I never started out to write for young adults. It never actually occurred to me to do it on purpose, though you'd think it would have, since I'm a child psychologist. The first book I ever wrote sort of straddled the line between adult and young adult, which doomed it from the start (that my writing just wasn't ready for primetime yet might also have had something to do with it).
Somewhere along the line, someone told me that the story would be better if it was just straight-up YA. Huh. So I started reading YA and was astounded--it was some of the best written stuff I'd read. Passionate. Intense. Poignant. Exciting. Elegant.
Are you picturing ballgowns and pearls now?
There's more than one definition of elegant, so let me clarify which one I mean: pleasantly ingenious and simple.
Good YA is elegant. It's not a dumbed-down version of adult fiction, no more than teens are dumbed-down versions of adults (more on this later this week). Instead, YA is a type of fiction and style all its own. It makes the intricate and complicated world of teen characters understandable, relatable, and riveting without stealing the authenticity.
I write YA because of the challenge of it. I have to write smart. I have to distill every ounce of emotion so I can render it on the page in its purest form. I need to capture the characters at the perfect moment in their development--they have to ring true but also powerfully vivid and raw--life, heightened. I must accomplish this while rolling a story forward with ruthless efficiency.
YA has boundaries adult fiction doesn't have. It must be faithful to its audience. Their concerns are not adult concerns. Their world is a different shape.
I'm not sure if being a psychologist has made me a better writer. Maybe. Probably. But I know writing YA has made me a better psychologist, in that it gives the phrase developmentally appropriate a new, vibrant meaning, one I carry with me into my work. It strips the technical from it and makes it real.
Do you write YA? If so, why?
Don't forget to visit Lydia for her Medical Monday post and Laura for Mental Health Monday!