Why do you write books for teens? I get asked this question a lot, as do all my fellow young adult authors. I’m sure those who write middle grade get asked why they write for preteens, and picture book authors are queried as to why they write for children. I, like I’m sure all of them do, have a practiced (and honest) answer: that I prefer the pacing and immediacy found in teen literature. That I enjoy the focus on characters and relationships. That I find the teen voice better reflects our rapidly changing times. That I love reading YA*, and one should always write what one loves. But always when I’m posed this question, there is part of me that wonders if authors of adult fiction are ever asked why they write for grownups?
Call me a cynic, but it seems that a lot of people want YA authors to justify why they write for teens, and I’m always a bit curious as to why that is. Does one reach a certain age and suddenly believe that the interests, desires, trials, and tribulations of young people are less worthy writing material than those of adults? That they are less interesting? That a teen reader is worth less than an adult one?
I personally think that young people are an incredible pool of readers to draw upon. They will pick up anything that interests them, jumping from fantasy to historical to literary without censure. The very fact that the teen section in bookstores isn’t broken into categories attests to that behavior, and it also allows for an incredible amount of genre blending without the resultant head-scratching of where to shelve these creations. Teens are voracious readers and dedicated fans, and contrary to many people’s misguided perceptions, highly literate.** They are quite capable of reading whatever they want – and they do. As long as what an author produces is interesting, compelling, and well crafted, it will never be teenagers who instill limitations on what is written for them, which is why so much of the recent groundbreaking fiction is found in the YA section. I think that makes the authors who write for teens (and teenagers-at-heart***) very fortunate.
What do you think?
* I love adult books too, so maybe I’ll write one at some point!
** Globally, teens have a higher literacy rate than adults. UNESCO says so.
*** Because everyone knows there are many, many adult fans of YA lit!