Tag Archive | teen

YA is Everywhere

What books have you read lately? What movies have you seen? Unless you’ve been holed up in a cellar for the past year, there’s a good chance that you ran across a Young Adult novel in one form or another.

  1. Mockingjay, Part 1
  2. If I Stay
  3. The Maze Runner
  4. Divergent
  5. The Fault in Our Stars

What made all of these books such successful movies?

Was it the plot? Was it the characters?

What about “Pretty Little Liars”, “The Lying Game”, and “The Carrie Diaries”? All YA novels that were turned into TV shows.

Whether it’s through books, movies, television, or even just walking down the street behind a bunch of giggling teenage girls, you’re exposed to YA on an almost daily basis. The Young Adult genre isn’t just about teenagers who are coming of age. It’s about the journey they take to find themselves and the people who help them get there.

For me, my love of reading started at an early age. Between the ages of 4 and 11, I read everything I could get my hands on. But soon after that, I discovered the teen section at my public library. And over the next few years, I made my way down the row, reading nearly every book on the shelf. The characters inspired me to find myself – to dig deep and discover qualities within me that even I didn’t know existed.

One of my favorite things about writing YA novels is placing my characters in difficult or dangerous situations and watching how they grow and succeed in spite of it all. No one knows how they’ll react when a life threatening event occurs, and neither do my characters. But when faced with danger, they can find an inner strength to drive them forward. It may be a work of fiction, but sometimes we pick up a book or watch a movie where the characters are a reflection of who we truly want to be.

There are still many people who feel that YA books are below them and that they aren’t literary quality type reads. But I have to disagree. While “The Hunger Games” isn’t Jane Eyre, its dystopian storyline and strong, somewhat vulnerable protagonist, speaks to anyone who has ever gone through a difficult time and has come out changed on the other side. “The Fault in Our Stars” and “If I Stay” makes us question our own mortality while “The Carrie Diaries” shows how perseverance and lots of hard work can lead to realizing your dreams.

So, the next time you head out to the movies, pick up a book, or turn on the TV, check out the Young Adult titles. They may just inspire you to look inside yourself.


Is New Adult Fiction the New Teen Trend?

What will be big with teen readers in the coming months is something that all young adult, or YA, authors think about on a regular basis. What will be the new trend? What will be hot? What will teens be drawn to next? And most of all…what will sell?

A recent article by CNN delves into possible future trends that could catch teen readers’ attentions next. Books with plots that contain current issues like terminal illness are projected to be huge thanks to authors such as John Green. And while paranormal and dystopian books are still popular, themes like mystery, horror, fantasy, and anything having to do with zombies are all on the rise.

But the one thing I took away from this article was its take on the New Adult genre. The article explained that the latest trend with teens is New Adult, or NA as it is commonly called, which contains much sexier, and typically more adult storylines. The main characters are generally college age and involve steamier scenes which are attracting younger readers. This shouldn’t be surprising since it seems that more R-rated movies are being targeted at teen audiences than ever before.

There seems to be a bit of irony involved in this trend. I know that when I’m writing my YA books, my target audience is aimed at teens. I try to incorporate issues and topics that appeal to a teen reader. But I know for a fact that many of my fans and readers are adults. And now there are many NA books that are written for adults that are attracting a growing teen audience.

So, what is a young adult author to do? Do we incorporate sex or hotter storylines in our books to attract those teen readers who are reading NA? Do we delve into darker and more adult topics to find a wider audience?

I don’t think there is any need to compete with NA. Nor should we. NA has a place in modern literature and their authors have earned a place on our bookshelves. But to paraphrase “Field of Dreams”…If you write it, they will come.

There is enough angst involved during the teen years to fill the literary needs of young adults – first love, bullying, eating disorders, peer pressure, rumors, and hundreds of other pertinent topics that affect high schoolers every day – without having to compete with more adult fare. And the fact that adults are reading YA shows that there is an ever-expanding interest in what makes YA truly great. It’s not about the romance – it’s about discovering who you really are and who you are destined to become.

What do you think? Check out the article below and tell me your thoughts.


