When reflecting upon the books I read as a teenager, I imagined adult fiction would be tremendously different and advanced compared to the books I was reading at the time. The truth, I soon found out, was much less exciting than my imagination had led me to believe.
This is a common misconception for many when trying to define YA as a genre, and that is simply because, it isn’t one. My core piece of advice for anyone wanting to successfully write for young people, in a way which sings to them, is you must first stop perceiving YA as a genre at all, and start recognising it as a space for stories designed for a progressive, considerate, nuanced reader, who’s tastes we can all learn a great deal from. YA is as expansive and multi-faceted in its approaches to story-telling, as any other demographic. If the broad tomes of YA have any specific connection at all, it’s that they are often at the forefront of current ideas and cultural shifts.
When writing for teenagers, you need to have some core realisations. The first of which is that YA is not just simplified adult fiction. At their core, YA stories primarily centre around the loves, lives, and liberations of teenagers, offering perspectives that young readers may find highly resonant. The misconception is that stories about young people could only be of value to young people, or could only be written in a way that is appropriate exclusively for young readers. This is not the case, as so many mis-categorised books would tell us: To Kill A Mockingbird, as the most famous example.
In truth, rather than YA being a simpler sister of Adult fiction, I feel the stories that matter to teenagers are far more progressive than many adult titles have ever been. When looking to our social surroundings, we see time and time again that young people are often leaders in activism, equality, and overall progression. And whilst not all ideas from today’s youth culture are exactly brand new, they are all appropriately reimagined and reconditioned for our brand new culture and age. Technology has broken down our social borders, and allowed for the hyper-acceleration and refinement of collective ideas to take place at scale and en masse. Today’s teenager, not drastically different from she who has come before her, is assertive, with a deep consciousness of morality on a social scale. For authors, it is no longer enough to tokenise or pay lip service. We must respect the work that teenagers do and the issues that they care about, for we should also care as passionately and deeply about them too.