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Why I Write YA, a guest post by author Amanda Havard


Before the release of the second book in my debut series, The Survivors: Point of Origin, when asked if I’d always wanted to write YA, I would say this in an interview:

“I knew I wanted to write YA because I’ve always been drawn to the forming of a person. Formative experiences are usually the most interesting ones. Why do you think people talk about them in therapy? They’re what make us who we are.”

That might not be the most lighthearted way to look at things, but if you’ve ever read any words I’ve strung together, this can’t possibly be surprising. My view on life is not as bleak as that statement might seem, but instead, it paints a sort of realism we don’t often think about.

Life is a funny thing. We’re given chances to form ourselves into selves when we’re too young to know what the hell we’re doing. Only, somehow, we’re simultaneously held back and governed by rules, restrictions, and an ever-lengthening definition of the concept of “adolescence.” We generally become some version of our eventual selves when we are so young it embarrasses us. And though we grow — hopefully we never stop growing — I’m not one to believe we quickly or readily abandon the original parts of ourselves that formed in adolescence, at least not until we have really good reason to. Or until someone, something forces us.

That’s why the Survivors-world protagonist, Sadie Matthau, is a 144-year-old adolescent when you meet her. It’s not just that she looks the part (in the aforementioned broader definition of the word; she appears about 20), but she acts it. She lives naïve to experiences to which she hasn’t ventured simply out of fear. She makes questionable decisions not because she’s too stupid to know the consequences, but because of a weirdly mixed concoction of invincibility and total dejection. She has freedom, but her family limits her in some ways (more in her mind than in actuality, which is so often the case). She hurts people out of an unfortunate blend of selfishness and denial. And she is always searching to become a version of herself she can love, a self with whom she can find peace.

Three books in, and I’d be lying if I said she’d found it.

A weirdly large proportion of my dedicated fan base pretty much hates her. (And by “pretty much” I generally mean “really, really.”) They can’t stand the denial and the hurt and the flip-flopping and self-pity. They can’t stand how much she hates a life they perceive isn’t so bad. They want to shake her. They’ve lost patience with her. They want her to be more than she is.

They want her to grow up. Into a good person.

Guess what I want for every young adult (however you’re defining that term)? For him or her to grow up. Into a good person.

This is at once more difficult and easier than it seems. The ‘young’ factor allows for a multitude of mistakes, but the ‘adult’ factor calls for real-world consequences. In fact, in an age where simple mistakes and youthful foolishness haunt you for a veritable eternity (thank you, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and your contemporaries), we are all simultaneously young enough to be stupid and unformed — or brilliant and unformed, or foolish and unformed, or generally perfect and yet, still, unformed — and adult enough to be held accountable. That’s Sadie at 144. In some weird ways, that’s me at 27. Maybe that’s you at 16. Or 34. Or 144.

I write and love young adult because in the era before the mold hardens and the plaster sets, we can become anything. Our hardness can harden, and we crack. Our smooth surface can bubble and we at once have personality, distinction. Our artful lines can crumble into something more beautiful. Our whole selves can fall apart. I write and love young adult fiction because we have all been there, and in some ways, we will always be there. We will be embarrassed by our dark periods or awkward phases (and I know a thing or two about awkward phases, mine having lasted from about 7 to 24), but proud of our innate qualities we know have been there all along. And we all know the universal truth: we all f*ck up. We all do things we might regret. But we are all offered a chance at growth, at salvation, at redemption, if only we will take it.

And isn’t that always a story worth reading?

You can see Amanda Havard at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, Texas on Sunday, November 17th at 3:30 PM.

About Amanda Havard:
Amanda Havard is the creator of the patent-pending  Immersedition™ experience. Havard has advanced degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child Development, as well as in Cognitive Development as it pertains to Curriculum & Instruction from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and was appointed a fellowship to Peabody Research Institute. The author of the supernatural young adult series, The Survivors, a transmedia franchise — including the pilot full-length novel Immersedition — with an online following of over 4.5 million readers, Havard has been profiled in a diverse array of publications (Wired, American Cheerleader Magazine, Ypulse) and recently wrote an article on the tangible learning benefits of immersive storytelling and future literacy for the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE) ALAN Review.  

Amanda online and on Twitter