As the saying goes “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting….etc. has now transformed into “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting YA fiction.” Please, for the easily offended, I have nothing against cats, just using an old descriptive term. Many of my Tweeps write YA, my FB friends write YA, and I write YA. Exceptions exist amongst my virtual new author colleagues; some of the horror genre authors and William Butler’s work is not YA.
I went to google (who doesn’t these days?) to find the definition of YA (Young Adult). Like most YA sites, the main definition is the age of the lead character, age 14-21 on several sites. Also included are the growth and rite-of-passage elements with a positive note in the ending to show character growth into adulthood, or realization of some of life’s hard lessons. Peer pressure, heartbreak from young love, body image, and relationships with adults also factor into YA fantasy.
While thinking about this topic, I found myself back-pedaling to why I thought of the reasons behind YA popularity these days. It makes sense to get into young people’s stories following the mass success of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight.” But thinking further, I’m not so sure. Not that the popularity of the above series doesn’t help; these books got young people into the bookstores and on line purchasing books.
To me, our adolescent years define much of what we are as adults. It’s a time of so many “firsts” like first date, first love, first kiss (and other...keeping it rated G here), and first car (if we’re lucky). During this period of our lives is when we make many first choices. We have some choice of our classes in junior high/high school. We choose college, and our major or choose not to attend college. Lifetime friendships are sometimes begun in adolescence. Other “firsts” include introduction to drugs, alcohol, and part-time jobs. With so much self-identity made during these years, it makes sense to create stories around them.
Now think about it, new authors: What a great template to create a story! Young girl meets hottie guy in high school that’s a protective vampire. Nerd kid in junior high becomes a great wizard. A group of kids find themselves in another world, to become respected warriors with noble titles. A teenage slave soldier transcends from killer to a normal person (the message of my Gastar novellas). One could use mainstream, medieval, urban, dystopian, or any other backdrop to reflect the changes we recall during our own adolescence.
Adolescence is a time of milestones. When I look through my old photographs, most of them were taken between the ages of 14 and 21. It’s not that the latter years didn’t matter as much, but the points in time that determine who we are later in life can be tracked back to that age group. I suspect many of us new authors that write YA fiction can easily relate to those days, yielding thought-provoking, entertaining fiction.
So when I read another YA novel by a new author, I don’t consider it a negative because of the immense popularity. Whatever the backdrop, the plot always moves in directions we can all identify with: The fun, excitement, and pain of adolescence. YA is OK.