Yesterday RT spotlighted a newly launched YA website, The Contemps, which is run by a group of twenty-one authors who love contemporary YA fiction. (Learn more here.) Today we go in-depth with some of these authors to get their take on what’s going on in the YA sub-genre that they love so much. Authors April Henry, Denise Jordan, Mindi Scott, Courtney Summers, Melissa Walker and Sara Bennett Wealer share why they write YA novels, which titles introduced them to the genre (ahem, Judy Blume, ahem) and they list their favorite recent contemporary YA reads!
Why are contemporary YA stories so important? What do they offer that readers may not get from other genres?
Denise Jaden: Part of the reason I'm a writer is because it helps me connect on a deeper level with others. I think contemporary books are perfect for doing that, as they hit at areas that are very real to us all.
Mindi Scott: Paranormals and such can be great for using metaphors about growing up, whereas contemp books just give it to you straight!
Courtney Summers: They're important because they ask and explore the kind of questions and situations we all ask and go through at some point in our lives. There's something very powerful and personal in seeing that reflected in a book.
Melissa Walker: Books are such a safe space where readers can "experience" new things that may come up in their lives (heartbreak, love, death, substance abuse, etc.). When you're looking at people who are facing real-life challenges and dealing with them in a human way, that helps create a skill set for you to deal with the same things. For example, I read Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever right after my dad died suddenly, and I just felt like it helped me grieve in a totally tangible way.
Each teen's journey is so different, when writing how do you find common ground that large groups of teens will be able to relate to?
April Henry: Realistic YA lit has great built-in obstacles: falling in love for the first time, coming of age, prom, homecoming, cliques, finding out who you are, peer pressure, family dynamics, dealing with parents’ divorce, etc.
Denise Jaden: We may all have different situations in life, but emotions, the ups and downs of life and how we process them, those are universal. Even though I don't often write from my own history as far as experiences, I definitely do write from my own emotional history, and I believe that's what keeps my stories authentic and easy to relate to.
Mindi Scott: This is kind of mysterious and unintentional, I have to say. I think the reason it happens--when it happens--is because even if a reader's personality and experiences are vastly different from the character's, the emotions are still universal.
Courtney Summers: I think to find that common ground, you have to be as emotionally honest as possible.
Melissa Walker: The details are different, but the epicness of teen emotions and experiences is very universal. It's a time of the highest highs and lowest lows, a time of firsts and impulsiveness and adventure. Though the situations and specifics vary, there's something very universal about that "coming of age."
There are many different types of contemporary YAs. The spectrum runs from very sweet coming-of-age stories to books that delve into the gritty and hard core plots including themes of abuse, sex, drugs, rock and roll, etc. What types of books do you write and why is this your chosen style?
April Henry: I write mysteries and thrillers, so there might be some violence and definitely some tense situations.
Mindi Scott: My writing falls more in the gritty category simply because I find that those are the stories I need to tell.
|What is the contemporary YA novel that you are currently loving?|
|April Henry's Pick||Denise Jaden's Pick||Mindi Scott's Pick||Courtney Summers' Pick|
by DL Garfinkle
|Catalyst ||Looking For Alaska |
by John Green
|The Lighter Side of Life and Death |
by C.K. Kelly Martin
Get More Information About These Authors:
|April Henry's next novel Girl, Stolen will be available at the end of the month. Learn more at AprilHenryMysteries.com.|
|Denise Jaden's first YA is titled Losing Faith and is available now. Learn more at www.denisejaden.com .|
|Mindi Scott's debut, Freefall, will be available in October. Learn more at Mindiscott.com.|
|Courtney Summers' third title, Fall For Anything, will be available in December. Learn more at Courtneysummers.ca.|
|Melissa Walker's next novel, Small Town Sinners, will be available in March 2011. Learn more at www.melissacwalker.com.|
|Sara Bennett Wealer's debut novel, Rival, will be available in February 2011. Learn more at www.sarabennettwealer.com.|