Why YA?

Every now and then you see an article crop up on the difference between YA and Adult; not just the technicalities, but the possibilities present in each genre. Today I’m adding my own voice to the discussion, based on some deep thinking I’ve done lately about YA.

I never used to call myself a YA writer, and not only because I didn’t know what YA was. I honestly thought I was an adult writer. Then I went through a really hard process where I had to fit NAMELESS into a single genre, and I’ll be honest, for a time I really struggled with what it meant for a story to be YA and have a YA voice.

Then came the sleeping beauty retelling. By this time I’d read enough YA, including the fabulous stories by my debut writer friends Kat Zhang and Susan Dennard. I didn’t see YA as a category for kids anymore. YA isn’t just sloppy paranormal romances and high school gossip books. YA has depth. Adventure. Freedom. And I found my YA voice through Rose, who taught me how to re-approach NAMELESS and rework it into the tone I needed.

Why do we write stories about teens? From an outsider’s perspective it might seem strange and/or creepy: what are grown men and women doing fetishizing the teenage experience? But then it occurred to me: We write about teenagers because they have a freedom that adults don’t have.

Yeah, adults can vote and legally drink alcohol and have the legal capacity to sign on the dotted line, but that’s not freedom. If Amanda, the 32-year-old marketing assistant with a husband and two-year-old child opened her closet one day to find a magical world asking her to come on an adventure this very second or never get the opportunity again, what would she do? She would have do decline.

Adults have responsibilities. They’ve made promises. Amanda can’t abandon her husband, her child, her job, her mortgage, her dog, etc., and go on some magical adventure.

But Kristen the teenager can. Sure, she’d miss her family and boyfriend and struggle to get back to them, but what does she really give up if she plunges through that portal? Kristen could hitchhike across the country, sign up to be a crew mate on a deep fishing boat, or join a team of deep space volunteers.

Adults may not like to think about it, but teens have a freedom adults do not (Not to say adulthood doesn’t come with its own freedoms. For example, I think it’s way more fun to be an adult than a teenager, in a non-magical setting). Teens have not yet tied themselves down.

Plus they’re the best-looking they’ll ever be, and their bodies typically don’t have chronic pain that would get in the way during escape scenes.

The kinds of stories I write (thus far) involve adventure, and coming into your own and figuring out how to love. Teens are doing all this for the first time, when everything is new and exciting and meaningful. Is it any wonder they’re more fun to work with?

I do plan on writing adult books (in the distant future, lol), but for now I’m happy and proud to call myself a Young Adult writer.

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