I was in an article kind of mood today, so I wrote this little piece:
Why Do I Write Young Adult Fiction?
When I was a little fellow, my local library didn’t even have a Young Adult section. What my library had was a Kids section, and then everything else. Sometimes there was crossover; some of Terry Pratchett’s books were in Kids, some were in Fantasy. It’s only recently that the Young Adult section was created, a pleasant little corner which also happens to be the busiest part of the library–with good reason. Whenever I go there now, and look at all the books on display, I always think “This. This is what I was always looking for, as I wandered between Kids and Everything Else.” Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of great books when I was young (and a lot of not so great ones, too), but I would have loved a Young Adults section.
Young Adults. I like the implications of the term–that once you’re around ten or eleven or so (depending on your precociousness) you’re not quite a child any more, but rather a ‘young adult’. Teenagers don’t get enough credit, I feel. “But look at this YouTube clip of a boy sticking a skyrocket up his bottom and lighting it!”, okay fine so yes, there are idiotic teenagers out there. But there are also a whole heck of a lot of so-called ‘grown-up’ idiots out there, too. If you’re going by percentages I’d say teens have a slight edge over us older peeps, in the ‘unjustified idiocy’ stakes.
I let myself run off there for a moment, it’s a bad habit of mine. But really, I remember being a teenager, I remember not being taken seriously and having to fight for every scrap of respect I got and even after I’d proved myself over and over and over again STILL being underestimated by the world at large. Now that I’m older it hasn’t gotten that much better, to be completely honest, but at least I’m not judged by my age any more. Well. Not as much, anyway.
What I write are mostly stories about young people trying to find their way in a world of adults. Trying to make their mark on a world that doesn’t take them seriously. Fighting for every scrap of respect they get, proving themselves over and over and over again until the world has no choice but to sit up and take notice of them. Stories about young people taking charge of their own destinies and showing those crusty old adults how to get things DONE. Also about growing up; about realising how big the world really is, and how small you really are, and being shown that one person can’t really make much of a difference at all … and then SHATTERING this misconception. One person is all it takes to change the world; they just have to be in the right place at the right time … and make the right choice.
Why yes, I am a champion of the individual, how ever could you tell?
I write young adult fiction because I like young adults and I like telling stories about young adults–which is not to say that I feel older people or older characters have nothing to say or contribute, quite the opposite. It’s just that I like showing things from a younger perspective. Also, despite being nearly thirty and being married and having two daughters, I still feel more like a ‘young adult’ than a ‘grown-up’. I like games and cartoons and poison-coloured fizzy drink, and I’d feel more comfortable talking about what my favourite Pokemon is than discussing world politics or fine wines.
(It’s Jolteon, by the way.)
If I tried I could probably write a thriller or a romance or a literary novel (whatever that is), but those don’t really interest me, not when I could write about pirates and superheroes and zombies instead. To me, Young Adult fiction means ‘freedom’, the freedom to explore complex themes and issues and ideas within a more simplistic and enjoyable framework, with characters just as deep as those in other genres–deeper, in a lot of cases. Sophistication often hides superficiality, and simplicity does not always indicate a lack of depth. Just like young adults are often underestimated, I think Young Adult fiction itself is underestimated. It’s the bravest genre. It’s the most open genre. It’s the genre that offers the widest diversity, the greatest depth, and sometimes the most honest truths.
Why do I write Young Adult fiction? Honestly, why wouldn’t I?