Some Things Never Change (Brian Katcher)
I always tell people there are three things you never put in a YA novel: Slang, celebrities and technology. These things change so quickly that they can quickly date your book. I once had to stop myself from having a character listening to a Sony Walkman.
But as my teenage years rapidly dwindle into the past, how do I keep my voice fresh? How do I make a character young enough to be my son sound like an actual contemporary teen?
Fortunately, I've found there are some universal themes that never lose their freshness. Og and Zogga were probably dealing with these during the stone age.
* The realization that your parents are not right about everything, and that you disagree with many of their beliefs. But what do you believe?
* The questioning of the once inviolate institutions of your government, your church, or your idols.
* Your old friends becoming increasingly distant and hard to relate to. What's changed?
* That first time your crush smiled at you and said 'Yeah, I like you too.'
* That first time your crush looked at you and said 'Not in a million years.'
* Your first taste of mortality. The realization that death comes for the young as well as the old.
* The realization that you're going to be on your own in a few years, without the support network you've come to rely on.
* The discovery that you cannot, in fact, do anything you want if you just believe in yourself.
* The discovery that you have a real talent, something that makes you unique and special.
* The realization (which will come far too late) that these times, while they may not be the best in your life, are great, and you'll never experience anything like them again.
Well, there you go. The secret to writing the perfect YA novel. Hey, you know what would really sell? A dystopia! And a cover with giant teen faces on it. Gold.