A few years ago whenever people asked me how someone my well-past-teen age could write YA, I’d explain how the emotions have remained consistent since I was a teenager.
I’m not sure that’s entirely true anymore. Oh, sure we all still experience a range of emotions, but the prevalence of social media has shifted the landscape in a profound way. Even while parenting teens, I’ve noticed dramatic changes in the four years separating my daughters. As a parent, I know I’m always a step behind. So what does that mean for my drawer novels? More concerning: what does it mean for my WIP?
Thankfully, two great new books will help both writers and parents bridge the gap.
I purposely sat next to different moms during every soccer game, flashing American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. The book inevitably provoked an interesting conversation with my fellow soccer moms. I wish every mom, teen and writer would read this one. It’s a bit harrowing at times. One night my 16-year-old daughter snuggled next to me in bed and read a few chapters along with me. She plans to finish it on her own this summer. We’ve already had so many great discussions about social media, the pressure on girls, and how we use technology.
The bright pink title of Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
made me wonder what rumors might ensue if I read this one at halftime. Ironically, the social media book is more graphic. I loved Orenstein’s thoughtful interviews on wide-ranging topics. She truly respects her teenage subjects while remaining an adult. YA writers could benefit from her writing voice, in addition to the subject matter. This one is now waiting on my college-aged daughter’s bed for when she arrives home next week. Her sister will read it next.
As a parent, I often wish the world were different for my daughters–and I know many parents who pretend things haven’t changed all that much.
The problem comes when we don’t acknowledge the way things have changed, as writers. Readers depend upon us not to talk down to them. To portray the truth. Provide a realistic slice of life.
That means keeping up with changing times. We owe it to our readers!