Why I Write Upper YA
I’ve always felt a little conflicted about where I want my books to land in YA. I discovered YA when I was in middle school, and for a long time, I was focusing more on early YA books than anything else. But the more time I spent writing YA, the older my protagonists seemed to get, so I tried to analyze why, and this is what I came up with.
When I think about the trajectory my life has taken, I can point to decisions that I made in late high school/early college and say, “That’s the choice I made that brought me here.” I don’t like to tell teenagers that the choices they make in high school will follow them forever because I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and I don’t think any decision is permanent. I just think it can be true, even though it’s not true for everybody. The end of a person’s teenage years can mean a lot of things.
When I was 18, my plan of attending the college of my dreams derailed, and I had to go to community college in my hometown instead, which led to me getting a crappy job at a movie theater, where I met the person who would introduce me to my husband. And of course, my choice to say with him and marry him at a young age (we met when I was 19) certainly solidified a lot of what my life looks like now.
There’s a lot of burden on the shoulders of someone who’s 17/18/19. They’re told that they’re just kids, but then they’re expected to make huge decisions like picking a college or picking a career or picking a place to settle down. They’re told to grow up but when they try to make life-altering decisions, they’re shot down. It’s an extremely confusing time.
And that’s why I want to write about it. I was so adrift when the end of high school reared its ugly head. My best friend was going off to college four states away, I was in love my other best friend and had no idea how to tell him before graduation, and I also desperately wanted to get out of Texas but couldn’t figure out how. Every stage of our lives holds significance. Choices we make at every step affect the direction we go. But for me, this particular stage, from senior year to the end of college, was the most important for me personally, and I know when I was 18, I wanted more books about the decisions I was facing, and I guess I’m hoping I can offer that to upcoming young adults.