Young Adult Grows Up

Photo: “Teen Romance” is CC Licensed

Research is the first step to learning a subject. I’ve always enjoyed the process of discovering arcane facts, unknown nuances, and useful statistics. Yesterday, I began rediscovering Young Adult fiction at Barnes & Noble. It’s been years since I’ve explored the genre, but some of my writing is veering in that direction.

Romance and fantasy were popular when I was a teen, but the splashy covers that lined the dark shelves reminded me that time moves on with or without my permission. Cover after cover offered variations on one theme: two attractive youngsters with their lips poised perilously close to consummating their teenaged dreams. There was even a special “Paranormal Romance” section. Those two sub-genres, romance and fantasy, seemed grossly over-represented, but I feel the same way about adult fiction too. Evidently my tastes don’t always intersect with the profit-making machine that is mainstream publishing.

However, I’m still interested in writing for a YA audience. Rather than disappointment, I felt encouraged after my field trip. I thought about my favorite childhood authors. Usually, Paul Zindel cuts to the front of the line. Zindel’s quirky and psychologically unbalanced characters don’t resemble the posed models airbrushed onto glossy romance covers. His characters’ realism attracted me. The abstract energy in Zindel’s books inspires me to write. My audience exists, and they’re as eager to read my work as I am to discover them.

I left with two books. Edited by Judy Blume, Places I Never Meant to Be is a collection of stories from censored authors, including Paul Zindel. Black Box, by Julie Schumacher is a first-person novel about a teenager coping with the fallout from her older sister’s depression and subsequent hospital stay.