YA Fiction and a NaNoWriMo Update

I am moderating a panel at the New England Crime Bake this weekend. It is called “High School Murder: Writing the Young Adult Mystery”. My panelists are Peter Abrahams, Beth Kanell, Kate Burak and Kim Harrington. The idea behind the panel is that YA (Young Adult) fiction is very “hot” right now, so let’s learn from people who do it well.

In many ways I am an ideal moderator for this panel. I don’t write YA fiction. And I don’t read it very much. I read the Harry Potters. But the Hunger Games trilogy has been on my Kindle for a while now (much to the dismay of my nephew). As a moderator, my goal is to highlight my panelists, and to drive a conversation. I can do that. For this panel, I have done my homework–I have read at least one book by each of the panelists.  And with an eye to craft (rather than pure enjoyment), I am looking forward to the conversation on Saturday.

In my opinion, the books I have read work for three reasons:

First, they are all well written.

Second, the story is right on target for the audience (in this case high school readers), with themes of bullying, fitting in, peer pressure, and having a trait or habit that makes you stand out.

And third, and perhaps most importantly, none of these books pander to readers. I felt engaged, and I am WAY past the target age.

I don’t believe in pre-loading questions to my panel. And I also want this to be a conversation that is helpful to the audience. (Crime Bake is geared to writers, though readers also attend. It is about craft.) But I am intrigued about why/how they chose to write YA fiction and what are the challenges of writing in that genre. I’d also like their insights on why this is such a popular genre right now.

I will report back on the panel, and let you know what I learn. If you are interested in the genre, Beth Kanell has written a wonderful series of posts on the Sisters in Crime New England blog. And if you have a question you’d like to ask, let me know in the comments!

NANOWRIMO update. I am writing. At this pace I won’t hit the goal, but I am writing. A few of you have made me your buddies (I am CozyGal)–not sure what all this means, but I am going to keep going. How are my other NaNoWriMoers doing?


J.A. Hennrikus is the president of Sisters in Crime New England, and a mystery writer.

21 thoughts on “YA Fiction and a NaNoWriMo Update

  1. This sounds very interesting. I myself write YA fiction and I’ve always been curious as to why others choose to write it. It’s a question I’ve been wanting to ask for a long time. I’ve also become curious as to why YA fiction has become such a huge market these days.

  2. That sounds like a wonderful panel. I would love to know from writers whether or not they work with that theme – bullying, etc – in mind, or if those elements come as plot points as needed for the story. Another way to ask that is whether or not they design the story with a specific message about fitting in, or if that just happens to be that character’s story. I worry about laying messages too heavily into my writing, and it sounds like these authors have succeeded in striking the right balance!

    • Great questions–and I will ask them. Have you read Peter Abrahams Echo Falls series? I’ve read the first one (second one is on my Kindle), and he is weaving in a lot of these issues really skillfully. I suspect there is steroid abuse, for example, that was hinted at but it didn’t hit me over the head.

  3. Interesting panel! Sounds like you should have some great discussions.

    I’m progressing well in Nano and am just about meeting my word count goals. It’s interesting seeing all the words come together and start to see the bigger scope and where I’m going to need to adjust things here and there,

  4. I am drawn to YA Fiction because it is a genre that has endless possibilities. The themes are rich and full of emotions meant to stir the pot while teaching about strength, perseverance, friendship, etc.

    Aside from that, I’m currently working on a YA Fiction piece for NaNoWriMo. It’s my first time and so far I love it.

  5. I think it is interesting that you are leading the panel yet haven’t read a ton of YA. It gives you a unique perspective! I agree with your three points, especially the last one. I got my mom to read The Hunger Games, and I haven’t seen her finish a book so fast in my life, or get so into it. She texted me when she was unable to read the next chapter, always asking what happens next or letting me know what part she was on. I think YA is a great genre and everyone can relate to it because, although we are not teens any longer, we were for a long time, and most of who we are was shaped by our experiences in those years.

  6. This sounds really interesting. I am of YA fiction age and love writing and reading YA fiction. I personally think it’s such a big market because teens are always struggling to ‘fit in’ and figure out who they are, so finding characters we can really relate to makes us feel accepted. I found this with the character of Charlie in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. It was like finding someone who understood me and now that book is probably one of my all time favourites.

  7. It was nice to read your insights in preparing for the panel. I am certain it will be great! I am trying NanoWriMo, at least I started. It’s like learning to swim and I have just dipped my toe in the water.

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