Why do I write YA?

I decided at age ten I wanted to be an author. Four years later, as I was beginning high school, I decided I wanted to be a young adult author.

That’s… oddly specific. Especially for a fourteen-year-old who really had only delved into the younger side of YA-lit herself. But as the years have gone by, I haven’t changed my mind. (High five, fourteen-year-old me!) Why?

This is a pretty standard question for authors who write YA. There’s a whole slew of typical answers, the most common of which seems to be: I didn’t know I was going to write YA until I started writing. Then I realized the characters simply needed to be teenagers, and that was that. I never went through this moment of realization. I started each new project conscious of who my target audience was. Even when I was fourteen. By the time I was sixteen, I’d started writing protagonists younger than myself. All my characters hovered around that mid-high school age range that I decided was my sweet spot.

Which, like I said before, is kind of weird. I still haven’t written—haven’t even tried to write—anything targeted at adults. Nothing new adult. Just young adult, with a few brief and relatively unsuccessful forays into middle grade. YA still makes up most of what I read, too.

And why do I love it so much? Why am I so, so devoted to this one, specific demographic?Probably because, even when I was fourteen, even when I was on the young side of YA myself, people scoffed at the idea of me writing it. (What?!)

I always loved reading and writing, but when I started talking about the latest young adult fantasy novel I’d just finished, I was greeted with raised eyebrows. This only got worse the older I got. I remember having the same conversation, over and over again, when I first got to college.

New friend: “Wow, you have a lot of books.”

Me: “Thanks!”

New friend: “You must really like young adult. No, no, don’t be ashamed—it’s one of my guilty pleasures, too!”


The more times I felt like I had to defend YA, the more committed to it I became. At this point, as I work on query letters for the umpteenth draft of my most recent manuscript, I’m far from ashamed about my taste in books. Let people scoff at my English major. Let them scoff louder (and with more scoffy fervor) when they hear I want to write YA fantasy novels. It’s my dream, and it has been for a long time. It’s what I love, it’s what I read, and no one could ever make me abandon a spread of books with so much diversity, transformation, and magic (literal and metaphorical magic both included).

So why do you write YA?

On a related note, this Buzzfeed post speaks to my soul on a deep emotional level: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/things-all-young-adult-fans-are-tired-of-hearing#.dcmaxlnV3