Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Y (Why?) A

Confession: I write far too many posts that I never end up publishing. Happened again last night.

me: *type type type type type*
husband: So... are we going to go watch that season finale, or...
me: Fifteen more minutes!
husband: *sighs and waits patiently*
--fifteen minutes later--
me: *reads over what I've written* *realizes it's utterly dull and far too introspective* *throws it out*

Ok, so I didn't really throw it out, but I'm not hitting the "publish" button either. Even though that button is a pretty, inviting orange color. Hello, pretty button! Let's be friends, but not too good friends, because people don't need to read every word I put down. Only the good ones.

What's that? I'm rambling? You want me to get to the point already?

Yeah, yeah, I'm getting to it.


[To be honest, I prefer the term "teen" to "young adult." But never "teenager," because that sounds so out of touch.]

Why do I write YA?

I didn't really like being a teen myself. Middle school was a bad experience for me in a lot of ways. High school was better, but I was glad when it was over. (This is, in essence, what I spent five paragraphs on last night and eventually discarded.) So why would I want to revisit the teen years, even in books?

The simplest answer is because teens are so worth it.

I've been doing this series of Real Teens interviews this month, and we've had a lot of fun with them. Answers range from candid to silly to thoughtful. These are some really great people, and I love seeing the world from their perspective.

On the whole teens tend to get a bad rap for being careless, thoughtless and self-obsessed. Not the most flattering or the most accurate view.

Teens care, and they care a lot. The problem isn't with being careless but with having too many things to care about: the well-being of their families, the emotional highs and lows of their friends, the needs of their communities, the state of their country, the tragedies of the world. The world is smaller now because of technology, but it's also bigger than it's ever been because now we're aware of so much more. Hunger, natural disasters, terminal illness, cruelty... how do we care for it all? As adults we've generally mastered the art of caring about what we can productively influence and letting the rest fade out of our awareness. But teens haven't, and they're still burdened by the weight of all these cares.

They aren't thoughtless, either. Again, they have too many thoughts. Who wouldn't be a bit absentminded with a heart full of commitments? They are pulled in every direction, and still somehow manage to stay whole.

And as for self-obsession, there's good reason for it. They're at the tipping point between having all their needs met and needing to meet all their needs on their own. How they are going to do that and fulfill their need for meaning in life are big questions that need answers, answers that don't always come easily.

That's why I love writing books for them. They still have a genuine heart for cares we adults often ignore. Their heads can be everywhere at once and still manage to stay on their shoulders. And they are brimming with potential that both entices and terrifies them.

So as we wrap up the Real Teens series with a few more interviews, keep those things in mind. Enjoy the silliness, but look past it too. See the intensity of life that these teens live. It's pretty extraordinary.

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