The other day I was talking to someone about my book. They asked how it was being received and how I felt about it. I could sense an avalanche of words tumbling to the tip of my tongue to excuse it. To tell them how it was a first attempt at novel writing, a work without training, the kind of literature I don’t see myself writing in the long term or anything like what I hope will define me as a writer.
Some of these words slipped out. Mainly, “I don’t really see myself as a Young Adult author.”
“Why?” they asked. “What would you write instead?”
And then I was puzzled. More by the first question than the latter. Why didn’t I want to write YA fiction?
The truth is, I did. I do. But part of me doesn’t. I spent my years in university studying the “greats”. Young Adult is popular fiction, with more obvious themes, less challenging contexts. None of that is true necessarily, of course. But there are stigmas, and the fear of writing fluff is there.
The part of me that does want to write this genre of fiction, however, is an important part of who I am as a person. It is the part of me that looks at the world everyday with a slight sadness. A recognition that something has been lost and can’t be retrieved - an open heart, a fire that rages despite the world’s attempts to quell it. Conviction. Sharp, violent, salient things that soften with age and experience and responsibility.
I don’t think it’s possible to feel as in love as you can feel when you are a teenager. Or as heartbroken. Because the heart is fresh and eager and naïve. Incandescent – on display for the whole world. And fragile. Utterly shatterable.
I once dated a world traveler. One of those people dedicated to spending as much of this life on earth exploring and experiencing – meeting people and discovering places. He had/has seen a lot of the world, in a variety of contexts. So when I brought him to Kananaskis on an adventure one day and saw the look in his eye of dulled appreciation standing at the base of the Rockies, I said, “the trouble with seeing too much magic is that you get used to it.”
The trouble with living life is that you get used to it.
But when you are fifteen, you are not used to falling in love. You are not used to independence or responsibility. It’s new and overwhelming. And on top of it all, you really have no idea who the hell you are in the grand scheme of it all, either.
It’s a wilderness.
I remember it all with the clarity that only comes with true emotion. It is still fresh in my mind and in my heart. All that mess. It’s an exciting, exhausting, atrocious time in our lives that some of us get out of in one piece.
So fluff aside, literature that speaks to anyone trying to navigate those tumultuous waters has value. A lot. And writing about it brings me right back. It lets me remember feeling the way I don’t have the ability to anymore. Because pieces of us break. We leave them behind. We have to. After all, how many teenage heartaches could one life survive?