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Post 6: How to use Adolescent Development in your Writing

If you write for young adults, it’s important to know a little bit about how they develop so that your book is relevant. So lets get to know our readers:

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There are many changes that adolescents go through that come in the form of physical change, intellectual change, and changing needs.

  1. We all know about this one: puberty. Tweens turning into adult means there is one huge question circling in their head, which is, “Am I normal?” From developing physically (chests for the ladies, voices for the men, etc) to the time in which it takes to develop, it can be difficult for teens to know if their own transformation is normal, or even happening. That is why books that focus on such elements can be both assuring and enlightening. Self-reflection in a book will always both grow and captivate your readers.
  2. Who hasn’t heard something like this > Adolescent’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25. Well, who knows for sure, but with this comes the concept of concrete thinking verses abstract thinking. The younger you are, the more concrete your thinking supposedly is, which means right is right, and wrong is wrong. The more developed you are, the more you are able to think abstractly. This is important when it comes to understanding theme and other important actions on the behalf of your characters. If you’re looking to address certain issues, think about the audience you’re writing for and the possible affects that your writing will, or will not, have. For many, as they grow and develop, this adolescent phase is where they decide their own morality as well as other philosophical ideas. Will your writing challenge their thinking?
  3. Ever-changing needs: As those middle graders and high schoolers grow and climb the cliff that is adolescence, it is important that they have a safe place, a place to belong, and for others to show interest in them. It’s something to think about when you’re writing. In “Booked” by Kwame Andrews, Mr. Mac is a librarian who takes an interest in the main character and becomes a source of support. While a real adolescent may have a difficult time finding someone to cheer them on, they may just find them in your book, as a good YA book can do.
  4. Adolescents grow as readers: So we know that reading can develop their empathy; believe me, this is a good thing. Most readers read for the delight, or joy, of reading in part because we recognize a part of ourselves in them, or even others in them. Not only can we begin to understand ourselves, we can begin to understand those around us better. Plus, let’s face it, I really, really wouldn’t have minded getting out of my high school Chemistry class to board the Hogwarts express; it’s vicarious living at it’s finest, and people, especially teens, need that. And then, sometimes your readers just want to really enjoy some lovely writing. So when you put that pen to paper, or finger to key, think about what kind of effect you’re having, and take some pride in your work; it very may well be helping someone.

Personally, knowing these things for me as a writer is very informative, but as a reader and someone evaluating YA books, it’s helpful to me for the same reason it is helpful to me as a writer. I know what it takes to reach young adults. I will know the type of book(s) to recommend to someone I see struggling. Keeping this in mind as I read will be a really good tool to keep in my arsenal. Books that don’t do this, I won’t be as likely to support. As always, I hope this helps and,

Happy Writing!

#amwriting #amreading #yabooks #ala

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