I don't know why, but for awhile, a lot of people online thought I wrote YA. Maybe it's because so many of my writer buddies do, maybe it's because I won a 1st place award for a YA short story. Either way, for an adult author, I hear a lot about the YA genre and due to recommendations, I've read a few. Now I'm reading the HUNGER GAMES trilogy and though I'm loving it, the series really got me thinking about why I don't write for teens even though a few characters in my series start out as teens in the first book.
1.) The "landscape" of most YA novels bears no resemblance to that of my teen years. There was drinking, smoking, sex, drugs, & rock n roll...and a ton of cussing. Seriously, most teens I knew, including myself, dropped the f-bomb like it was going to be banned next week. A friend and I were discussing that. Why is it that it's OK in YA novels for the characters to kill and sometimes even have sex, but say a naughty word and the author's doomed?
2.) I'm too cynical to believe in true love for teens. Face it, at that age, the hormones are going crazy. Teens, especially males have no clue what real love is, in my opinion. Many girls are still clinging to the Disney/ Prince Charming bullsh*$t that was rammed down their throats in childhood and most boys don't actually see girls as people. They see them as sex-objects and stepping stones to achieving "manhood." Furthermore, neither are mentally or emotionally prepared for a healthy symbiotic relationship like marriage. i.e. paying bills, sharing responsibilities, raising children, dealing with each other's obnoxious habits, etc.
3.) Speaking of those raging hormones.... I just can't wrap my credibility around the platonic cuddling that's so rampant in YA novels. The boy will get um...excited. That's what they're wired to do. The girl will either get excited too, or be frightened. No teen will be able to sleep comfortably in such a scenario...and very likely one or both won't be able to resist taking things into an adult situation. Not to mention the discomfort of someone snoring, stealing the covers, shifting around, etc...though I'll leave that alone since it's a detail not acknowledged in adult romances. The hero never snores in my books! Still, I love the fuzzy dreamlike fantasy of the cuddling in those stories, I just couldn't honestly write that in an appropriate YA style.
4.) The themes: An agent or editor, (can't remember which) tweeted something like: "Don't write stories in which teens learn from an older person. Teens don't want to read about it/ don't think it's cool, etc." For one: My friends and I must have been really weird teens because we hung out with and learned from older people all the time...and they could buy us beer & cigarettes :) Younger characters learn from older ones all the time in my books as well. With centuries-old vampires and ancient sorcerers, there's a lot of knowledge to go around. Seriously, why didn't Bella ever ask Edward for help on a report on WWII or something? Hello, she could have gotten an A++++++++++++++! Sorry, I've seen A CHRISTMAS STORY too many times :)
5.) The responsibility: Face it, teens are impressionable. Because of Anne Rice, I grew fascinated with history, Beethoven, and John Keats. But because of Anton LaVey, my younger brother temporarily became a Satanist. Sometimes I worry that because of certain books, young girls will jump off cliffs when dumped by their boyfriends...or at least miss a ton of school and fail to get their diploma because they were too busy moping. I don't think I can handle the responsibility of either accidentally or purposely creating a role model for young people. Some of my characters drink and smoke. Two even smoke pot.
I hope nobody thinks I'm bashing YA in this post. Really I have nothing but admiration for those gifted authors who can delve back into the scary uncertainty of adolescence, the glow of first love, and those first painful lessons of the death of childhood and impending adulthood. Most of all, I am beyond pleased that those authors are getting teens reading.