Young Adult Books and The Not-So-Young Adults Who Love Them

I often find myself in a bookstore these days. Perhaps it’s a necessary evil for my profession. Maybe I simply call it market research to see what’s out there and what’s hot. Or it could be that I tell myself I’m just browsing to get inspired. But most likely it’s just because I love books.

But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed as I peruse the aisles, it’s the influx of New Adult, or NA, books on the shelves. Their stories involve college age characters that will usually incorporate “hotter” story lines, allowing the writer to pursue topics or sexual situations that may be considered inappropriate for younger characters. There’s clearly a market for New Adult, and authors are taking advantage of the newfound enthusiasm in that particular genre…and rightfully so. In fact, I have quite a few friends who focus primarily on writing NA. I’m thrilled that these authors have created a niche for themselves and have given so many people a reason to pick up a book and read. To spin a familiar phrase – if you write it, they will come!

As for me, I am still in love with Young Adult. It’s the genre that got me to fall in love with reading all those years ago as a preteen. It focuses on an age that introduced us to first love, first heartbreak, complicated friendships, strained parental relationships, and searching for who we will one day become. And in high school, escape becomes vital to those kids that need a way to forget their own problems and issues. Being a teenager is rough – but reading about other teens who face, and defeat, adversity can offer the reader a positive outlet for their anxiety.

Now, there are those who will try to make you believe that YA books belong only in the hands of teenagers. They insist that adults who read YA are only looking for a simple and easy read – that these same adults are looking for uncomplicated stories that are nothing more than typical teenage angst. But I can tell you that those people are wrong There is nothing simple or easy about Young Adult. In fact, just head over to your local bookstore and pick up the hottest YA reads out right now. “Maze Runner”, “If I Stay”, “The Fault in Our Stars”, and “The Hunger Games” are just a few that prove that there’s nothing simple about the fictional life of a teenager. These characters are deep, complicated and thoughtful. They deal with real life issues like death, fear, love, hate, and injustice and handle it all with the grace and dignity that most adults would envy. They believe in the unbelievable and carry with them the unmistakable teenage spirit.

It isn’t so much about the age of those young characters as it is their attitude toward life. Think back to your own teenage years. You thought you’d live forever. You thought that you were indestructible. And when someone broke your heart or tore open your soul, you felt like your life was over and that you’d never be whole again. Yet, somehow you managed to bounce back each time and move on. As we grow older, we somehow become jaded and forget how to be as resilient as our younger selves. Bravery is something we seem to lose as we age, but I for one regain some of it each time I open my laptop and give my characters the strength to face anything that comes their way.

This is why I love to write YA as much as I love to read it. I’m able to discover strengths in my own characters that I didn’t know they had when I first began writing them. And somewhere inside those characters, I discover that I’ve placed a bit of myself in each one – the good, the bad, the fearful, and the brave.  I live vicariously through those characters every time I pick up a book. By reading (and writing) YA, we  can remind ourselves what it is to be young again – to be truly free from society’s idea of who we should be and how we should act. My characters say what I could never say at that age – do what I was too afraid to act on myself.

I recently reached out to a few of my friends and asked them why they loved YA and what it meant to them. Their responses were overwhelming, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Author, Jo Michaels – “I get a kid’s perspective on things and get to watch someone grow up on the pages as they do things most adults secretly dream of doing.”

Author, Amy Miles – “Teens want to have a voice. To feel like they matter. That people hear them. Books give them an outlet to experience the world and feel like they can escape the terrible things that may be happening in their real life.”

Author, Eva Pohler – “I love YA because they usually portray a coming of age in which the protagonist comes into her own – becomes empowered. To me, that is very inspirational.”

Editor, Wendy Felber – “I read YA because there is a side of me that believes in the impossible possibilities. I think, as adults we are jaded, having to be so realistic that we lose the wonder and mystery, the innocence of not knowing our limits, of having no limits. In YA, I can live in those moments, remember what it is like to have no boundaries, and know that the older I get, I need to find some fiction to fit into my life and not live so seriously.”

Author, Chelsea Starling – “I admit to sometimes feeling jaded as an adult, and YA stories remind me what it feels like to be faced with responsibilities, huge mistakes (that seem so small now) and that soul-aching first love, which can never be repeated, no matter how we pine for it. It’s fun to live in those moments again, when all was wrong and yet so right with the world.”

