I am writing a story about a young adult. It won’t be published in the genre of young adult fiction, a market for young readers between the ages of nine and nineteen. It’s a complex story and it is destined for the adult market. Strictly for adults only.
I have a couple of other stories which are told from the point of view of young boys, not yet in their teens. These stories are reproduced suitably for the young adult fiction market.
Most teenagers fancy themselves adults anyway. But how many of them read widely as opposed to spending hours on their smartphones or in front of the TV? I am not preaching, just asking a question. You, as parents, will know the answer. It is tragic that many children, let alone their parents, do not read. No wonder teachers, who barely read much themselves, are having a hard time educating youngsters these days.
I discovered the young adult fiction market by default.
Other writers have growing children of their own and write for that market. Their children are an inspiration and offer them a steady stream of new ideas. Many successful adults retain their child-like enthusiasm and vivid imagination, combining it with their professional abilities and required discipline, well into their advanced years. Some hit the jackpot unintentionally or not.
Famous examples quickly come to mind. JK Rowling. Her Harry Potter novels are read by both small children and overweight adults. Then there is Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Some adults have, thankfully, passed these legendary writers’ stories on to their children.
But these typically child-like adults are not only closeted writers and illustrators. There is Johnny Depp and Steven Spielberg who have reproduced classic children’s stories on the silver screen. And then there’s Charlize Theron who is not generally known for roles in youth-centred movies. She had a touching part in an adult-centred indie film called Young Adult.
Many well-known writers suffer from the misunderstood disease of depression. Now, Young Adult is a multi-layered story which has appeal to viewers who have an interest in reading, writing and depression. Diablo Cody’s script is uncomplicated and amenable to the disengaged viewer who shies away from more complex and literary forms of story presentation.
Impressed with her bravery, I was able to engage empathetically with Theron’s character, Mavis Gary who is a writer of young adult fiction suffering from depression. In fact, I sympathised with the character’s sorrowful and misguided efforts to revisit a love affair which died tragically for her.
Good writers of young adult fiction today are exploring complex and difficult issues which afflict growing children and teenagers today. Issues such as abuse in any form, sexuality and crime are being crafted tentatively from the point of view of the young adult. Who was it that said writing is a noble art? It certainly is a vocation. Such writers are able to fill the voids left by inattentive or uncaring parents, helping good librarians and teachers provide the youth with informed reading lists.
Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), hurt and maimed from a young age, is Mavis’ unlikely companion in her journey towards redemption. Embarrassed at first, the adult Matt shares his love for action hero figurines. Most adults would balk at this hobby which is likened to girls playing with their dolls. But, let’s be honest, interiorly, some of us still endear ourselves towards our childhood heroes. I have lost count of how many times I have re-watched Christopher Nolan’s franchise series of Man of Steel and The Dark Night.
Tom Long of Detroit News remarks that “As good as Theron and Oswalt are, and they’re very good, Young Adult doesn’t give them enough room to breathe”. And that is precisely my point, that the subject matter, always difficult, and the story and plot does not allow them breathing space.
I reiterate the uncomplicated crafting of the Young Adult story. The mis-en-scene of this film, directed by Jason Reitman, is both short and balanced. Both the protagonist and her supporting characters are able to rise above themselves in this well-rounded story.
It does not have to be tragic, it will probably still be complicated, but it’s never too late to have a good, second childhood.