One Writer’s Journey

August 22, 2017

YA: Writing It Real

I remember reading YA novels while my son was in upper elementary and middle school and thinking, “Whoa!  These are teenagers?  You’ve got to be kidding me.”  Kids with their own cars taking lengthy road trips.  Teens with credits cards buying this and that and hotel rooms?  No worries.

Of course, now that I’m the mom of an eighteen year-old, I laugh.  You have to be 21 to rent a hotel room or lease a car.  I know this because my son and his friends wanted to take a road trip this summer.  Did I say, “no”?  Did I say, “Over my dead body”?  Nope

.  I didn’t have to say a word.

With two guys saving up for cars, they weren’t going to sink all of their money in a lengthy trip even if it would be great fun.  And my son discovered the problem with renting the hotel room or car rentals while he was doing the research.

So I had to laugh when I read Vivian Parkin DeRosa’s Huffington Post article, “I’m a Teenager and I Don’t Like Young Adult Novels. Here’s Why.”  As she put it, most of these characters aren’t high school students.  They’re twenty.  And I have to agree.

Not that we always want our characters to be 100% typical.  When I was a teen, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels as well as Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Cherryh’s Chanur Saga.  At no point did I really believe that I was going to be stranded in deepest, darkest Africa and live among the apes, find myself on a dragon fighting thread, or traveling space with humanoid beings with cat-like faces.  Never.

But that was okay.  In fact, it was better than okay.  It was amazing.

I went to a public high school.  I didn’t want my fiction to reflect my reality, thank you.  Not that I loathed my life but fiction was something else altogether.

I’m not saying that you need to confine your flights of fancy to speculative fiction.  But if you want to write realistic characters?  Make ’em real, people.  Teen readers know the difference.



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