Author, Elizabeth Sharp – “The characters aren’t jaded and they can still believe in magic. Their lives are still ahead of them, and everything that entails. And their emotions are so exaggerated – they love with all their heart, hate with every fiber, sorrow comes from their toes.”

Author, Morgan Wylie – “It’s about the ‘firsts’: First kiss, first breakup, first romance, etc. Especially as I read and write fantasy and paranormal, it’s also about the journey, about adventure, and escape…escaping the day-to-day things, the drama, the dullness – whatever it may be.”

So, to those who feel that YA books belong in the hands of teenagers – you are partly correct. The truth is that YA books belong in the hands of the young, both in age and in spirit.

Why YA Books Matter

3DMy high school years were less than stellar. I was awkward and unpopular, dreaming up ways to become someone other than whom I was. I spent most of the years between my 14th and 19th birthdays depressed, misunderstood, or yearning for something more than what I had. I wanted to be as awesome as I thought everyone around me seemed to be. As I think back, I remember how complicated being a teenager was.

For many, high school was a hundred years ago. They seem to have forgotten how it feels to have their best friend betray them by dating their ex. They no longer remember that instant connection with that boy or girl across the classroom and swearing that their love would last forever. They seem to have forgotten the hours spent in front of a mirror obsessing over that one hair that wouldn’t stay in place and changing clothes 3 times before leaving the house every morning.

High school is supposed to prepare us for an unknown future. But for me, it is a constant reminder as to why being a teenager matters…and why YA books matter.

Although a sixteen-year-old girl hasn’t been on this earth for very long and hasn’t experienced what someone much older has, it doesn’t diminish her feelings when it comes to love. Love, albeit new, is just as intense, if not more so, than for someone in their twenties. In fact, I truly believe that a teenager loves far greater and deeper than an adult ever could. Why? Because they haven’t experienced heartbreak to the degree that those of us have as we got older. People eventually succumb to that notion of misfortune as they get older, causing them to grow into jaded, skeptical beings incapable of fully giving their heart to another person. So maybe it’s true that what they’re feeling isn’t really love. But how would they know if they’ve never had anything to compare it to?

Think about it for a second. Remember back to your first love. It was probably during a time when the only things that mattered were passing your chem exam and what to wear to the movies on Friday night. Then, while sitting in school, they looked at you and your eyes locked. In that instant, your stomach churned, your ears burned hot, and your chest tightened with a feeling you’d never felt before.

They might have been a complete tool. They might have taken you for granted, used you, or even cheated on you with the guy or girl who sat next to you in chem class. But at the time, you lived in beautiful oblivion and lived in the moment. As we get older, most of us forget how to do that.

Live in the moment.

Like I said before, as we grow older we become jaded and cynical, never fully trusting that love won’t eventually come back to bite us in the ass.

This, people…this is why YA matters. It matters because we will never feel as deeply and wholly as we did as when we were teenagers. We will never be as innocent, and yet as close to maturity, as when we turned 16. That feeling that nothing else matters but the two of you as you sit so close on a bench, fingers waffled together, not knowing where your fingers start and their fingers end. We will never believe in ourselves or dream of a bigger future than during those 4 years. Every day was epic. And every day was tedious. It was as if we were spending our time with the knowledge that this, too, would eventually end. We knew that any minute, we would be expected to grow up, put on blinders and become responsible adults. As a result, we fought against anything that would remind us that at some point, we would need to grow up and become just as cynical as our parents.

YA matters because no one loves harder, hates deeper, or holds a grudge like a teenager does. No one sees the world through rose colored glasses quite like an adolescent who doesn’t just accept the world around them, but instead sees it for what it could be. Those characters in those YA books that we love to read (and write) give us a sense of ourselves, allowing us to relive both the best and worst times of our lives.

