-listed titles aren’t comprehensive. It is, however, a deep dive into the trend. What do you think? Love ’em? Hate ’em? If you make a display or a book list with these or similar titles, I’d love to see them!
Bonus: want to read more about these books or other books featuring full names in the title? I made you a handy Goodreads list — “What’s My YA Name Again?” You’re welcome to add to it!