Teen Fiction Rules

Something I get asked a lot is: “Why do you write more for teens than adults?” I’ve tried a few times, but I’m not sure I’ve ever given the truly kick-ass answer that the question deserves.

Fortunately, writer and secret agent Gwenda Bond, who runs one of my favorite lit-blogs, has come to the rescue on this one. On top of being recently and stunningly re-coiffeured, she links today to a great essay by Lauren Mechling, about why it’s better to write teen fiction than the other kinds:

Teen fiction is undergoing a remarkable transformation — the Wakefield twins of Sweet Valley High have had to step aside for new characters that are both believable and cool. The days of nice-enough, blonde-enough, B-plus-enough heroines are over. The new kids on the block have moxie and magical powers and, dare I say it, soul.

It’s not just the world of teen fiction that’s cast a spell on me; it’s also the people I’m writing for. Teenage-hood fascinates me — it makes me giddy and breaks my heart at once. Same goes for teenagers. Teens don’t get their due credit. They’re not unformed creatures, wobbling toward sentience; rather, they’re super-formed, super-sensitive, super-perceptive. They pay attention. They stay on their toes. They get it.

(Click here for the rest.)

All very true. And of course there’s also the other things that make being a YA writer better:
a) More and cooler fan mail (with more “!!!” marks);
b) Staying on the shelves and in print a lot longer;
c) Being hand-sold with great enthusiasm in stores and personally recommended by librarians;
d) And best of all, switching from fantasy to sf to realism without agents predicting career-death (unlike much of the adult world, where readers demand the same book again and again–how sad is that?).

So, has anyone read Mechling’s book: The Rise and Fall of a 10th Grade Social Climber?

9 thoughts on “Teen Fiction Rules

  1. Pingback: Do Or Do Not.
  2. I saw that book on my bookshelf one day. Having my dad as a librarian means that random books just appear on my bookshelf at random times.

    Yeah, we’re less picky over here in teen-world. I suppose if someone tells us it’s good, we’ll read it, and most likely obsess over it for a least a week, maybe more. Sometimes it even earns the title of “favorite book.” When I ask adults what they’re favorite book is, they either say they can’t choose, or say what their favorite childhood book was.

  3. The last few years I’ve been reading a tonne of YA and the overall quality of the writing is WAY better than adult fiction. Just compare the bestselling YA books to the adult bestsellers. It’s so much better!

    As an adult I feel I must answer Morgan’s question in a less annoying way than the adults she’s asked thus far. My favourite book right this minute is Valiant by Holly Black. Yesterday it was Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. The day before that The Locusts Have No King by Dawn Powell. What can I say? I’m fickle.

  4. My favorite book is Midnighters (though I can’t decide whether I like the first or the second better!). For a while, there wasn’t a lot of good stuff for teens because writers would never take it seriously. They’d just write that “magical world where unicorns DO exist and everyone does magic and nobody fights with anything better than a sword” kind of stuff for teens. I’m sick of it. You can’t get used to warrior princess characters. Real people are just better.

  5. YA fiction is way better…adult books are too boring–I prefer teen characters with attitudes and problems I can relate to. What can I say; teenagers are just cooler than everyone else. heh heh.

  6. I remember when a librarian friend took a look at Tithe and told me I was writing a YA book. I was insulted; I had all the typical dumb ideas about what a teen book was. Then I read one. I think it was by Tamora Pierce. It shut me right up.

    People who wonder “why YA?” aren’t reading YA, in my opinion.

    Also, THANK YOU Justine. I loooooooved Magic or Madness and cannot wait for the sequel so it is gratifying to hear that you liked my book too.

  7. I remember when a librarian friend took a look at Tithe and told me I was writing a YA book. I was insulted

    That makes me curious . . . Famously, it took you five years to write Tithe. So, like, how many years along was it that you admitted that you were in fact writing YA, and that, yes, this was a cool thing to be doing?

  8. Morgan-I’ve been thinking about what my favorite book is, but like you said, I can’t say off the top of my head. Probably my answer is Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, which is one I’ve loved for almost two decades. Plus: cool title.

    My favorite book is Midnighters (though I can’t decide whether I like the first or the second better!).

    Thanks for that! I’d say the second one has more depth, but I usually like my more recent books better. Maybe because I’d like to think I’m getting smarter, or more mature, or something as time passes . . . and not just older.

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