My freshman year of high school was like something from a novel… Having struggled through my time in middle school (see Why I Rep Middle Grade), I transferred to a teeny tiny private school in hopes of starting fresh.
Novel Point #1: I didn’t tell a soul from my old school. Sure, a couple of people knew by default, but I didn’t really feel a need to announce my plans.
Novel Point #2: My best friend transferred with me. She’d moved to her Dad’s and so she decided to take the fresh start at a small school rather than the massive public school in her new town. We actually didn’t tell each other that we were transferring until the paperwork was done… Best. Surprise. Ever!
Novel Point #3: And this one’s a doozy. I grew six inches and lost over 50 pounds the summer between eighth grade and freshman year. I went from a pudgy five-feet to five-foot-six in two months. Can anyone say growth spurt? I took a bit of initiative and started wearing make-up, I had to purchase an almost entirely new wardrobe thanks to my new size and the dress code at the new school, AND I got glasses (just call me Clark Kent)…For the first time in my small town life I was granted anonymity and it was goooood. *Insert evil laugh here*
So! The school year started and I was completely caught up in trying to navigate a new school and continue being “the new and improved Kortney.” I didn’t honestly think about my old school… until about a month and a half later.
They finally noticed I was gone.
Rumors spread like wild fire. I actually heard that some people believed that I had died over the summer. And in all my infinite wisdom… I said absolutely nothing. For about two months I was able to go to football games, town events and parties with no one realizing who I was. Girls who called me weird were suddenly nice to me. Guys who had made fun of me for years were now flirting with me—and getting shot down. All of those awkward, odd, and downright weird phases I went through (loud and proud Stargate fan, anyone?) were gone. I legitimately had a clean slate.
Sure, eventually people realized I was me and the fall out was actually too minimal to be novel worthy, but I did eventually have to go back to people remembering that I had, at one point, thought the F.U.N. song from SpongeBob was hilarious…and that singing it made me hilarious. *Facepalm*
The young adult category covers some of the craziest years of our lives. There are so many changes happening, friendships being made and lost, the world suddenly becoming real and open to you, and a heck of a lot of hormones to make it just that much more fun.
Honestly if you drop a young adult character in an empty room there will still be oodles of conflict. The category is the best for showcasing that internal struggle and creating relatability across cultural and political differences. No matter where you are, teens are going to be going through that same hormonal mess of life during those years.
I love to represent books that have the potential to make an impact on people’s lives. Whether it’s an escape from the world we’re living in, someone who understands when it just feels like no one really “gets” us, or a lesson that changes the way we look at our lives from that point forward, stories are what help us grow into the people we are meant to be.
In the young adult category, stories have the wonderful ability to be life preservers in a sea of hormones and changes. This is an absolutely terrifying and exhilarating time of life. We expect teens to have enough of an idea of what they want to do with themselves that they can succeed in high school, pick the right college, make the right choices in college, and succeed in college so that they can live “the good life.” Meanwhile they’re just trying to figure out who they are and what “the good life” really is for them.
As readers are discovering who they are, they read across genres and are looking for something that really truly resonates. We need to give these readers the wide variety of stories with all of the representation we can so that in a time when we are so prone to feeling alone, we can find a friend in story. We need to give teens, who are literally reinventing themselves, all of their options. I want to make sure readers have stories that give hope and connection in a world that’s new, scary, so much bigger than they realized and completely theirs for the taking.