Here’s my admission: as an adult reader of young adult fiction, I sometimes judge the characters for their decisions and feelings. (And mind you, I don’t have children of my own so this isn’t a maternal thing.)
- “What?! Can’t you see X loves you? Don’t go out with that other guy!”
- “That’s dangerous! Why wouldn’t you tell X or Y so they could help?!”
Those protagonists are making decisions that a 14- to 18-year-old would make. They don’t have three decades of ‘learning’ from mistakes to inform those decisions.
As a writer of young adult fiction, I have to keep those protective (judgmental) feelings in check. Arlie, the protag in my YA suspense novel, makes missteps, puts herself in danger (more than once), doesn’t read the feelings of others’ accurately, feels she’s alone in the world. And that’s as it should be.
Here’s another admission: I wrote in journals faithfully from middle school into adulthood. I captured on paper some MAJOR errors in judgment. About 15 years ago, I went back and reread journals from my high school years. Adult Mandy was appalled at teen Mandy’s feelings for a guy who turned out to be a pretty BIG mistake. And adult Mandy destroyed two of those journals – as if she could erase feelings and actions that easily.
See? Adults make major mistakes, too. And I learned from that doozy. Those very real fears, regrets, hopes and dreams make me a better writer of YA fiction. They are to be embraced, not erased.