Trending Thursday: YA Character Name Trends

Welcome to my new blog feature, Trending Thursday, in which we discuss all sorts of trends in YA. Hot or Not? In or Out? Love it or Hate It?  I'll pick a trend and we can discuss...

Today's topic: YA Character Names. 

Naming the protagonist of your book must be a little like naming your baby. You want the name to fit the character's personality and be memorable but not overused. (I, Jennifer, can cite chapter and verse on having an overused name...)

Just like baby names, character names also have trends. Here's my rundown of the last few years in YA:

2012 was a hot year for books about twins, dopplegangers, and doubles. There were also books about genetic engineering and cloning. So perhaps it makes sense that one of the hot character names was:

"Eve Tempted by the Serpent" by William Blake

In late 2011, we had Eve by Anna Carey. A few months later,  there was Eve of Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant (October 2012.) We had Eva from What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang (September 2012) and also The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (August 2012.)

In 2013, an unusual name suddenly took flight in the YA world.....


The name Wren has also slowly been gaining popularity in the US. According to Appelation Mountain, in 2000, 18 newborn girls and 10 boys received the name.  By 2010, there were 185 new girls and 32 new boys named Wren.  Last year, 250 newborn girls were named Wren, along with 29 boys. (For perspective, in 2012 there were about 28,000 newborns named Emily.)

But back to YA. I can't explain the fact that so many YA authors suddenly thought of the name Wren, but there was Wren Connelly in Reboot by Amy Tintera. (May 2013). Then, Wren Gray showed up in The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (August 2013). Not long after, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell featured a Wren. (September 2013). Finally, we had Wren Caswell in The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine (December 2013).

ETA: I had a little scrap of paper with my Wren list and misplaced it, then had this feeling I was forgetting someone My friend Heather @ Flyleaf Review points out that I forgot Wren Wells of Lovely Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara (October 2012).

2014 is just getting started, so I'm still getting a handle on the new kids on the block. But, as of today, here's my take on YA female character names in 2014:

Trend Forecast: Girly Girl AND Tomboy Names

My completely unscientific survey of 2014 YA female main character names found a lot of no-frills, gender-neutral names (many with a Celtic flare) AND a lot of super-feminine names that sound straight out of Victorian times. I don't know if these characters' names fit their personalities -- yet.

The Girly Girls:

Imogene:  Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley (April 2014)
Charlotte:  Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike (April 2014)
Bettina:  The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor (June 2014)
Clementine:  Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff (August 2014)
Sofia:  The Merciless by Danielle Vega (August 2014)
Lara:  To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (April 2014)
Emma:  Tease by Amanda Maciel (April 2014)
Daisy:  The Sound of Letting Go by Stacia Ward Kehoe (February 2014)
Madeline:  Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (February 2014)

The Tomboys:

Brighton of Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt (February 2014)
Reagan of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (April 2014)
Macallan of Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg (February 2014)
Kestrel of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (March 2014)
Charlie of On the Fence by Kasie West (July 2014)
Forest of Insanity by Susan Vaught (February 2014)
Rowan of Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman (February 2014)
Kit of Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (April 2014)

ETA: Thanks, everyone for being so enthusiastic. Prompted by the comment left by Sara @  Forever 17 Books, I'll do a rundown on those omnipresent C names. If you have any characters to add, just let me know!

In 2007, we first met Clary of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. 2010 brought Cassia from Matched by Ally Condie and Calla from Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (and did you know that Ally Condie actually changed her character's name from Calla because the two books were released the same year.) In 2012, there was Clara from Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. And Cassie has been a popular name in YA for a while: The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith (2008), Beautiful by Amy Reed (2009), and Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein, The Third Wave by Rick Yancey, and The Originals by Jennifer Barnes in 2013.

I'll definitely be tracking more 2014 trends in the coming weeks -- I hope you'll stop by on another Thursday :)  And if you're a blogger and ever want to participate, shoot me an email. We can do the same topic or different ones and link to each others' posts.


  1. Cool idea-this isn't something I've consciously noticed (the main naming trend I saw a few years back was lots of swoonworthy boys named Will) but I read all those books with Wren and hadn't noticed its increasing popularity (it's not a particular favorite name of mine.) I love the girly girl names of 2014 though!

    1. I'm guessing that the authors chose Wren to be different and then lo and behold, three other people had the same idea.

      Okay, okay, you and Sara (below) want me to tackle the guys. I'll get on it!

  2. I like this topic this week because I've been thinking a lot about names lately. For awhile there was a big trend of Clara/Clary/Cassie, etc. All these C names that were confusing me from series popular at the same time. lol

    I've noticed Cole and Logan seem to be new trends too. Or maybe I'm noticing them more because I really like the names.