When I look back on my own teenage years, I think about specific moments in time when my awkward showed…when I said the wrong thing at the wrong time. When a bully made me feel small, and I said nothing. When a teacher humiliated me in front of the entire class, and I sat there and believed every word they said. But as a YA writer, I am able to take those moments and turn them into heroic scenes in my books. I am finally able to say, in words on pages, what I wish I’d been able to say all those years ago, giving rise to the person who had been hidden inside my soul. It gives a voice to the long forgotten self-conscious teenage girl I used to be.  With every word I write, it gives me a sense of righting some kind of long-forgotten wrong that was done to me in the spirit of “kids will be kids”. With every boy that breaks a girl’s heart, I have the opportunity to rewrite the ending that I never got when my own heart was broken. I can tell that cute boy who was completely out of my league that I think he’s amazing on paper when I was too scared to do it years ago, standing there tongue-tied, holding my books across my chest as he walked off hand-in-hand with someone who wasn’t me.

Why do I write YA? Because their stories matter. Because writing about their stories allows me to put my less-than-stellar high school years behind me and allows me to rewrite my own history. I write YA because there is no greater time in life to discover who you are and how far you’ll go to be that person you want to be.

It reminds us all what it feels to be…young.

A Letter to an 18-Year-Old Me

Dear BJ,

The age of 18 is going to be a rough time for you. Life for any teenager can be hard, but only I can understand how out-of-place you feel in a world that sees you as someone that you’re not. People laugh at your pain and the constant cloud over your head. Unable to express how you truly feel to anyone, you are trapped inside your own mind while the real you is desperately trying to figure out how to exist in this crazy world.

18 years old. It's a big world out there.

18 years old. It’s a big world out there.

I promise you…one day you will find that place.

But until you do, you will fail many times in life. Against your better judgement, you will make countless mistakes and hurt people you love. But don’t let that define who you are. When someone pushes you down, get back up. When you feel self-doubt taking over your thoughts, push them away. When people around you tell you that you’re a failure, smile and walk away. But most of all, be confident in yourself and the abilities that God gave you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

People will try take advantage of your trusting nature and your desperate need to belong. It will send you down the wrong path more than once. And yet, you will turn yourself around and start over, because that’s what you do. You are an expert at starting over. It’s all right to feel bad, to cry and even be angry, but whatever you do…don’t blame others for your failure or the predicament you find yourself in. Take responsibility and own your mistakes. People will respect you for it.

You are much smarter than you think. Stop sabotaging yourself at every turn. Be of aware whom you share your aspirations with since most people don’t believe in dreams. And more times than not, you will find yourself being talked out of everything you want in life by people who claim to love you. Turn those people loose. Stop letting others dictate what you believe you can accomplish in life.

Later in life, people you love will hurt you deeply, but that is no excuse to push absolutely everyone away for fear of getting hurt. Life is lonely without good friends.

BJ...college bound.

BJ…college bound.

Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you’re not sure, don’t say it. If they seem fake, they are. A woman’s intuition is rarely wrong, and yours in particular is always spot on. Trust yourself.

Dream. Never stop dreaming. Dream bigger than you can imagine.

You know that desire you have to discover your ultimate purpose in life? You will find that purpose one day. You will become a mother, and it will be the most important task you ever take on in life. And as a mom, you will make mistakes…but your children will learn from you and those mistakes. They will go on to make you proud and will accomplish amazing things. One will influence and affect the lives of special children who will rely on her for her softness and kind heart. Another will one day influence the world with her words and her creativity and will carve out a niche of her own. And yet another will show the world what hard work and determination can do while making everyone around her smile. They will be your legacy, and they will always, always make you proud.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

But you have another purpose in this world as well. One day, life is going to kick you when you’re down. And just when you feel you’ll never get up again, you will find a way to climb out of that hole and discover a new lease on life. It will once again give you a reason to dream. Even when doubt sets in and you feel that what you’ve done is rubbish, push through and continue to believe in yourself. When people around you laugh and talk about it behind your back, walk away with your head held high. It’s those same people who try to discourage your dreams that are bitter about failing at their own.

Despite a life full of ups and downs, one day you will succeed. And in that moment, you will look at yourself in the mirror and declare that you have finally figured out who you are. But if I tell you who that is now, you will never get to experience the adventure that is about to be your life..the good and the bad. Because in the end, it’s the combination of joy and angst that ultimately makes you the person you will be become.

So, I leave you with this one piece of advice. Open your eyes wide, spread your wings and fly. You are a shooting star. Allow yourself to believe in your dreams. You won’t be disappointed.