Writing for Teens: How to Keep it Real

A short essay on writing for teens, and how I keep my fiction real.

I’ve written a lot of Young Adult fiction, sure, it’s not as much as some people have written, but it’s enough that I’ve learned what to look for when crafting a young adult novel. Now that I’m in my thirties, high school feels distant and trivial. Did I really get that upset when my best friend didn’t invite me to a party? Things that upset me then, wouldn’t upset me now. The trick is remember how I acted in my teen years, and not force my adult learning on my characters.

The above mentioned party happened sometime in my senior year of high school. When I found out about the party late that night, or possibly the next day, I was in tears. Did my best friend at the time (we aren’t friends anymore, unless Facebook counts), mean to hurt my feelings? Probably not. She probably just wanted a break from me, wanted to have fun with someone else, or thought it wasn’t my thing. I don’t believe she was vindictive (she seems like she’s a nice person overall). But I do believe that she didn’t have the words to express why I wasn’t invited, or why she lied instead of telling me the truth.

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Thinking back on my teen years, and about the teens in my life now, it is very common at that age to ‘read too much into things’. By the time adulthood rolls around, most people have stopped taking every look and every word dished out personally. We’ve begun to accept our differences, our path, and our identity. But this is something teenagers struggle with.

One of the ways I stay in touch with my teen self is by keeping my teenage diaries and occasionally, when I feel strong enough, by reading the terrible, painful entries: here’s an example.

“I finally talked to Red. I don’t know how it is. We’re talking tomorrow after school. That’ll be hard. It was hard enough on the phone. I think she was crying. I’m not sure. I almost felt like it. But I don’t cry. It’s too hard. I almost said, “I can’t stand Blue”, when she said she couldn’t stand Green, but I couldn’t. This is hard. I mean, we have a circle. We work together and I told her we shouldn’t. That was hard. I don’t know what to say. Tomorrow we have to talk and I have to tell her my happenings and feelings….”

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See, everything is hard when you’re a teen. So hard in fact that I reused that word five times in that one short paragraph. And this was just about having a simple conversation with the friend about why she didn’t invite me to a party! Nowadays, I’d just go up to my friend and be like, Yo, You didn’t invite me b-! And my friend would either apologize and offer a reason that may or may not make sense, or we’d just laugh about it and move on. It wouldn’t be as difficult for me now that I’m older.

What about you? Did simple things seem more difficult for you when you were a teenager?

JEH

Update, Update, Update!

I have not been blogging, I know. Admission: I’ve been in hibernation mode getting The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 2 ready to go to my editor. I can’t wait to release this book near the end of May, beginning of June, I think you will really enjoy it.

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Otherwise, I’ve been working on my collection of short stories thanks to the Saskatchewan Arts Board grant I was awarded at the end of the year. I enjoy having this time to write and explore creativity more than I can say.

So what does that look like exactly? Well, I’ve been spending a ton of time trapped in my ‘basement office’, which is as cold and sometimes lonely as it sounds. But I find a few candles and a hot cup of tea are often enough to ward of the chill. But on the days it gets to be too much, I go out to one of Saskatoon’s beautiful and plentiful cafés to enjoy one of my favourite treats. I think I might actually blog about my favs sometime in the next week or so. Now that The Circlet is pretty much done from my end, I shouldn’t be as busy as I switch my focus to just my short stories. So you should be hearing more from me soon.

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Young Adult Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

When I first heard about this book, I was tempted to pick it up straight away, but it’s a good thing I didn’t since I received it in the OwlCrate box that month. Melissa Albert’s writing style was a bit different than I’m used too, with some sentences that took a couple reads to understand, but once I adjusted, I quickly fell into the pages of the story.

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Now, I enjoyed The Hazel Wood, but something about the ending didn’t quite jive with my expectations at the beginning of the book. I loved the beginning. I loved the promise of the mystery and the shadowed back story, but I felt the end took this twist that was unexpected but also not quite as full as I was expecting. It was fast and happened really quickly, when it probably could have had much more time devoted to it.

The main character Alice as fun and loveable, as were Finch and Audrey and most of the other characters. This book is very fairy tale, but modern, which I really like. Now, apparently, this is the first book in of two, or possibly a trilogy, I’m not sure. But according to GoodReads a second book is expected next year. However, The Hazel Wood ends well as a standalone, so I don’t really feel like I’d have to pick up the second book. I’m thinking that maybe the second book is about different characters in the Hazel Wood world, so it will be interesting to see how that ends up.

Here’s a quote I that I loved, from page 128 of The Hazel Wood:

“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams and things you did too young and things you overheard that you shouldn’t have and secrets you kept or couldn’t and regrets and victories and quiet prides, all the packed-together detritus that becomes what you call your life.”

Overall, I’d give this book 4/5 Stars, but if there were room for decimals, it would probably be just a bit below a four. Have you read The Hazel Wood yet?

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Young Adult Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I love Holly Black. Is that enough of a book review? Lol. Since reading What I’m Reading: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black last year, I’ve wanted more Holly Black. It took me a bit to get into The Cruel Prince, but by the end I was madly in love. For an adult reader of Young Adult books, this is perfect. It’s dark, and dangerous, and rather violent (which maybe isn’t the best for young readers), and it drew me in like a piece of fairie fruit.

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Main character Jude is typical Holly Black, she’s tough and cocky and she’s going to succeed in life or die trying. One thing I wanted more of was Vivi, Jude’s older, half fairie sister who was mysterious and aloof. One thing I loved to hate was Taryn, Jude’s twin sister. This book is richly detailed, full of fairie magic, and takes place almost entirely in The Shifting Isles of Elfhame, for which there is this gorgeous map at the front of the book. I love books that come with maps.

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I loved the tiny tie-in’s with The Darkest Part of the Forest. The Cruel Prince, however, is the first book in a new series, The Folk of the Air, the second book of which, The Wicked King, is expected in 2019 according to GoodReads. I can’t wait. Have you read The Cruel Prince yet?

5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Young Adult Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book sat on my shelf for a while before I finally picked it up. When I started reading Caraval, I wasn’t so sure about a book that takes place at a circus type thing in a fantasy world, but you know what, it works.

Sister’s Scarlett and Tella are whisked away to Caraval, a mysterious magical show run by the mysterious Legend. The story is told in from Scarlett’s point of view, following her through Caraval. The world is painted in gorgeous colours, and the book left me longing to go to Caraval myself (somewhat like The Night Circus). But as far as I know, the only place Caraval exists in this world is in the book.

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There was one thing I did find a bit confusing in Caravel and that was the passage of time. It seemed like days went really quickly, like Scarlett just started the day and then the day was over, which threw me off a bit. I assumed she was just losing a bit of time due to magic or something, but I’m not sure that was the intent. It was almost enough to pull me out of the book but I did really want to know who was lying and what was the truth and that mystery was enough to keep me going. Even if everything doesn’t flesh out in a book, if it keeps me reading and able to suspend my belief, I’ll end up liking it. That’s just the kind of reader I am.

Caraval is the first book of a two book set, with the second book, Legendary being released at the end of May, so not much more than a month to go if you’re waiting for it. I’ll probably be picking it up. Have you read Caraval yet?

A solid 4/5 Stars

JEH