I’d like to introduce you to fellow writer and blogger Star H. Spider, a wonderful writer who lives outside of the YA genre.
I Can’t Write YA
I can’t write YA, I really can’t.
I mean I tried, I did my best. For NaNoWriMo my Mother-in-law (a children’s writer) and I decided to co-author a book that was supposed to be YA. It was a cool magic realism concept and I was super hyped. I was going to try to depart from my usual adult, scandalous lasciviousness and write something appropriate to teenagers. Instead I ended up with a story about a psychopath who did drugs, killed puppies, made questionable sexual choices and was responsible for the deaths of multiple people. Overall she was just generally a bad person. When my Mother-in-law read it she laughed and told me she wasn’t surprised, but at the same time she didn’t quite know what to make of it. Would we find the YA market receptive to what I had written? Probably not.
Boy did I ever mess that up.
But to tell the truth in a way I feel like I didn’t actually mess it up. Because, other than the murder and psychopathy, my own teenage years were fraught with drugs and drama and questionable sexual choices. So that leads me to wonder: is our YA too soft? Some would argue that kids are still growing up when they are teens and don’t need to be exposed to high levels of bad influence in their literary characters and in some ways I would agree. Wouldn’t life be nice if we all just slowed down and took the time to smell the roses? On the other hand life isn’t slow for a lot of teens and I feel it’s important to accurately represent that in YA. When I was younger I would have loved to read about a kid who was going through what I was going through, discovering myself and being generally wild and more than a little reckless.
As much as I say that the wildness of teens should be accurately represented, I also believe it should be discussed openly and often. Just letting a psychopathic character like mine loose in a story and shoving it into teenage hands isn’t ideal either. What I’d love to see is more discussion taking place in schools, at home and amongst groups of friends talking about the choices characters make in books. Character’s choices can often reflect our own lives and that’s what makes a book really good in my opinion; it is a safe fictional space where people can learn about the ramifications of actions and hopefully get a chance to examine their own causes and effects because of something they read.
I can imagine my version of YA wouldn’t be very popular amongst publishers or people trying to market to parents looking to buy their teens something decent to read, so in a way my first statement was true: I can’t write YA. But on the other hand perhaps there is value to delving into the depths of what it really means to be a teenager; the experimentation and the danger of testing out the boundaries of right and wrong. Because let’s face it, teenagers are going to be trying new things, going out into the world without a safety net and going a bit wild. So we should have books that represent the reality of growing up in this crazy world. A world that is sometimes confusing, often dangerous but definitely a whole lot of fun.
Star Spider is a magic realism writer from Toronto where she lives and works with her awesome husband Ben Badger. Star is currently in the process of seeking representation for her novels while she continues to write, play and frolic on the beach. Her work can be found in Grim Corps and Stories from the Fringe. www.starspider.ca