The best part about writing contemporary YA is being able to reach teens with a positive message. I don't think I'm alone in feeling that my adolescent years were the most difficult time of my life. In fact, the combination of my chaotic family situation and my own inability to be anything but my awkward, know-it-all, foot-in-the-mouth self, led to some lasting scars that have survived into adulthood. The reason I write YA is simple. I hope to help young adults get through this painful right of passage with less permanent damage to their psyche. I want to bring them stories with characters that are real – they make mistakes, they have emotional needs that are deep and difficult to articulate. And I want to show YA readers what happens when they deal with their problems with self-reliance and inner strength.
The challenge in writing YA is genuinely being in touch with what's happening for teens. While many difficulties young adults face are timeless, their culture is constantly evolving. It's important that a contemporary YA story be believable, and if setting, slang, behaviors, music or what have you are not current, it takes away the credibility of the author and ultimately muddles the message of the story. For instance, a contemporary YA novel must include the ways teens communicate including texts, chats, tweets, and Facebook status updates, otherwise the story doesn't come across as present day. So how does one stay current? I happen to teach middle and high school age students, so being part of their day-to-day experience is helpful research to make my YA stories more authentic. Some authors do this amazingly well, such as John Green. Many of his teen readers ask how he writes such realistic characters even though he's “old”. And for me, Mr. Green, and many other YA writers, there's a strong adolescent self still lurking inside, so much so that writing a believable young adult character, while challenging, is not impossible.
I know that the painful experiences we have as teenagers teach us, make us stronger, and ultimately help us to become who we are. But the shining moments in my own teen years come from certain adults who supported me and encouraged me to develop character traits that will always win in the end. Traits like integrity, perseverance, and never letting your own personal value be defined by others. While I still, to this day, remember those lessons from great teachers and other adults, I don't think I was exposed to these ideas enough. It's so difficult to drown out the media blitz flashing before teens eyes day in and day out. I make it my goal through my writing to be one of those positive influences that I don't think YA readers can ever get enough of during these impressionable years. And that it is why I write YA.
When fifteen-year-old actress Lucy Carter loses her older sister in a car accident, her mother shuts down and her father can’t hold the family together. Their only choice is to ship Lucy off to the Edmond School for Performing Arts. But boarding school is no cure for Lucy’s grief. With failing grades, wooden stage performances, and curfew violations, Lucy is threatened with expulsion. For the once talented Lucy, it feels as though she has nowhere to turn.
One night, Lucy hears mysterious music drifting through the school’s old heating system. The music leads her to a troubled but passionate songwriter whose brilliance gives her the strength to perform like never before. Yet their intense relationship puts Lucy in a precarious position: if she follows her muse, will she lose herself? And if she breaks it off, can she stand on her own again?
As Lucy sat down in the graveyard against an aging oak tree, she caught her breath and thought of all the ways Kate had helped her to be stronger. She thought of how hard her sister pushed her to go to ESPA because Kate believed in her so much. Lucy knew she'd disappointed her sister when she decided not to go to the school. She told herself it was because it was too expensive for her parents and she would miss her friends and family too much to go, but deep down, she knew it was because she was afraid that she wasn't talented enough and she would embarrass herself and her parents.
Imagining her life going forward without Kate, all she could see was a vast emptiness ahead. A throbbing pain started in her head, her stomach, everywhere all at once. Lucy hugged her knees to her chest and let the tears come as hard and fast as possible. She stamped her feet and pounded her fists into the moist dirt at the base of the tree. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair!
Her life came down to a before and after. Before accident, the bright world full of laughter, and after accident, the muted world through fogged up glass. Just when the glass started to clear up, something reminded her of all that she'd lost.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jennifer L. Fry is a writer, artist, and teacher in Marin County, California, where she lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable dogs, and orange tabby cat. Though she has been writing since she was young, A PART TO PLAY is her first novel.
Amazon Author Page: