Why I love (and write in) the YA genre
I remember the moment I first wanted to become a writer. I was sitting in my early-teenage bedroom reading The Amber Spyglass between stints of homework, GameCube and playing electric guitar badly, when *spoiler alert* star-crossed adolescents Lyra and Will were forced into parallel universes never to see each other again.
Before starting Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy I had bypassed the YA genre completely, instead choosing to leap straight from children’s books to novels aimed at adults. With the benefit of hindsight, I suppose I’d done this in some misguided attempt to appear cool to the opposite sex but, thankfully, Pullman’s books were knocking about the house for some reason and one day they just happened to catch my eye.
I was not ready for the heartbreaking ending of The Amber Spyglass. It got to me in a way that nothing I had ever read/watched had done so before. I’d identified with the characters early on and, although I didn’t fully appreciate all of the complex themes the books explored at the time, the plot drew me in hook, line and sinker.
Before that ending I hadn’t ever given much thought to the fact that books were written by actual people. I expect that, if you’d asked me who the author of The Amber Spyglass was when I’d started it, I’d probably have given you the same vacant expression I gave most of my teachers when they asked me something in my lessons. But, once I’d read the book’s final sentence, I immediately turned over to the cover and thought, Mr Pullman, I want to be able to make people feel how you’ve made me feel. And, in truth, that was depressed into to a mild stupor for days. But in a good way.
From that moment on I started feasting on nothing but YA, only picking up the occasional ‘adult novel’ once I was into my twenties. I do enjoy reading books aimed at mature audiences but I rarely connect with them like I do with novels following adolescents. After much reflection, I think this must be because some of the trials and tribulations teenagers go through are universal and that means I can still relate to them despite being slightly less Y and a little more A these days.
So, when I finally sat down to write my first novel (sadly my education got in the way of me becoming a writer the instant I finished His Dark Materials) there really wasn’t any question over what kind of book it would be. I wanted to write in the genre I loved and, indeed, my protagonist was a teenager named Karl almost from the moment my fingers touched the keyboard.