In an earlier draft of this essay, there were some great quotes about YA that, sadly, had to be cut for space reasons. Here are some of them below:
Michael Cart, the former president of YALSA, told me that we are currently in the “new golden age” of young adult literature. “YA has become the most dynamic and risk-taking area in American publishing—YA lit has arrived,” he said. “With the rate we’re going, every single member of the adult literary community will be writing for young adults in a matter of time.” (Michael Cart is also the author of From Romance to Realism, an amazing collection of essays about YA literature.)
Linda Sue Park, whose novel A Single Shard won the Newbery Medal in 2002, said that the rewards of writing for young people may not be as prestigious or as lucrative as writing for adults, but are so much greater. “The impact we can have on a young person’s life is enormous—they’ll remember a beloved book for the rest of their lives. A lot of adults remember everything about their favorite books from childhood, but can’t even remember what they read last year.”
Justine Larbalestier, author of the Magic or Madness trilogy said, “One thing that doesn’t get talked about is how YA in New York City is a real community—a real scene, and it’s such an incredibly fun scene.”
Justine is absolutely right. There’s a monthly drinks night for YA authors in New York, and it’s such a friendly, welcoming, tightknit community. At these drinks nights I’ve been lucky to spend time with Justine and Linda Sue, who are just as amazing in person as they are on the page. I was really sad to leave NYC and move to Austin because I wouldn’t be able to attend the drinks nights anymore. But yet another sign of the wonderfulness of the YA community: I’d been living in Austin all of one week when I was invited out for drinks with the YA authors’ community here. I’ve met some incredible writers who live here: Cynthia Leititch Smith, Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, April Lurie, and Jennifer Ziegler, among others. Also, when this essay came out, I received some really nice emails of support from several YA authors, which was so kind and thoughtful. It’s seriously an amazing community to be a part of.
I’m not sure why it’s not the same in the adult author scene. There are pockets of friendly-community-ness among adult writers in NYC—everyone associated with the magazine One Story is an example—but it’s not the same as YA. When you publish an adult novel it’s not as if Jonathan Franzen emails you and asks you to join his monthly poker night. (Not that I know how to play poker anyway…but I can play a mean round of Old Maid.)
Also, on the subject of “What makes a YA book,” Justine said this quote, which I thought was incredibly interesting: “When people talk about there being restrictions in YA–restrictions writing about sex, drug use, swearing, et cetera—that’s not true. There are YA books that deal with all of those subjects. It’s just about whether the books get picked up by school libraries, school book clubs, and retailers who care about that stuff—it’s a marketing consideration. There are plenty of writers who ignore those restrictions, and those books are called ’14 and up’ books, which is code for ‘Will not wind up in your school library or picked up by school book clubs.’ ”
I’m reading Linda Sue’s new novel, Keeping Score, right now, and it’s fantastic. Justine’s new novel, How to Ditch Your Fairy, is coming out in September, and I can’t wait to get a copy.