Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of partial manuscripts for young adult novels. In my opinion, YA is one of the hardest genres to write. There are so many subsets of YA—historical, fantasy, and everything in between. It can be difficult to address teenagers, yet I think YA novels are so important. Adolescence is a turbulent time, and having something or someone (a fictional character, perhaps?) to relate to can be very reassuring. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help make your YA novel stand out.
In my eyes, character development is especially important in YA novels. But how exactly does one write a realistic teen? Tap into your high school self. Remember what it was like to be your character’s age—trying to find yourself, create meaningful friendships, and navigate the world on your own. Write these issues into your novel. Including a character who struggles with similar issues helps your reader to feel connected to the story. When creating your characters, be sure to think about age, because just a few years make a huge difference in maturity level. A thirteen year old and a seventeen year old will face massively different problems and situations.
Finally, don’t feel like you need to keep everything squeaky clean. The situations should certainly be age appropriate, but that don’t be afraid to provoke and challenge your reader. Also, avoid throwing in references to teenage heartthrobs and pop culture phenoms just because you want to appeal to your audience. Instead of speculating about what teens like to read about, just go with what you know; your novel will feel more real.
I hope this helps!