Why A? (Brian Katcher)


So what is YA? According to my sources, it's literature for and about students of high school age. There's some overlap with middle grade, and the new genre, new adult (18-early twenties, that weird 'adult but still a minor' time). 

Up until about twenty years ago, YA did not exist as a genre. Teens were considered to be older children, and books about people that age were either very light, or very preachy (remember Go Ask Alice?)

But someone figured out that teens read, and they want to have access to good books, with intricate plots and well-developed characters. Almost overnight, a new genre was born, and I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor.

But how can I, a man who's pushing 50, still write about teenagers? Sometimes I have to ask my 16 year old daughter what slang expressions mean.

Well, there are some themes in life that are universal, whether you were 15 in 2023, 1993, or 1953:

*The realization that you see the world differently--perhaps very differently--than your parents.

*The awareness that the safety net that has protected you all your life is going to peter out very shortly.

*Knowledge of one's mortality, sometimes with an event that really hits home.

*Loss of long time friends as you drift apart.

*First loves and first heartaches.

And that's just the general universal stuff. Many teens face much darker experiences, such as suicide, sexual assault, divorce, and other deep subjects.

When I went to high school, over thirty years ago, if I wanted to find a book about any of those subjects, I would have been out of luck (or had to have gone to the adult section). But hey, I could have read a story about how Jimmy just can't dance or how Tina realizes she could be pretty, even with glasses.

The world of YA is wonderful and wide. Don't let them take that away (you know who I'm talking about).


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