aka YA Literature

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Writing YA Lit

I'm probably not going to be posting anything for a while because I need to do some major school stuff, so I thought I'd contribute an "hasta luego" post about something that I've been thinking about for a while. In our interview with him, John Green said he doesn't think he writes differently for a YA audience. This is why I think it would be hard to write for teens (among other reasons, lots associated with the reasons why it is hard to write for anyone). I think it would be hard to write a timeless book or one that won't soon be dated. The issues and themes aren't necessarily going to be dated, but a lot of the pop culture references that so much of teen life revolves around would get dated. For example (and thank you, Holly, for this example), don't you think a lot of "The Gilmore Girls" humor and wit will be dated since so much of it depends upon current cultural references? It will still be enjoyable, but it will be dated. I'm sure this is an issue for "adult" novelists as well, but it seems even more looming for teens because so much of their lives is centered around culture and technology that will be changing. I'm not saying it's not possible to write books that won't date, but I am saying I think it's hard, or at least something that would influence how I wrote. Looking for Alaska and Just Listen are two books I've read recently that I don't think will become outdated quickly, if at all. But seriously, books date just as much by what they don't include as they do by what they do include. When teens don't have or use the Internet, cell phones, IM, etc., I notice that. I'm sure they notice it even more than I do.

Here is my other pet-peeve with YA books that is closely related. Authors my age (30-ish, let's say) write books that have all these pop culture references to things that happened in our generation. Then, they annoy me to no end by trying to explain the references. Look, that is not an acceptable option. Here are the acceptable options:
1) Try to write a book without real pop culture references. Make up bands and such if necessary. [Real life example: Just Listen]
2) Accept that your audience will not get (at least some of) your jokes, characterization, etc. [Real life example: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist]
3) Somehow incorporate the explanation into the story, perhaps by having characters discuss it (but only if it makes sense and isn't an obvious device). [Can't think of a great real life example]
4) Use pop culture references that will make sense to teens now

P.S. YA Authors, please do not define "hard" words in the story either. Reading words in context is how we learn new words. Teens can look them up if they don't understand thenm.


Children's Librarian Extraordinaire said...

Thank God someone finally spoke up about the habit of authors defining words in the middle of their manuscript! (And it's much, much worse in children's chapter books!) Context and a dictionary are all they need...don't insult their intelligence, please.

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