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.

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9 responses to Why I love (and write in) the YA genre

  1. Ha! A misguided attempt to appear cool to the opposite sex 😛
    Whilst you might be more A than Y…I think you’re so right when you say the characters and their journeys and the changes and emotions they go through are universal. I think YA fiction always examines teenagers who haven’t yet really found their place in the world and since everyone has or does still wonder where they belong it’s instantly relateable.
    You’ve certainly achieved that will ol’ Karl and Esther!

  2. gill edwards said:

    Great post Jack, i could almost feel your passion for this genre. I too enjoy the odd YA novel especially the Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies and i am far from young now ;D

    • Jack Croxall said:

      Thanks Gill! I agree, especially The Hunger Games – one of my all time faves! If you’re reading those then you’re young at heart which is the most important thing!!!

  3. Sam Turner said:

    I’m a lucky man. Yours is the first blog I’ve read. (I’m just learning how to navigate blogs and Facebook and twitter.) You hooked me with your post and confessions. I’ll look forward to each of your blogs. Who knows? I might even buy one of your books!

    • Jack Croxall said:

      Thanks Sam! There will be a new post every Sunday, and it’s so great to hear you’re getting into social media! There’s lots of fun to be had and friends to be made 🙂

  4. Anonymous said:

    I’m just finishing up university this year, and I’m looking forward to reading stuff that I choose to read for once, not what is dictated on a syllabus. On my pile of ‘Things to read post-Uni’, your book is at the top 🙂

  5. Amy said:

    YA fiction often seems to have an urgency and immediacy that adult fiction lacks. It can be like the difference between being with a teenager on ‘go’ mode or with a middle aged person working in their garden – but both have their place. I got into YA fiction when my children started reading it and I realised how fantastic contemporary children’s fiction was/is.

    • Jack Croxall said:

      Well said Amy! I think we need a mixture of different genres to ensure we see the world through different perspectives 🙂

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