In Essay, Recommedations

The art of writing young adult fiction might seem trivial to those who stick to reading adult fiction and literature, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although the often-shorter stories may appear simplistic and formulaic (which they can be), YA actually requires writers to tap into a very particular teen voice and create a world that appeals to youngsters. Have you tried talking to a teenager? They are riddled with insecurities, questions that they refuse to ask, bottled up frustration, angst, dreams and lust…lots and lots of lust. They are brash, closed off, irate, irrational, and oftentimes overtly righteous and arrogant. Hormones pump angrily through their veins and trying convert that into written word so that this nonsensical demographic can connect to the characters, is tough.

The voice is often difficult to acquire since fads change so quickly in youth. From clothing styles, music trends, to verbiage used in everyday conversations, being able to understand and recreate a situation that connects to teens is in fact extremely complex and often poorly devised, making truly great young adult novels rare. It is also explains why there are only a handful of writers who pen the majority of the novels.

I find writers often disconnect from their audience when referencing pop culture. When the authors age slips in, I am instantly pulled out. For instance, I constantly read books where the 16-year-old protagonist references Star Wars or 80’s rock bands. Teens are, for the most part, narrow-minded creatures that insulate themselves in their worlds. They live in the now, blind to anything that doesn’t directly affect their sensibilities, especially with access to 500 plus television channels and the internet. Gone are the days of watching The Brady Bunch, because there is nothing else on. Teens can instantly tap into what interests them and barricade off all that antiquated propaganda the parental unit tempts them with. They don’t usually venture beyond the end of their nose, instead they immerse themselves in recent trends as a way to protect themselves from the looming adult world. It’s what keeps them cool and most kids want desperately to appear cool.

While I was researching my own voice and searching for the life to breathe into my characters I examined tons of reference books about writing for younger adults. Here are some of my recommendations. Not all of them pertain directly to YA, but I found all of them highly informative and great tools for my literary adventure.

Enjoy and please share with us any of your recommendations!


1. (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to) Writing for Young Adults: By Deborah Perlberg

2. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer,  by Roy    Peter Clark

3. Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market Annual Report

4. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, by Jordan Rosenfeld

Sara O'Connor
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