Even though I write middle grade and adore reading middle grade books, some of my favorite books are YA.
Like, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins…and Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant—the book I’m reading now, by Veronica Roth. And 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Oh and Speak and Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. And definitely The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I love the Twilight Books too by Stephanie Meyer and Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot… I could keep listing some of the outstanding YA books out there, but I think you get the idea.
YA books focus on one of the most amazing age groups out there. High School is a time of growth and those who write it well are able to zero in on the roller coaster of emotions and complex issues kids that age face. I am in awe of those writers and grateful that they provide readers with stories that inspire, heal, and offer adventure, romance, understanding, or escape to all issues that exists in their real world.
But as much as I love reading YA, I could never actually write a YA book of my own. Sure I could probably—well maybe (with time and a lot of practice) nail down the YA voice. I feel like high school was just yesterday and if I wanted to, I think I could call to mind all those raw emotions. And sure I have enough material for some juicy relevant plots too—I’ve been around enough teenagers for that!
But I’ll leave YA to the experts because there’s one very big reason why I would not be the best writer for the job. And here it is…
I like happy way too much.
I like happy characters. I like happy adventures. And I definitely like happy endings. But that’s not to say I haven’t learned to throw curveballs and real life unhappy scenarios and obstacles at my middle grade characters because even for kids ages 8-12, life is not always happy-happy. But the difference is that in middle grade, the story usually ends up happy. It may mean a new normal for the characters, but more often than not that new normal is a happy one.
And that’s not always the case in YA…or at the very least, the conflicts and issues the characters face can be so dark and decidedly unhappy. And that would be a problem for me. We all know how long it takes to write a novel, how many hundreds of hours we spend revising each and every scene. I would have a hard time spending that many hours, weeks, and months writing about issues that are so unhappy-unhapppy.
So I’ll stick to writing middle grade stories. I’ll stick to writing about plots that may involve tough issues, but that ultimately work out in the happiest of ways. However, I’ll always read YA. Because even though high school kids have drama and deal with tough issues, it’s inspiring to watch characters work through the struggle and in the end come through it stronger. Because that’s what I see in real life—real kids struggling through tough issues but coming through their situations stronger than ever and a better people for it. 🙂
What about you? Can you write both middle grade and YA, or are you destined to write only one? Many writers do both and who knows, maybe my focus will change one day. But for now, I’ll stick to middle grade. It seems to suit me best!
Happy Spring, everyone! I hope this season brings you joy and happy-happy new beginnings!