But my own answer has never really been clear to me, which allows those ~*~other~*~ suggested motives to worm their way in. Why do I feel most comfortable writing about teens? Is it because I'm stuck in high school? Because I'm scared to write as a grown up? Because I lack ambition?
|My grandmother in 1955, |
clearly frittering away her time at math club.
But use your degree to write books for young people? Tsk tsk. What a waste.
What people are insinuating is that teachers are crazy to willingly spend time with teens. And I'll be the first to admit: young people can be annoying. But having spent time in the teachers' lounge, I can also say: adults are annoying too.
Case in point: "You'll understand when you're older." It was an infuriating thing to hear -- not because I thought I was so smart and knew everything, but because I did know my perspective would change, and the only way I could get there was by going through what I was stuck in now, whether I wanted to or not. (Spoiler alert: This is also an issue in adulthood. "Just wait until it's your [publishing; pregnancy; progeny; property]!")
I hated knowing that I didn't know things. I wanted to know ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME (and still do). Worse, not only was I a teen, I was a teen girl -- trivial, laughable, ridiculous. Unimportant. Immature and annoying. I understood, on some level, that this was bullshit, but insisting that it wasn't made me more immature and annoying, so I directed it elsewhere. And inward. Especially inward. I hated being that girl. I hated being a girl at all.
And books, which had always helped (god bless Judy Blume), suddenly didn't. The classics and standards served other admirable purposes, of course, but only The Handmaid's Tale made me stop and say, "Wait. Someone else gets it." It made me realize my perception wasn't as skewed as the world wanted me to think. That maybe I wasn't a problem, but a symptom of something much bigger.
But for a long time, Atwood was all I had. Authors like Laurie Halse Anderson or Sara Zarr or Libba Bray just weren't available to me, for whatever reason, and I wish it hadn't taken until adulthood for me to find them. Writing and reading YA helped me forgive the girl I was -- and realize she never needed forgiveness in the first place.
I write YA because a girl's problems can be trivial, but she is not. And that's something she should know at every age.