One of my favorite book blogs, the Book Smugglers, are having YA (young adult lit) appreciation month right now, and they have set aside today for other bloggers to talk about YA.
I love YA books. I loved them when I was younger than the target audience, I loved them all through middle school and high school, and I continued to love them right up to now. It’s hard for me to pin down exactly what makes YA so magical, but I think part of it is that the majority of it is written by people who aren’t in the target audience.
Caveat: Of course, this doesn’t mean that, say, black literature would be better if it was all written by white people. But all adults have been young adults at some point in their life, so it’s different. And of course, sometimes this results in really awful books. We’ve all picked up a YA book and thought…Has this author ever met a high school student? And there have been fantastic YA stories written by young adults, which bring something unique to the table.
But for a lot of adult-written YA, it means the author is thinking very carefully about her audience while writing.
For me, writing is about storytelling. And that means telling a story to someone. The readers are just as important to the process as I am, and the experience of reading the book is something we create together.
For some reason (I blame the Romantic movement), a lot of people have this idea about art as something that the genius creator does all by himself (yes, in this version the creator is usually a “he”), and then he lets other people see it. They are supposed to passively appreciate his vision in the manner it was intended.
Joss Whedon’s “I give my viewers what they need, not what they want,” is a classic example. We won’t get into my issues with Joss Whedon, but suffice it to say, my goal is the give my readers what they want.
It’s like making a chair. If I’m a furniture maker, and I spend twenty hours making a beautiful chair, and then someone else spends twenty hours sitting in it, it doesn’t really matter how much passion and joy and genius I put into the woodwork if they aren’t comfortable in it, and I can’t tell them, no, you really are comfortable, if they’re not. They know best about that. Together, we created the experience of that chair.
I think YA authors, because they are so conscious that they are writing for someone else, get that more often than other writers.
Stay tuned: tomorrow I’ll post about a few amazing YA books that are on my shelves right now.