At the end of my MFA thesis defense, someone asked me what I wanted to do next. I’d been thinking about this question for a while, and I told the committee that I thought I might try my hand at writing for young people. After a few moments of resounding, deeply uncomfortable silence, someone told me that I should stick to poetry and literary fiction. The underlying implication, that books written for a younger audience aren’t as good, aren’t as valuable, as books written for adults pissed me the hell off.
And I can be a very obstinate creature, my friends. So I dug in, and I started working.
The YA and MG audiences are some of the most discerning, intelligent, and demanding groups of readers I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. The books written in these genres are changing the face of the literary conversation, and let me say it again and again and again, I AM HERE FOR IT.
But that’s the thing I love about YA. We give teenagers the power to change the world, to defeat the evil king, to take down governments. We trust them to change the world. And if you look at young people in the real world, they’re already doing it. Look at Malala Yousafzai. Look at Tavi Gevinson. Look at Gitanjali Rao. Look at Marley Dias.
Young people are infinitely smarter, infinitely more capable of handling themselves and the world in which they live than many people give them credit for. There are certain schools of thought that say that we, as adults, ought to talk down to these young people. They say we should coddle and protect them from the big scary world. I say believe in them. Believe in their intellect. Believe in their strength. Believe in their power to change the world.