I have to say that taking this class has really opened my eyes to the variety of Y.A. literature that is now available to readers. You can choose anything from Harry Potter, to Twilight, to The Fault in Our Stars, to The Lesser Blessed. There are novels, short stories, poetry, and as we’ve seen, graphic novels. It seems like the possibilities are endless. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels as though Y.A. literature has expanded and become exponentially more popular within the last few years or so. And with the increasing amount of new content available to readers, it’s caused me to ponder the question of “what really is Y.A. literature?” What makes it distinct from children’s or adult’s literature?
While surfing the web and asking myself these questions, I came across an interesting article that discusses the 8 Habits of Highly Successful Young Adult Fiction Authors. The author, Nolan Feeney, asks writers, such John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Veronica Roth (Divergent series); as well as editors as to what makes Y.A. fiction so popular? In his article Feeney makes 8 crucial points as to what makes Y.A. fiction so successful and relatable to younger audiences.
1. Think Like a Teen
This may seem like an obvious point, but the authors suggest that this can be more difficult than it seems. When writing Y.A. fiction it can be difficult to lose the adult voice within your work. In order to be authentic and relatable to teens, it’s important to adopt their perspectives. The decisions and mistakes that the character makes in a particular work should match those of the teenager: not what the adult would do.
2. Find the “Emotional Truth” of the Teenage Experience
This point relates to the first in that the author must reflect the true teenage experience. Although the situation of the character may be vastly different than that of the every day teenager, they must demonstrate the the same emotions that the teenager would make when facing their own issues. Keeney also suggests that the emotional experiences of the characters can instigate teens to examine their own lives and to explore some of the bigger questions on mortality and relationships.
3. A Good Pop-Culture Reference Goes a Long Way
Pop culture references also makes the text more relatable to teens. The fact that a character enjoys a particular show or book shows that he/she is like her peers and is, therefore, more relatable to teens.
4. Get Input From Real Teenagers
I believe that this is an extremely important point that helps in connecting readers to the literature. Obtaining input from actual teenagers results in the accuracy of the teenage experience. Teenager’s input helps the author to distinguish what situations are likely to happen in teenage reality or what situations are too far-fetched to be believable. Again, this strategy boosts the relatability factor for teen readers.
5. Use Slang Words at Your Own Risk
This point suggests that authors must be careful in the language they use when writing Y.A. fiction. It’s important to reflect the changes in slang that teens use. However, the overuse of slang can make the author seem like they’re trying too hard and, as a result, the reader loses connection to the text.
6. Keep It Moving
Authors have found that it is important to find the right diction and perspective in their writing. Y.A. fiction is often criticized for being less complex compared to other genres, but writers have discovered that a simpler diction and first person perspective can be a lot more effective in establishing the right voice for their characters. More flowery and poetic writing can actually hinder the flow of the text.
7. It’s Okay for YA To Get Dark
I think that this point is quite relatable to our own class. The novels that we have read this semester explore some very dark and complex social issues. Keeney reveals that Y.A. fiction often delves into issues such as death, drugs, and rape. Some authors write about these topics in order to allow teens to experience the darkness issues through a safe environment. Authors also use literature as an effective way to address these issues.
8. Find the “Kernel of Hope.”
Even though the subject matter of their literature may be dark, it is important to show teens that there is hope. Through the portrayal of their characters authors show that although life can be dark and unpredictable, teens can survive and get through it. Y.A. literature promotes the idea that teens can become victorious in their own struggles through their own means.
I think that this article offers some insight as to why Y.A. fiction has become so popular. The authors of Y.A. literature really strive to keep their work relatable to their readers. They are able to capture a realistic and emotional portrayal of the teenage experience through their own research of the teenage mind. Therefore, many teenage readers and even adults can relate to Y.A. literature and enjoy it.
Keeney’s Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/10/the-8-habits-of-highly-successful-young-adult-fiction-authors/280722/
– Katrina B