Age and Maturity: Naa Naa Na Na Naa (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines, we’re talking about age and maturity: of the characters we write or what we’ve learned as writers.

Not for the first time on this blog, I sense that I’m about to go off topic. Or off the rails, as the case may be.

First, what is age? What is maturity?

And why on earth should your opinion of my age and/or maturity matter to anyone? Or my opinion of yours?

For starters, I come at this from a very personal viewpoint, because according to medical tests my biological age is 15-20 years younger than my chronological age. As one doc put it, I AM my biological age for all purposes other than my birth certificate.

And I feel it. Always have. But in many ways I also still feel 17, which is why it’s so easy for me to write young adult (YA) novels. As a songwriter, I loooove to write break-up songs, even though I haven’t broken up with a guy in ages. (Hmm...) (Heh heh.) A large part of me really IS a teenager. To be fair, though, I will note that my knees disagree.

But whether I’m 17 or 30 or something north of that, who cares? In high school, is a geek or a nerd less mature than a hotshot jock or cheerleader? Is the stereotypical rich, popular, perhaps sexually active kid in high school more mature than the loner without friends? And who gets to decide?

If I do things differently from you, is that because of my age or so-called maturity ... or perhaps just taste and style? I wear hoodies and Converse Chucks, and if I’m walking past a playground, I will almost certainly take a swing on the swing set. I will laugh at things that you may not laugh at. For that matter, you might laugh at things that I find offensive, although I likely won’t say that to you.

I’ve always felt different, whether I was 7 or 17 or older. People even TELL me I’m different. Worse, they tell me all the things I should stop doing, like “playing around with a MERE HOBBY like music when I should be easing up on life” (yes, really) or playing hardcore sports in which I get injured ... like a kid in high school might. I’m simply wired differently. And there’s always that vague sense – from others – that I’m not truly part of the gang.

Especially today, too many people are quick to rush to judgment and to put other people in boxes and call them “different” in a disparaging way, likely so that they feel better about their own insecure selves. (I actually see that less often these days with teens and more with adults, but it’s still a common set-up for a YA novel.) Age and especially “maturity” are a couple of those boxes.

People who do that are judgmental, period. I try to ignore it, but I do FEEL it. I’m an empath: I feel everything, God help me. And I would rather be me, exactly as I am, than some strangled version of what you want me to be. It’s my hope that every teenage protagonist of the novels I write feels the same way, or at least does so by the end of the novel.

So today I get an assignment to write a blog about age and maturity, and it triggers all of these FEELINGS, and I went with the feelings rather than the topic per se.

Now you know how I can write YA so easily.

I think I also just figured out the heroine of an upcoming book. Or maybe this will help me with the heroine of the series I’m revising right now.

Whatever works!

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. I love that about taking a swing when walking by a playground. ALWAYS.

    1. I love it so much that my first official music video (for my song "Act As If") shows me swinging on swing sets ... in different colors of Converse Chucks! lol.

  2. I can relate to so much of this. Sadly, my brain might still think like I'm seventeen, but everything else just laughs at the idea.

    1. Most of my body agrees that I'm still seventeen, but my knees give that a hard pass. :-)


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