Ever wonder why prescribed literature never caught your attention in high school? Well, let’s face it. As teenagers, we really didn’t feel the need to sit through lessons on books that made us reflect about things we didn’t relate to.
We had enough to think about . . .
Adolescence is an emotional roller coaster running through a storm, dipped in chocolate, and ridden with the guilt of a Netflix binge—random but exciting! We want to experience that instead of being told what to do with it.
So, why should you be writing young adult books?
Simply because there is no stage in our lives quite as compelling as the one filled with stories of our coming-of-age experiences. Within these moments, we try to understand something fundamental about ourselves—to bridge that gap into adulthood.
How do you get started in this booming market? Read on to find out.
Young Adult Books: Digging Into the Mind of the Adolescent
What Is Young Adult Fiction?
Young adult fiction—YA fiction for short—are books written for the age category of readers between the age of 14 and 18 years.
Often referred to by its other nomenclatures, problem novels, or coming-of-age stories, it denotes a popular category of fiction that’s meant to be transitional. It explores the unique issues of being a teenager, as a character tries and navigates their way from being a kid to the uncharted territory of adulthood.
The catch is no one ever told them adolescence would be uncharted as well! It’s this quality that makes stories such as these totally riveting.
Adolescent Psychology 101
Why are the teenage years so colorful?
Well, adulthood isn’t always a pleasure cruise. Imagine what it must feel like to take the wheel to that ride!
But, let’s dab our understanding with a mini-psych lecture.
Jean Piaget said that we enter a Formal Operational Stage of cognitive development when we blow out the candles for our 11th birthday. That comes with a fun surprise: The capacity for abstract reasoning.
It means we start having heady contemplations about our feelings and on fundamental principles like love, friendship, and even morality.
Something like that puts us through a sudden developmental crisis when we’ve been carefree with our cliques and just trying to deal with school. Erik Erikson took note of this dilemma in his psychosocial theory of development.
He labeled this stage “identity versus role confusion,” where the adolescent is faced with the task of establishing an enduring sense of self as opposed to being riddled with an uncertainty regarding who they are.
It means that teens are constantly engaged with the process of getting to know themselves and then testing this self-knowledge in the contexts of friendships, relationships, and the prospect of standing out among the crowd.
Benefits of Writing Young Adult Fiction
YA fiction has experienced a surge in popularity, with more and more novelists looking to the expertise of others on becoming blossoming YA authors.
However, beyond the fact that you’ll be initiated into a rapidly expanding category of fiction, you may be looking for something more inventive.
If your target market has always been adult audiences, then why would you suddenly start writing from the teen perspective?
Avoiding the Generational Pitfall
Perhaps your greatest motivation should come from the danger of getting stuck in a generation-tied perspective.
Depending on which age cohort you belong to, you inevitably share a particular spirit with a large group of people from around the world that were born within a certain period of time.
This classifies you in a certain generation—a category of individuals that have been extensively studied for their dominant perspective of the world and the qualities that they have to offer it.
Take the topic of ambition, for example. If you're a Cusper (Generation X, born between 1965–1980), then you probably had a fierce independence that made you define clear set goals for your life.
Growing up as a millennial (Generation Y, 1980–1994), you were likely to be more idealistic and willing to be adaptable in achieving your dream—convinced anything was possible.
In comparison, anyone from Generation Z entered the world with an openness to experience, while still tempered to a realistic view of the world that often drives them toward goals for the greater good.
Understanding differences like these are critical because they demonstrate how things that were important to you may not be cool for the modern teenager.
Staying on Top: Understanding Current Trends
Being fluent in generational differences opens you up to the constant shift in what’s popular, which could help you to gauge the interest of young readers.
One way to do this is keeping up with the latest fads and fashions.
Fads are temporary crazes, things, or activities that are considered popular by a group of people for a short time. Today, TikTok is a perfect example, with its constant Rolodex of online challenges that influencers put forward to their followers.
Fashions, or trends, last for a longer period of time and are shared by a much larger group of people. Look at choices in attire, where stylistic tastes usually remain around for a significant amount of time. Think of hipster fashion or wearing denim.
You're probably wearing the same pair of blue jeans your mother had when she went to college!
The Adolescent Formula: Pointers for Writing YA
Writing young adult fiction could help you become an author of the age! However, you may still find it daunting to suddenly become “lit” and avoid being “read to filth” because of any outdated views to your stories.
The start is always difficult, but the following three pointers could totally help you flex your writing skills!
POV: The Cure for Egocentrism
To be relatable as a YA author, you need to get things from the teenage point of view.
Adolescents can spot a lack of authenticity from a mile away. The truth is, they’ll clock you for not emulating the mood that the situation of your story calls for.
One way of avoiding egocentrism is avoiding the use of stereotypes. True, they exist for a reason, but teens are more complex than the public selves they portray. Everyone just wants to fit in, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
There is a multidimensionality to them that needs to develop through their particular struggle in the book.
Let's look at a cult classic, and the bunch of non-conventional misfits that made up The Breakfast Club.
Giving Your Hero a Voice
If your aim is to be relatable, then it all starts with how you shape your protagonist. Choosing the right character archetype is crucial, but emulating the character is a challenge all itself.
The personality of your hero doesn’t just rely on what they do or say but also what they think. Every word on the page counts, conveyed through elements like syntax, word choice, and tone.
Then, of course, you’d do well to update your glossary of modern slang. For example, does your supporting character convey TFW (that feeling when) you’ve confided in your best friend? That one that “low-key” always has your back?
That friend that is a little bit salty and will give you the real tea no matter what?
How many other neologisms did you spot through this post?
If you missed them, you may already have your work cut out for you!
Puppeteering: The Character Setup
When you’re working a stereotype too hard and giving your character an inauthentic voice, then you're creating distance between your character and the possibility of them reaching that genuine emotional truth.
In another manner of speaking, you may be allowing the story to write the character instead of allowing the character to write the story.
The main hook with YA fiction is the immediacy of experience and the forward progression of the story as the hero grows in some remarkable way by solving a problem or reaching some self-insight.
Another pitfall is adult writers who think that the character should inevitably learn some kind of lesson. In doing so, they write from a moral high ground, projecting their maturity to a situation that didn’t call for it. Remember POV?
Teens don’t like sitting through lessons. They like to discover it themselves. A young adult novel shouldn’t feel like a finished exam but rather like an adventure that puts them to the test.
We’re, Like, Almost Done
You now have tools you need to become a luminary in young adult fiction!
The best part is that your story can still be escapist, venturing into boundary-pushing plotlines where fantasy, sci-fi, and teen romance meet.
So, what is young adult fiction?
YA is not a genre, it’s a feeling captured in a genre. Its heroes are real people that found themselves like we once did—or may still be doing! Did you know that more than half of YA readers are actually adults?
Perhaps you need some inspiration? Take a look at some contemporary examples of YA books that have been revolutionary to the teen of today.
Need a youthful spirit to guide you through the now-unfamiliar territory of teen-drama? Contact us to set you up with a “woke” ghostwriter who won’t “ghost” you!
Even more, allow us to help you explore other explosive genres that are making “fetch” happen!