There’s something irresistible about a young adult on a mission, whether it be saving the world, conquering a coming-of-age crisis, or embarking on a journey of discovery. As I’ve transitioned from the young adult to adult age bracket, my interest in this genre has only increased, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why? There are a few trademarks qualities of the young adult fiction genre that contribute to its universal appeal.
#1: We all love an underdog.
Have you ever read a young adult novel where the teenage hero or heroine is on top of the world? Even if page one opens with that scenario, you can expect that moment to get snatched away, and the character to spend the rest of the story fighting to restore or reclaim what’s rightfully his.
In Nadine Brandes’s Fawkes, the story opens on the eve of Thomas’s color ceremony where he will finally receive a mask from his father and earn his honor. However, his father is a no-show, and Thomas plummets to destitution on a quest to find his father and find out why he didn’t come. You better believe I’m cheering for Thomas and want to see him succeed.
#2: We all experience setbacks and “square-one” scenarios.
Let’s be honest. Teenagers aren’t the only ones with life crises. Adults encounter career, relational, or homelife obstacles that often blindside us. Perhaps a relationship falls apart or the boss pushes a white slip our way. Those young adult insecurities resurface with fury when we find ourselves facing the unknown all over again.
Young adult fiction is full of unknown. In my novel The Reactionary releasing in February, my heroine Portia doesn’t know if an international ally will help the Brotherhood’s tenuous government fight off attacks from a global dictator or stab them in the back. But like the other relationships in her life, she must make herself vulnerable and attempt an alliance, because love and liberty are worth the risk.
#3: We all enjoy imaginary road trips.
Young adult fiction has a corner on the speculative fiction market. Speculative fiction is a fancy term for a story that asks “what if?” What if society were two hundred years in the future? What if dragons existed? What if Narnia were real?
The beauty of imaginary road trips is that they can teach us something about real life. In Emily Golus’s Escape to Vindor, her heroine Megan becomes trapped in the imaginary world she created as a personal escape from the real world. As a result, she must learn to confront her very real fears if she’s going to save Vindor and be able to return to her regular life.
#4: We all want a good story.
When people ask me why I write for young adults, I tell them that I write for young adults and the young at heart. I’m including myself in that second category. Regardless of life stage, this genre offers a universality that resonates with all ages.
Writing Prompt/Story Starter: A road is just a road, isn’t it? Until it becomes…
Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner. Her books include The Rogues trilogy and Wings of the Dawn trilogy, and she also enjoys speaking events that allow her to connect with students, readers, and other writers. A Florida girl at heart, she says yes to most adventures involving sunshine. Connect with her online at KristenHogrefe.com