Why We Write YA

It’s a good time to be a young adult or middle grade writer. Thanks to the success of series like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, people are paying a lot more attention to these genres and realizing that there’s a major audience out there for good YA/MG literature.

But the YA/MG writers I know don’t get into the genre because it’s popular or because it could make them a lot of money. (Ha!) Instead, it’s because they have a passion for stories that will resonate with younger reader. Writers don’t choose YA; YA chooses them.

A couple of these writers–Lucas Klauss and Melissa Kantor–have great posts about why they write YA. You should read the complete posts, but a couple of good quotes. First, from Lucas Klaus:

“Most YA novels tell a story in a direct way, unencumbered by cynicism, cleverness, or pretentiousness. Teenage readers will not tolerate that bulls**t. True, this approach, like any other, has limitations, and more oblique methods can yield surprising insights, but I find young adult literature’s straightforward style refreshing and rewarding. If one of the major goals of fiction is to help us empathize with one another—or, from a different point of view, to help us feel less alone—then why not try simply to communicate?”

I don’t tell to like very experimental fiction, so this focus on emotional communication is key for me as a reader and as a writer. And from Melissa Kantor:

“Writing about teenagers (for me), means not just remembering but being willing to dwell in that place where life felt like walking a tightrope without a net.”

Love that description. Although anyone can feel desperation at any point their lives, there’s something about being a teenager in which emotions are heightened–and not just because of hormones. It’s a time when you are first experiencing so many things on your own, and when you’re learning to be yourself. As a result, relationships and events are filled with an intensity you might not feel at any other point in your life. Literature about those experiences can really resonate with readers–both teen and adult.

I didn’t set out thinking I’d be a YA author. My MFA program was in general fiction writing. I came to realize that I’d way rather will a Printz or Newbery than a Pulitzer, and that most of my short stories centered around young characters. I love how daring the genre is–you can write historical fiction, novels in verse, or paranormal romance and still connect with readers. The focus is on crafting a good story with compelling characters.

I also love how vibrant the YA community is. I’m not sure how it compares with, say, literary fiction or adult fantasy, but the YA/MG community has felt very encouraging t me so far. Again, people get into it because they love the literature, and teen readers are unabashedly enthusiastic about their favorite books. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of a literary community like that?

Feel free to share your own thoughts about why YA/MG rocks.

0 thoughts on “Why We Write YA

  1. Mindy R says:

    While I majored in English and still read “adult” novels from time to time, I never outgrew YA/MG fiction. Even when I choose adult novels, my favorites always seem to be the ones with teen narrators that win Alex awards. 🙂

    I love the quotes you included. They do capture what I, as a reader, like about fiction for young people. It’s straightforward about a time in our lives when things don’t feel straightforward.

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