Why YA, eh?

I'm sorry, that title is just so awful that I had no choice but to use it.

I recently finished the Serpent's Shadow, the third book in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan.  It was a great book, perhaps the best in the series.  While reading the book, I came to realize that Riordan is one of my favorite writers.  And, yes, everything I've read by him falls into the YA category (although he's written other things).

For what it's worth, you might know him better by the Percy Jackson series.

Anyway, it got me thinking about my own work (because everything comes back to me) and how it was really Riordan, along with Brandon Mull (author of the wonderful Fablehaven series) that inspired me to take a shot at writing a Young Adult novel.  Sure, Harry Potter was my first foray into that category the same as it was for a lot of people, but it was Percy Jackson and Fablehaven that pulled me in completely.

But I suppose that's not entirely true.  If I really think about it, I've been reading and writing YA since I was a kid.  For now, I'll pass on discussing the fact that comic books are so clearly YA and focus on the fact that, back when I was growing up, all the nerdy kids read fantasy fiction aka Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Shanara, Wheel of Time, etc.

These books weren't specifically tailored for young adults, but it was inherent.  You can't tell me that wizards and dragons were going to appeal to the average adult.  Sure, they probably didn't appeal to the average teenager, either, but those of us lucky (and unlucky) enough to grow up as nerds were obsessive about these things.  How many dorky kids created D&D characters named Drizzt Do'Urden twenty years ago?  How many of us wished we were Tanis Half-Elven or Tasslehoff Burrfoot?

(FYI, I got those last two right without having to look them up.  I forgot the "i" and the "o" in Drizzt's full name, though.)

It's actually kind of amazing to me that, years later, Wizards of the Coast published YA versions of the original Dragonlance Chronicles series, as if the books weren't already YA.

The 2nd and best book in the 1st Dragonlance trilogy.
I wrote a ton of my own fantasy fiction, and thought about a lot more.  I had lists of characters names, lists of titles of trilogies (because all the TSR books back then were trilogies), lists of creatures that inhabited my own, horribly derivative world.  I can remember it as clear as day.  My hobbit/kender/halfling race were called the Telm.

Given that I was raised on a steady diet of comic books and fantasy fiction, it's no surprise that I would end up reading a lot of YA books, and no surprise that I would eventually try my hand at writing them.

The appeal should be obvious: YA books allow you to delve into the supernatural in ways that you can't in adult fiction, unless you're writing genre specific work.  Sure, I realize that YA is a genre (oddly enough), but it's welcoming enough that even those who don't normally read about wizards or vampires or gods or monsters find themselves reading about those things.

The best YA books are footloose and fancy free.  They're full of energy, be it kinetic energy or potential energy (I like to consider the more angsty elements of YA to be potential energy).  They mix the real world and the fictional world in ways that are just similar enough to make us wonder what it would be like if it were real, yet different enough that it still serves as escapism.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy adult fiction.  But part of the enjoyment of adult fiction, for me, is that it challenges me, both mentally and emotionally.  YA fiction is less a challenge and more a luxury.  It allows me to bask in all the things I've always loved about creating stories.  It's stimulating in a completely different way than adult fiction.

Hopefully, some of my passion for YA books will come across in the query letter I'm writing for Master of the House.  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm incredibly loyal to the things I'm passionate about, and I will fight for them with every ounce of strength I possess.

You should really pick up the first book of the Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief.  You'll see a very clear line from Huckleberry Finn to Percy Jackson.  You'll see a line that connects classic adult literature with current young adult stories.  And I think that will tell you everything you need to know.