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Image by Patrick Langwallner

The Biggest Problem With Young Adult Fiction, And How You Can Help Fix It

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

When I was ten years old, I was a scared writer.

I had written hundreds upon hundreds of chapters, and yet, I refused to share a single one with the world. The fear that someone would tell me my work wasn’t any good and that all of my efforts were for nothing obscured my every effort to publicize my passion.

Now, let’s fast-forward four years. I’m an eighteen year old author, and my first published work, a young adult romance novel called “The Breaks Between You and Me,” is set to release in two months.

I’m not going to lie — it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get here, but it was worth it. And I want to help other young adults achieve their dreams of becoming published authors as well.

But — there’s a huge problem in the young adult fiction industry many have yet to acknowledge.

According to a study done by The Guardian, the average age of a young adult fiction author is 33 years old. That’s a pretty big discrepancy when you think about it, and I think we can all agree that a thirty-three-year-old is definitely not a teenager.

So why is it that so many adults are writing for teens? The answer is simple: they’re not taking into consideration what teens want or need. Most of the time — it’s because they haven’t been teens in years, if not decades.

In order to write for teens, you have to be engaged with our culture. You have to know what we’re reading, what we’re watching, and what we’re talking about. And you have to be able to write in a way that speaks to us. As a teen, I can openly say that we want books that are relevant and engaging — books that reflect our own experiences and struggles. We don’t want adult books marketed as YA novels — we want books written specifically for us, by us.

So for any other young adults trying to make it in an unforgiving industry that minimizes younger voices, you might be looking for another way, maybe the best way, to go about writing a YA novel yourself. And let me tell you, I would be happy to help you with that.

First things first, be authentic.

Don’t try to write something that you’re not comfortable with or that doesn’t reflect your voice or style. Teens can spot a phony a mile away.

Be aware of trends.

But don’t pander to them. If all you’re doing is copying what’s popular, your book will feel forced and artificial. Try to find your own unique angle on current trends.

Use pop culture references wisely.

Don’t overload your book with trendy references that will date quickly. Instead, use them sparingly as a way of enriching your story and enhancing your characters’ voices.

Write from experience.

If you can draw from personal experiences when writing your novel, it will make your story feel more authentic and resonant with readers.

So those are some tips for aspiring young adult writers! Keep these things in mind as you start drafting your masterpiece (or at least start thinking about starting it…) and good luck!

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