With the launch of Evernight Teen this month we invited YA author Stephanie Lawton along to tell us why she writes YA....
Not so long ago, Young Adult lit consisted of the standard fare our teachers threw at us: The Outsiders. Rumblefish. Johnny Tremain. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Catcher in the Rye. A Separate Peace. (Am I dating myself here?)
No dispute they are award-winning classics beloved by millions around the world. But you know what? I hated them. Sorry. It’s possible I was too young to “get” them and I’d appreciate them much more as an adult. There’s also the possibility that they’re really dated and I couldn’t relate to them at all.
Whatever the case, they made me cringe every time I heard the term “young adult lit.” Thank goodness, the genre began to change and it’s positively exploded in the last few years. Even established “adult” writers are jumping genre to get their feet wet in the kiddie pool.
Why do I write YA? Because—hands down—it’s the most exciting time in life. Not necessarily the best, but the most exciting with the most unknowns. For me, it was both thrilling and terrifying. I’d spent 99% of my life going to school, doing what I was told, following a prescribed routine that would allegedly land me at a good college so I could be a “successful” adult.
But once in high school, I was faced with choices that would affect the rest of my life. Where would I go to college? What would I major in? Would I start to loosen up a bit and do some of the things all my classmates were doing, or would I stay on the straight and narrow? Was there a way to do both?
These are the questions every YA book seeks to answer. Some of them present those risqué things “everyone else” is doing. Some show straight-laced teens fighting to stay true to themselves. Even the ones with zombies and witches and shadow-hunting demon slayers carry allegories deep within their fight scenes and dystopias.
Shrapnel is no exception. To Dylanie, Jake and Ashley, my main characters, monsters are real. They hound them at school in the form of bullies; at home when their parents exchange worried looks; and in their own heads as doubt, fear and rejection haunt their thoughts and nightmares. They can’t move forward until they deal with the monsters that stalk them day and night.
It’s the same thing we all have to do—face our monsters, conquer them, and move on to the next ones. Only this time, we’re better prepared. If my books can help someone be better prepared than I was—or my characters—or work through something that happened to them, then I’ve contributed something valuable.