The French word for teenagers is les adolescents. For short, les ados. No matter what country you live in, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
The years between childhood and adulthood can be difficult, not only for les ados, but also for les parents. (Make that, ARE difficult. Sans doute.)
But they can also be rewarding, and even fun. And then one day they’re over. No more moodiness, drama, or driving lessons. C’est fini.
While my four kids were teenagers (and one still is), I read books about raising teens, novels about teens, and even the books my own teens were reading. Just recently I read Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future by Tim Elmore and Dan Cathy. I found it enlightening if troubling. And then I worried — some more.
But back to my topic: teens vs. Young (independent) Adults, or YiAs, I’ll call them. (A small “i” seems appropriate, and trendy.) YiAs ARE adults, even if young and
inexperienced independent. They’re not teens wishing to be adults, with all the independence that adults enjoy. So why do teens read “Young Adult” novels? More important, given that real young adults (and old ones) read them as well, why must the protagonists of YA novels be teens (in high school)?
I wrote my first novel (to be released later this year) not specifically for the “Young Adult” audience, but for readers of any age — it was a story that was “in me” to write. Like Jessica Park, author of Flat-Out Love, I was told by publishing industry professionals that the (college) age of my protagonist (19) was too old for YA, and therefore my book wouldn’t sell. [See her recent terrific blog post, How Amazon Changed My Life]. Well, the professionals were wrong about Jessica’s book. I hope the same will be true for mine.
Ironically, my best beta-reader was a true young, independent adult. In her early twenties, she had spent a year of college in Europe; she related to my characters and gave me a ton of wonderful feedback. She has a “real” job, and though she is close to them, she lives far away from her parents. I’m old enough to be her mom (!), but it’s amazing how much she and I have in common.
If you’re a young adult, you can be independent, but if you’re an ado, alas, you can’t be, yet. (However, at age eighteen you can — almost. But that’s another topic.) Over two years ago, on my son’s nineteenth birthday, I stood by his side at the hospital as a doctor explained that he had a brain tumor. Treated as a legal adult by the medical staff, my son signed the paperwork for emergency surgery that was necessary to save his sight. Later that summer, he had to sign papers authorizing brain surgery at Duke. He survived cancer, something a great many adults never have to face.
That son of mine has changed a lot. I’m grateful he can read whatever he wants to read.