Kim and Ron had hope enough for hundreds.
Writing for the young adult market can be tricky, particularly if you're well beyond having that youthful optimism—that blossom of hope all teenagers have at the core of their being.
Yes, I said hope. If you're a parent with a couple of teenagers in the house, I apologize if coffee just spewed out your nose. Cough it out, dear. You'll get past it.
Despite what you may think, I am NOT crazy for believing teenagers have hope. I turn 50 on Wednesday, but I remember. When I was a teen, I cared about EVERYTHING. I usually tried to act like I didn't care about anything, but I cared. Almost as much as Kim and Ron.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
As a writer of young adult fiction, I do find myself writing grittier for today's readers. Death and sex and drugs and alcohol are no longer entirely taboo. Still, no matter how saucy or dark or dire the subject matter becomes, I strive to write with hope at the heart—the core—of my YA story.
But what's hopeful about teenagers? Aren't they angsty? Don't they get upset about everything? Aren't they prone to moodiness and indulge in end-of-the-world syndrome when they get a hangnail?
Perhaps. Some. But even those stereotypical teens who are angsty and upset and moody have hope. The best tip I can offer writers of young adult fiction is to remember that teenagers who see the world as conspiring against them HOPE there is something better just around the corner.
I may be turning 50, but I remember.
I hoped I'd get a prom date (I did, but my boyfriend broke up with me two weeks before the big day). I hoped I'd get a pony (I did, but he was a mean little thing and bit me). I hoped I'd get a lead in the school musical (I did, but I flubbed a song when the cute piano player in the pit smiled at me). I hoped the popular girls would accept me and stop making fun of my prominent nose (They did not. The pretty, little bullies called me Beaker).
I remember being very angsty and upset and moody. If Hal gets a zit on his lip and the entire football team dubs him Herpes Hal, it's a big deal. These are life-changing, world-crushing problems for a 16-year-old.
Fortunately, I grew up and got over my seemingly minor life-changers. At the time, though, I was convinced everyone was conspiring against me. Secretly, I HOPED for better. Any day that didn't end in tears was a day of hope. One good day could lead to two good days, then three days, then four days strung together to make a good week.
We've all been there.
A YA writer must connect with teenage readers by stepping back in time to their own days of being angsty and upset and moody. Just like Kim and Ron and teenagers across the globe, we writers must have hope.
Lots and lots of hope.
Artwork by Michelle Haas.
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