Imagine you’re 16 again and stuck in gym class. You hate sweating, your shorts are riding up you-know-where, and the only guy you’re sure you’ll ever love is braiding the blonde hair of your arch nemesis. All you want to do is run.
But as a YA writer, you never quite make it out the door, let alone off campus and into some other genre, like mystery or chicklit. Why is that?
As YA writers, we tell of the highs, lows, and woes of adolescence because we are older, seasoned, and able to look back with a keen eye and crafty wit while upholding the thoughts, feelings, and desires every teenager has. We “get it” even though we’re 20 years out of that doomed pit, mixing our sage knowledge with a photographic memory to create moving tales for the young — and young-at-heart.
Okay, that sounds like a load of whatever. But the point is we never really left behind what we experienced. High school was where we staked our claim, discovered the beginnings of ourselves, and opened our souls to new experiences that brought us joy and devastation.
We can still taste the nachos with orange plastic cheese sauce and jalapenos from the cafeteria… and know what it’s like to kiss our boyfriend after eating such a feast. There’s the teacher who believed in you, and the many more who put you on the spot in front of the entire class. Or the jocks who pantsed you in the quad, and the stoners who showed you how to use an aluminum can for something other than drinking. Ah, yes, it’s all still there.
Teens want to identify with someone who understands what they are going through. This is the first time for them, and if you can be there as a great storyteller who knows the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of adolescence, then more power to you.
Carry on, YA writers!