Tag Archives: teenage fiction

What are 13-year-olds reading?

17 Jan

The YA community is always abuzz with news of trends and ‘big books’, so much so that it can be hard to follow what’s in and what’s out. As we know, a large part of this trade is driven by adult consumers, but we must remember that YA also includes the Y part of the equation!

At the moment I teach five ‘literacy’ lessons a week to different classes, which includes time for silent, individual reading. Now that I work in a girls’ school, the majority of the pupils really enjoy having the chance to choose and read their own books (in a mixed environment, this was more challenging – there were many boys who liked to read, but some others found it hard to settle and focus for extended periods, or to find something that suited their interests – I highly recommend the Guinness Book of Records for such occasions). There are still one or two in my current classes who are reluctant, but as I always say, you can’t possible ‘hate all books’ – you just haven’t found the right one yet!

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to post a snapshot of what one class of 13-year-old girls were reading this week, to give some insight into how the younger teens are engaging with YA (or not, as the case may be – many of their books would be considered MG). The results are interesting, and may surprise some people – overall, they suggest that what kids really want is something familiar and comforting, and that new releases are not necessarily foremost in their minds.

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Why I write YA

28 Dec

I’m a YA writer. That means I write for teenagers, approximately 13-19 years old, who come under the umbrella term ‘young adult’.

To be honest with you, I’m not sure how it happened.

When I finally stopped dreaming about writing, got my bum in the chair and just did it, I wasn’t thinking about markets, genres or publication. All I wanted to do was get this damned idea out of my head and on the page. It was just one of the hundreds of stories I’ve dreamed up over the years, but it was more insistent than the rest – like a little bee buzzing away at the back of my brain. Plus, I was alone in a drafty bungalow in a tiny Greek village where I couldn’t go out for fear of being mauled by wild dogs (I exaggerate…just). I had time to spare.

afidnes

Afidnes, which is actually a lovely place, as you can see

It was only later that I realised I’d written something that might fit into this category ‘YA’. I had a teenage protagonist, a fast-moving plot and, somehow, I’d managed to tag onto the underworld/Hades/grim reaper mini-trend that was happening in 2009-10. When I thought about all my other ideas too, they were also a good fit. YA seemed perfect for the adventurous and action-packed (yet romantic) stories I was coming up with.

By another stroke of good fortune, I’d come to YA at a brilliant time for the genre. We may slag off Stephenie Meyer till the cows come home, but she (and, to some extent, J.K. before her) made teen fiction a booming business – and not just for Twilight rip-offs. I realised that, in this genre, there was a really good chance of getting my books published – and reaching an eager audience, both of teenagers and, increasingly, adults.

As I did more research, I found there were so many great books that had been published in the eight or so years since I’d moved on from teen-lit myself. My choice was a little limited while I was in Greece (restricted to the Eleftherodakis English section), but I would pick up a few and sit in the top floor of the bookshop reading for the afternoon. I soon realised that I not only loved writing YA, I also loved reading it! Well-written YA books are absorbing, heart-stopping and brilliant escapism. With teenage protagonists, emotional conflicts become magnified and every decision feels like it has universal significance (and indeed it might, given YA’s proclivity towards the fantastical and speculative). What’s more, your story has to grab attention from the very first page to even stand a chance of wresting young readers away from their phones or PSPs.

That first novel is now snoozing soundly in the trunk, but I’m still writing for teens. YA lit is going strong, and I can’t wait to add my own books to the shelf!