    1. You're right. That started after City of Bones, and is still going strong. There was also a Cassia (Matched) and a Calla (Nightshade) in that mix.

      Okay, I could do the guy names. Maybe...

  3. I really dislike when I read several books with the same character name in all of them in a short span of time, but then again I hate when names are so unique that I have no clue hire they're pronounced.

    Love this feature, Jen! You should totally do a post about names no one can pronounce s

    1. Ha - I have another week planned on dystopian/fantasy names. Stay tuned :)

  4. Neat feature! I find this incredibly interesting. I did notice all the Eve's in 2012. And I find 2013 interesting because I actually didn't read any books with a Wren but I almost started writing a story with a side character named Wren. I can't wait to see what comes of this feature!

    -Kelsey @ Verbosity Book Reviews

  5. I've never even heard of the name Wren until recently and it shows up everywhere. Loved the post! Let's see if any of those names you listed make the final cut for 2014.

  6. Yes to Wren! In fact when I saw the title of this post about popular names WREN was the first one that came to mind! Not 2014 books, but the tomboy name I think I love most is Elliot which Diana Peterfreund and Kimberly Sabatini used in their books:)

    I'm fascinated by where they come up with these character names sometimes. I think Kestrel's name in The Winner's Curse surprised me the most--but I LOVE that her name is fully explained in the story:)

    Fun topic, Jen:)

    1. Oh, and the MC of Lovely, Dark and Deep is named Wren too!

  7. I know read I read a book I'm always looking for girl names. I hope to have another baby sometime in the future and I love to have name ready.

  8. Fun feature! I noticed the Wren trend too. I think it's very odd when a name just sort of because popular all of a sudden and there's really no clear answer to why. Excited to see which trend you feature next :-)

  9. Love the idea of names you can't pronounce. :) If you shoot me an email on what you're doing, I'll see if I can participate by posting my thoughts on my blog on the same topic and linking to you. It would be fun!

  10. I totally agree! So many characters were named Wren it recently it has been a little bit overwhelming. And the "C" names thing is totally true too, even though I hadn't notice it prior to you mentioning it.

  11. There's definitely a trend in names in YA books. I've noticed a lot of Ruby's popping up everywhere in books I'm reading!

  12. Love this new feature, Jen! I noticed the Eve trend and even the Wren name trend. It's so fascinating on how they come up with character names. I can only imagine that it is sorta like naming a baby- it's their book baby after all ;) And the 2014 forecast looks interesting- I love long, girly-girl names that can be turnes into short tomboy names. Thanks for the great feature. :)

  13. This isn't a name trend per se but I have noticed a lot of books lately with similar named characters within the same story - which confuses me to no end! Like Cole and Colin and Cade. too many C names! lol

  14. I hadn't even noticed the C names until you mentioned it! :-) But I have noticed the alarming repetition with Wren, and really a lot of birdlike names. Great post, thanks for putting these together, it made me giggle.

  15. I have noticed this thing with the name Wren, and recently I read a book description, and there it was, Wren again. I just can't remember what book it was. It would be also great if you could do it for male names.

  16. Callie! And it's driving me crazy. That is ... was ... my favorite girl name. I was even going to name my son that if he had been a girl. Now 16+ years later it is used in a so many books, but mostly NA, that I'm starting to not like it. I looove tomboy names. Always have. I love when a cute girl has a more masculine name like Alex or something. lol - I don't know why.

  17. What I find interesting is that names in YA books tend to follow trends of the babies being born at that time, not of babies being born when the characters were (example: Wren). This fascinates me.

    Kate @ The Midnight Garden

  18. Oh yes! Absolutely right! I'm SO tired of the name Eve/Eva. Plus I know someone in real life with that name. It's very popular. ;) I find it weird, though, that books can follow baby name trends. I mean, if you're writing a book about a 16 year old...the trend back in the year you were born is not usually what the trend is Interesting.

  19. Great posts! And I like the header a lot Jen! This post is completely true! Especially when Eve by Anna Carey came then came all these other "Eve" books I wanted to roll my eyes. Hopefully this year we see a bit more originality and ease to YA books.

    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

  20. Lovin' this post, Jen! I've definitely noticed the 'Eve' trend. Robin is another bird-ish name that's popping up in YA books.

    Looking forward to more Trending Thursday posts! :)

  21. Awesome new feature, Jen! And I've totally noticed the Wren trend and the names that start with C. I like when I see older names in YA books, not necessarily old-fashioned but just, I don't know, names that are less frequently used. Like Wesley in The Archived. I don't particularly love that name, but I like that it's unusual and not overused. Looking forward to more of these posts!

  22. Names are such a huge deal, they can sometimes make or break a character for me if I'm on the fence about something. I love this project of yours! I noticed Eve from last year too, and a couple of the Wren names from last year.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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