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The Hunger Games series paved the road for the rise of dystopian and fantasy YA novels in recent years.

With love triangles, life-and-death situations, and dramatic settings, falling in love can be a dangerous game for these characters — and we love to sit back and enjoy the ride.

They could have used it to make the books more engaging.

This was the first evidence we had that data-driven story development could work.

Starting without setting any context, makes hooking the reader more challenging. According to our tests, teen readers are equally interested in reading a story when it has a white protagonist as when it has a brown one.

Of course, we also tested my big question: do teen readers prefer a white male protagonist over an Indian female one? Moreover, teenage boys are equally interested in stories with female protagonists as with male protagonists.

Three years ago, I was living in a small surf town in Costa Rica and writing my first novel, when I had a panic attack.

The novel was a sci-fi fantasy trilogy for young adults, set in Silicon Valley a hundred years in the future.

Now that we had some benchmarks, we were ready to play :)We ran all sorts of a/b tests, and learned many interesting things about teen reading preferences.

For example, the recent YA trend of writing in the first-person present tense is irrelevant.

We bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica, started learning how to surf, and began writing our novel. I was terrible at surfing, and I wasn’t making progress on my book.

Something felt wrong about how we were approaching the book.

It was the desire to a/b test our book that first sparked the idea for what would eventually become Hooked.

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