As a writer of young adult fiction, I face an… interesting predicament when it comes to explaining my work to people. Conversations about my writing usually go a little something like this –
Random friend/acquaintance/family member/co-worker: So you write! What’s your book about?
Me: Well, it’s a young adult novel about—
(Insert my blank stare here)
Them: Do you have anything for adults?
This is the point where I usually tell them that young adult lit isn’t just for young adults. I’m a huge fan of it obviously, and I know plenty of “grown-ups” who read the genre almost exclusively. But the truth? I don’t write these books for adults to read. That’s not to say that I don’t encourage folks to give them and the genre as a whole a chance, but they are not the ones I have in mind when I’m creating and piecing together a story.
Books were a very important part of my life as a teenager, probably even more so than they are now. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, and while I had friends, I wasn’t always good at being a part of a group. Like most teenagers, I felt awkward and didn’t always know how to express myself or even recognize what the things I went through and the emotions I felt really meant. When you’re just starting to get to know yourself, things like fear and anger can feel like the same thing. Sadness and guilt. Hatred and jealousy. Ignorance and bliss.
Without realizing it until I was much older, it was the books I read that helped me to understand the things I went through and the emotions that I felt better. Reading about the characters I loved going through their own stories helped me realize things like, hey, maybe I wasn’t really angry at my mom for constantly hounding me over the fact that I kept putting something important off. Maybe instead I was scared that what I was avoiding wouldn’t live up to my expectations – that maybe I wouldn’t live up to my expectations. It may sound insignificant, but when it comes to truly understanding yourself and your motivations, it’s really, really not.
So yeah, I don’t write my stories for adults. I write them for young adults to see themselves in the characters – the good and the bad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to teach them anything, or force them to learn what they’re doing right or wrong. They’re far more perceptive than most adults you’ll meet and leaps and bounds more open-minded. I just want to help them connect, to help them see a bit of themselves in the characters and stories I create.
I know the books I read helped me figure myself out along the way. I only hope the ones I write do the same for someone else.