Writing Young Adult (YA) novels is about more than just writing a protagonist who’s in their teens—though that is one of the criteria.
Things to keep in mind
The young adult novel is a unique and powerful genre that can speak to the hearts and minds of teenagers. When writing a young adult novel, it is important to consider the following:
1. The point of view (POV) should be from the perspective of the teenage protagonist. Even if your character is an adult looking back, they shouldn’t be seeing things through the lense of a logical adult who knows better.
2. The voice should be authentic and true to the age group. This may seem the same as POV but can literally come down to diction. For example, unless your teen is insanely well-spoken don’t have him say “stop being facetious” when he could say “don’t be sarcastic” instead. Teens should sound like teens. This isn’t the time to show off your excellent vocabulary.
3. Coming of age topics are often at the forefront of these stories. These can include things like love, loss, friendship, betrayal, etc. Sometimes as adult we forget how significant our friendships were at this age and how much it can hurt to navigate friend breakup. These topics matter.
4. Be careful not to be preachy in your writing. Teens get enough of this from the adults in their lives. Novels are meant to be a reprieve.
5. Young adult novels often have hopeful endings that inspire readers to believe in themselves and the world around them. The general rule is to save any less than hopeful endings for sequels rather than the first novel in the series.
To make sure your novel fits in the YA genre, read YA widely and make sure that some of your beta readers are in the YA reader age group.