It isn't every day that Booklist predicts a debut novel may "become the sustained hit that Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower proved to be," so when Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse (a January Best Book of the Month) author Lucas Klauss agreed to write something exclusive for our YA Wednesday column, I was delighted!
We bounced around a few ideas but kept coming back to his first suggestion: explaining why he, a grown man, reads and writes young adult books. I've not done the actual math but any YA reader knows that a majority of books in the genre are by a woman.
So what made Lucas decide to write about teens instead of "someone his own age?" A lot of reasons, actually, and yes his love of Coldplay factors into it.
I really like being an adult. Reasonable bedtimes? Awesome. Weddings and babies? I love weddings and most babies. A diet that doesn’t consist entirely of chicken fingers? Hell, yeah!
And as I rapidly approach 30, that glorious birthday on which I shall finally, truly become old, I find that I care less and less what other people think of me. In fact, this might be the greatest advantage of being a grown man, especially considering my taste in music.
Let it be widely known: I like Coldplay.
Of course, I am still very much aware of people’s perceptions of me—or what I imagine their perceptions to be. (Coldplay makes beautiful music, okay?! Back off.) And now that I am a published young adult author, in addition to my job as, essentially, a reviewer of YA fiction, some of the people in my imagination look at the direction my life has taken, furrow their brows, and mumble: “Weird.”
These imaginary people have a point. After all, I, a grown man on the verge of oldness, spend most of my days reading and writing about adolescence. Make-believe adolescence. And make-believe adolescents!
So, yes: weird.
Yet I feel hugely fortunate to have so weird a life. I love YA and am thrilled to be a part of the community that has developed around this burgeoning literature. I am too old to feel I need to justify my enthusiasm; but I hope I never tire of wondering why. Herewith, then, my invented critics and curious readers, a few of the reasons I read and write YA:
Communication. Most YA novels tell a story in a direct way, unencumbered by cynicism, cleverness, or pretentiousness. Teenage readers will not tolerate that bulls**t. True, this approach, like any other, has limitations, and more oblique methods can yield surprising insights, but I find young adult literature’s straightforward style refreshing and rewarding. If one of the major goals of fiction is to help us empathize with one another—or, from a different point of view, to help us feel less alone—then why not try simply to communicate?