Why I Write YA
by Stephanie Lawton
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.
Want is no exception. To Julianne, my main character, monsters are real. She knows what she wants to do with her life, but she’s neglected important parts of it in her drive to succeed. Her family has left her unprepared to deal with some of the choices she’s facing, and man does she learn the consequences of a bad decision. She can’t move forward until she deals with the monsters that stalk her 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.
Hmmm… I remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphins in the 5th grade.
by Stephanie Lawton
Julianne counts the days until she can pack her bags and leave her old-money, tradition-bound Southern town where appearance is everything and secrecy is a way of life. A piano virtuoso, she dreams of attending a prestigious music school in Boston. Failure is not an option, so she enlists the help of New England Conservatory graduate Isaac Laroche.
Julianne can’t understand why Isaac suddenly gave up Boston’s music scene to return to the South. He doesn’t know her life depends on escaping it before she inherits her mother’s madness. Isaac knows he must resist his attraction to a student ten years his junior, but loneliness and jealousy threaten his resolve.
Their indiscretion at a Mardi Gras ball—the pinnacle event for Mobile’s elite—forces their present wants and needs to collide with sins of the past.
Will Julianne accept the help she’s offered and get everything she ever wanted, or will she self-destruct and take Isaac down with her?