The case for teen fiction (Brenda Hiatt)
Why do I write young adult novels? I summed up a lot of my reasons last month, since YA fiction was the “love” I chose to write about for our February Love theme, but I’ll reiterate some of the most important ones here as I expand on the reasons I write books for and about teens.
One thing that struck me when I first started reading YA fiction (as an adult) is the intensity of emotion. I kept that in mind when I started writing YA fiction myself and quickly discovered how much fun it is to use that intensity in my own stories. Reactions that might be unbelievably over-the-top for adult characters in adult fiction are totally believable in teens, who are still experiencing so many “firsts” in their lives. Ditto dumb mistakes. A blunder that might brand an adult heroine TSTL (too stupid to live) is much, much more realistic and relatable in a teen, who doesn’t have a whole lot of life experience yet.
Another fun thing about young adult fiction is how huge the character arcs tend to be. That totally makes sense, since these emerging adults are still figuring out their place in the world and who they want to be. This can involve super-important decisions that will affect the whole trajectory of their lives. It’s wonderful, as both a reader and a writer, to watch a character grow and develop, discovering previously unsuspected strengths (and weaknesses) along the way.
And then there’s now wonderfully broad the canvas is for YA fiction! I can tell stories in that “genre” (can you even call it a genre?) that would never fly elsewhere. Genre-bending is so common there, I don’t know if anyone even calls it genre-bending anymore! Even more fun, those quirky, coloring-outside-the-lines storylines are now finding their way into adult fiction, as well. Probably because so many readers (and writers) realized what enormous fun it can be to ignore the old “rules.”
Finally, YA fiction lends itself incredibly well to important lessons, even messages, without sounding preachy. That’s because the young characters in these stories are still learning what works, what doesn’t, and what the consequences of bad choices can be. I’m sure that’s why so many YA “issue books” have become hugely popular. I can’t claim to have written an “issue book” myself, but my stories definitely reflect my own worldview and opinions about what’s “good” and “bad.” If that inspires my readers to consider something they might not have otherwise, so much the better!
Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning Starstruck series. With the recent release of Unraveling the Stars, there are now ten books in the series: eight full-length novels and two novellas. Starstruck, as well as two short stories in that universe, are currently free to newsletter subscribers!