There are times in my writing process when I wonder why I write what I write. Why do I tend toward young adult fiction when there are so many other choices? Certainly, I explore different genres within YA- mystery, comedy, drama-and set them in a myriad of different time periods. But why don’t I write adult fiction or children’s books?
The answer, I suppose, is that this is what I like to read. For those of you that don’t know, I am technically out of the “young adult” reading category, age-wise. I’ve been twenty for over two months now. But even though I do read books from the “grown-up” section of the library, and have for many years, I always gravitate back toward good ol’ YA.
There are a few reasons why I believe this happens. The first is that I still feel like I’m about fourteen. Not only do I look like I’m that age, but I’m sort of a late bloomer, I guess, in many areas of life. The most grown-up experiences I’ve had have been in the theatrical world- good and bad. This is also probably why I enjoy playing the roles I am generally cast in- the slightly awkward teen; it feels like me. I am also still in school, so I’m still going through a lot of the stuff the characters in the books are. (Drama does not disappear at the collegiate level, believe me. It just means that it can happen ALL DAY, in many different buildings, and not just within a six-hour time block.) Reason #3 is that the books are just good.
The sad thing is that it sometimes seems that the general public does not share my opinion on this. YA, they think, is lower-level reading, meant for those in-between ages who aren’t at the reading level of adult books yet. But this is definitely not the case. Just like with any other category of reading, YA has its share of not-so-great books, but it has more than its share of absolutely wonderful books. At the moment, my favorite YA authors are Libba Bray and Maureen Johnson. Both exceptionally smart, funny women and both incredibly talented authors who have chosen to grace their skills on us YA readers. Their books tell teenagers and those who are not yet teens that they don’t have to wait to be an adult to have cool/funny/thrilling moments in their lives. Their books- and all YA authors’- are empowering to kids who may otherwise think that they can’t do anything because they’re too young.
When I turned eighteen, I questioned whether I was too old to keep going into the YA section of bookstores. I asked the same question when I turned twenty. But the answer lay in the books I gravitated toward when I was sad, happy, stressed, or just wanted a good read- young adult. Are you ever too old for stories you love, stories you can relate to? The answer, I believe, is no.
As for writing YA, it’s almost the same case. I can relate to younger characters. Perhaps when I feel older than a teenager, I’ll be able to write from the perspective of characters that are over eighteen. But right now, I feel connected to my young characters and what they’re going through. In addition, should I ever publish, I want to do for my readers what the authors before me have done for me- empower, inspire, and awe.
(Speaking of YA that empowers, inspires, and awes, last night I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and it absolutely blew me away!)