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Or, what I learned about YA from my big sister.

I’ve been giving some thought to why I write YA literature. The simplest answer is one I got from Andrew Karre at a conference. Basically, in writing, teenagers are the easiest to get into trouble. You barely breathe on teenage character and oopsie they’re in trouble. There are barrels problems out there to write about–an endless supply. But I’ve never been fully satisfied when I answer the question that way. Because it doesn’t answer what it is about teenagers that tugs at me and makes me care. I think Shel Silverstein illustrated it best.  Have you read The Missing Piece and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O? Amy, my sister, asked for those books one year  for Christmas when we were teenagers. So I got them for her. And I was all excited because I was going to write in the card something exactly like “You’re my missing piece.” That’s how I rolled. But then I read the books.

I was like, crap, that’s not what these books are about. Amy said it best: “We’re not looking for our missing piece. We’re looking to shape our hard edges until we see the whole person.” And I was like, wow. It was so much of how I felt as a teenager. And that is much of what I’m trying to do with my characters that I write. It seems to me that teenagers have all the stuff inside them that adults do, they just aren’t rounded out. I’m pretty positive we never reach perfect circleness, but all that stuff inside is what interesting people are made of. That struggle to round ourselves out in our teenage years, to me, is a lovely thing.