A couple of days ago, I asked my Twitter followers which they thought were the top 5 words used in YA titles. Queen, fire, star, shadow and daughter came up several times. With popular books like Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Star-Touched Queen, Daughter of the Pirate King, and The Girl from Everywhere, I’m not surprised at the responses. But were they right? I’ve got answers with the top 20 words in YA book titles.
In order to determine which terms most appear in YA book titles, I decided to analyse novels released over the past two years (November 2015 to October 2017). That’s how long I’ve been keeping record of new releases from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.
My focus was on books released through publishing houses. I didn’t include self-published books because many are only available as ebooks, so they don’t go through the same marketing channels as physical books sold in bookstores. Neither do I have the time and capacity to pull together a representative list of self-published young adult books. That’s also why I excluded books from vanity presses.
Altogether I analysed nearly 2,000 book titles, excluding secondary or subtitles. I can’t guarantee that it’s an exhaustive list because I may have missed out a few releases from smaller presses that I’m not familiar with. Given the volume of book titles, though, I don’t expect missing titles to significantly impact the rankings of the top 20 words in YA book titles.
When ranking the top words used, I omitted articles. “The” would naturally have topped the list. 446 YA book titles started with “The”, so no contest there. Hah. I also didn’t factor conjunctions. “And” would otherwise have taken second place with 102 appearances.
My concern was with root words. This means I counted both singular and plural as well as compound words. Varying meanings also didn’t impact these rankings. For example, “heart”, “hearts”, “heartened” and “heartbreak” all counted towards the frequency of “heart” in YA book titles. For terms of equal frequency, words with fewer compounds ranked higher. I treated synonyms as distinct words.
Now that the details are out of the way, here’s the list:
Top 20 Words in YA Book Titles
- Girl Frequency: 74
- You Frequency: 65
- Dark Frequency: 40 Compound(s): Darkness (10)
- Love Frequency: 31
- Life Frequency: 31 Compound(s): Afterlife, Lifeboat, Otherlife
- Star Frequency: 31 Compound(s): Starless, Starling, Starfall, Starflight
- Night Frequency: 29 Compound(s): Midnight (14), Yesternight
- I Frequency: 27
- To be Frequency: 27 Note(s): Is (22), Am (3), Be (2)
- Heart Frequency: 27 Compound(s): Heartbreak, Heartless, Blackhearts
- Lie Frequency: 25
- Me Frequency: 24
- Fall Frequency: 24 Compound(s): Dreamfall, Starfall
- Break Frequency: 24 Compound(s): Broken (12), Breakaway, Heartbreak, Breakfast
- Shadow Frequency: 24 Compound(s): Shadowblack, Shadowcaster, Shadowhouse, Shadowhunter
- World Frequency: 23 Compound(s): Hellworld
- Last Frequency: 21
- We Frequency: 21
- Other Frequency: 21 Compound(s): Otherlife
- End Frequency: 21 Compound(s): Endless, Endgame
Top 20 Nouns in YA Book Titles
If you’re trying to come up with a YA book title, the top 20 nouns might be interesting too. You know, depending on whether you want your book to be unique, or you want it to be instantly recognisable as a YA book.
In order, the top 20 nouns are: girl (74), star (31), life (31), love (31), night (29), heart (27), shadow (24), world (23), end (21), fire (21), summer (20), lie (20), boy (20), day (19), light (19), dream (18), queen (17), secret (17), truth (15), king (15)