Literary Baby Names: YA book characters
By Abby Sandel
Literary baby names are big – just look at Emma and Harper. Some of the most interesting influences come from novels aimed at younger readers. YA – young adult – literature has given us Luna (from Harry Potter), boosted Hazel (from The Fault in Our Stars), and exposed a generation of future namers to some dazzling possibilities.
There’s no shortage of series with fascinating characters and the names to match. Several of them – like the remade fairytale adventures of Cinder – could turn into movies, too. When that happens, it’s even more likely that an unusual name might catch on. Hunger Games-inspired names like Finnick and Primrose are already making more parents’ shortlists.
Let’s take a look at the current YA bestsellers. Are there names waiting in these books that could become the most popular baby names of the 2030s?
West, Willa, Bryony, and Gunner – The Field Party trilogy by Abbi Glines tells of drama in the world of Southern small towns, high school football, and pickup trucks. Characters include tough guy names like West and Gunner, vintage Willa, and botanical Bryony. Willa and Gunner are well-established choices, if not quite popular. West lags far behind Weston, while British Bryony is seldom heard in the US.
Lyra, Gemma – Lauren Oliver’s Replica takes place in a brave new world that only looks like paradise. When Lyra escapes the island compound she called home, she meets Gemma – and begins to unravel the secrets that tie them together. Gemma continues to gain in use in the US, and celestial Lyra – familiar thanks to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series – debuted in the US Top 1000 last year.
Mirabella, Katharine, Arsinoe – The triplet sisters at the heart of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns have very different names. As they all seek to inherit their country’s throne, their personalities prove equally distinct. There’s classic Katharine, elaborate Mirabella, and seldom-heard Arsinoe. Arsinoe comes from the Greek “to rise,” and the final ‘e’ is pronounced, as in Zoe and Chloe.
Violet – While many YA series venture into alternate worlds, Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places takes place in the everyday lives of two high schoolers, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. While Violet is already popular, it brings to mind Hazel from another YA smash hit. Sometimes novels introduce new options. Other times, they make us love our current favorites even more. As for Theodore, he’s called by his last name most of the time. Could Finch be the next Wren?
Rowan – Speaking of current favorites, the daring girl at the heart of Children of Eden answers to Rowan. Joey Graceffa’s debut novel is set in a world where families can only have one child – and Rowan is the younger twin. Many of the novel’s names are drawn from the natural world, like popular Rowan – but also newer possibilities, like Ash and Lark.
Mare, Bree, Shade, Cal, Elara, Rane, Maven – Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen puts Mare and Cal at the center of a Romeo and Juliet-like tale, only with supernatural powers thrown into the mix. The third installment in the series comes out in early 2017. It might be the most inventive set of character names since Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.
Kaz – Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom give us a character called Kaz Brekker. The name Kaz appears rarely in the US, possibly as a short form of Slavic names like Casimir or Japanese names like Kazuki. A tiny uptick in the name’s use came in 2015. Could Bardugo’s book already be influencing new parents?
Ceony – The Paper Magician tells of a heartbroken magician named Ceony. Charlie N. Holmberg has penned three stories in all about Ceony’s adventures. But can he bewitch us into using the name for our daughters? So far, the answer is no, but I think it’s one worth watching.
Elias and Laia – A Torch Against the Night is Sabaa Tahir’s second novel in a series about a slave and a soldier, both working against an all-powerful Empire. Laia brings to mind that other famous rebel, Princess-turned-General Leia. As for Elias, it’s simply the Greek cousin to Elijah. Both names feel very wearable today. Like Kaz, we’ve already seen a jump in girls named Laia.
What are your favorite character names from YA? Would you consider any of them for a child?
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on October 24th, 2016 at 9:31 am
Hmm…. Nice list. Though Arsinoë is more often than not pronounced with an “Ay” and not an “Ee” in many of the documentaries/sites I’ve gone to. I’ve never read those books though, did they give a “Ee” pronounciation?
on October 24th, 2016 at 9:34 am
And forgot to add (can’t edit my comment) that it means “Women Of Uplifted Mind” not exactly “to rise”
on October 24th, 2016 at 1:56 pm
I’ve discovered some of my favorite names in YA books. Artemis (m) from Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Briar (m) from Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series, Bryony from Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Indigo (m) from Indigo’s Star by Hilary McKay, Irene from The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whale Turner, and Prosper from The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke have been the most influential for me.
I recently read The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater in which the main character is a girl named Blue. As I listened to the books on audiodisc, I started to really like the sound of Blue as a name by the end of the series.
I’ve never read any of Cassandra Clare’s books (I’m not much of a fan of her) I do have to admit they’re filled with some awesome names: Clary, Jace, Simon, Luke, Alec, Isabelle, Magnus, Jocelyn, Valentine, Alaric, Imogen, Lilith, Raphael…
on October 24th, 2016 at 7:41 pm
The book Songs Eight Six has some great names, like Cosette, Micah, Westley, and Bronwyn. Plus the authors own name, Lisabeth, is pretty.
on November 6th, 2017 at 8:17 am
Don’t forget Inej, Kaz’s best friend. Beautiful name. I chose it for my daughter’s middle name, making her name Kailani-Elaina Lili’uokalani Inej.
With our next baby, we’re thinking of adding Aleksander (The darkling, also from the grisha), Rhysand (A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy), and Nina (Six of Crows again). My hubby and I love our fictional characters.
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