A question was recently posed by someone on Twitter. It went something like this: If you’re over the age of 25, why do you write YA? (that’s young adult in bookspeak)
I immediately answered with a series of tweets. I love YA and have for some time, but the question was more difficult to answer than I thought. So today, I wanted to explore the answer to this question a bit more in a blog post.
Why do I really write YA, as opposed to children’s books or adult books? Like many writers, I do my best thinking through my hands. So here goes. . .
I write YA because I love to read YA. Yes, I’m 40 years old, but a part of me will forever be seventeen. The angst, the love, the frustration, the confusion, and the excitement of a life stretching before me are memories clearly etched inside my brain. As I stated in one tweet–teenagehood is a pivotal time. One which I think sets many of us on the path to where we are today. Of course, we may be vastly different people than we were as teens, but our teen experiences are what set those changes in motion, most likely.
I write YA because I can relate to kids that age. It’s why I chose to teach middle schoolers–that awkward age between being a child and not-quite-adult. I’ll probably always identify with the whole ‘not fitting in’ issue which is so common amongst this age. Nearly three decades later, I still don’t feel like I belong in any particular group. Fortunately, I’ve learned to accept and embrace my uniqueness, and even learn to love the fact that I tend to go against the grain.
I write YA because I believe reading is important, and I think it’s especially important that teens have books they can relate to and love. Reading is a life skill. But it’s also more than that–it’s an escape, it’s a passion, it’s a way to connect with the world in ways you never considered before. I remember having students in class who didn’t give a hoot about school or anything in it, but they diligently brought their copy of Twilight or Harry Potter to read every day. Speak what ill you may about these two books, but they got kids who’d previously read very little (voluntarily, at least) reading. They sparked a love for books that continued long afterward. I had many a discussion about Twilight with enthusiastic students. It was a common bond between us. For a moment, they saw me perhaps not as a teacher, but as a fellow reader and lover of teen fiction, like them.
I write YA because these are the stories and characters which come to me. Sure, I’ve had a few ideas for younger or older protagonists, but the ones I’ve pursued with fervor have all featured teens. I guess you could say I’m just following what both my heart and brain tell me to write.
I think some believe that adults only want to write YA because we feel it’s our duty to impart our knowledge on to the younger generation. Maybe this is true for some writers, but it’s definitely not why I write YA. Yes, I may be twenty-five years older than my intended audience, but it’s not my intent to teach them anything. Even as a teacher, I considered myself more of a lifelong learner than a wise educator who was bestowing the gift of my knowledge upon my students. I taught because I wanted to share my enthusiasm for learning. I wanted to share my love of science, grammar and writing. I wanted to share my love of reading.
Perhaps these are also reasons why I write YA. When we’re passionate about something, it’s only natural to want to share it with the world.