Finding an Authentic Teenage Voice, a guest post by author Amy S. Foster
One of the main reasons that I wrote The Rift Uprising was because I felt like the label ‘Young Adult’ had become a bit of a misnomer. The first YA novel I ever read was Judy Blume’s Forever. Forever IS NOT Are You There God It’s Me Margaret? It deals with very mature themes, tackling them relentlessly, head on, without toning anything down. As an author I took my cues from her. As a fan of Judy Blume’s, I related so much to the books she wrote throughout the various years of my childhood and adolescence. Her female protagonists acted and sounded like me and my friends. Today, YA skews much younger. There’s plenty out there for thirteen year olds, but, for seventeen year olds, there seems to be a gap.
Using a dystopian or fantastical setting has given authors a way around this problem. When kids are living in a world entirely of the writer’s design, where there are no cell phones or snap chat, the character’s vernacular changes and while I love those worlds, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create this secret, hidden world in the present where young people are living extraordinary lives when everyone else around them is going about their business like normal people do. I wanted them to sound like actual teenagers regardless of their circumstances.
I couldn’t have done this without the input of my teenage daughters and their friends. I thought I knew what was cool. I thought, yeah, sure I’m old(er!) but I’m not old. I know what’s up. Spoiler Alert…I don’t know what’s up. I had no idea for example, that my daughters and their friends never email. Why would they? When they could text or Face Time or Snap an expression on their faces instead of writing anything at all? I had my older daughter vet every bit of dialogue I wrote. She would tell me, yeah, that’s good or NO WAY! NO TEENAGER WOULD EVER SAY THAT! This to me was invaluable. It was great to have something to talk about with my kid but it was also great to create characters who I think are genuine and authentic young people. I hear it time and time again in the reviews for The Rift Uprising– “These people sound like me.” It’s such a compliment.
However, taking this route means that there is swearing. It means there is dark humor. It means talking a lot about sex. It also means that there isn’t a ton of empathy. Empathy doesn’t always come naturally for teens. So, I had to balance this out. I had to find a way to make my characters self-involved, but still willing to make sacrifices. I had to give them a touch of narcissism while still having steadfast loyalty. I think this is why my book is in the adult sci-fi section instead of the YA one. It pushes a lot of envelops. Still, I wish, as I’m sure many of you out there do too, that the “New Adult” category extended beyond romance. I would be so thrilled if there was New Adult Sci-Fi, New Adult Fantasy, New Adult Thriller. It would be so much easier and so great for those older teens who are looking for books they can truly identify with.
MORE ABOUT THE RIFT UPRISING
Normal seventeen-year-old girls go to high school, binge watch TV shows all weekend, and flirt with everyone on the face of the Earth. But Ryn Whitaker is trying to save it.
Ryn is a Citadel. A soldier. A liar. Ryn and her fellow Citadels were specially chosen and trained to guard a Rift—one of fourteen unpredictable tears in the fabric of the universe that serve as doorways to alternate Earths. Unbeknownst to her family, Ryn leaves for school each day and then reports for duty as an elite, cybernetically-altered soldier who can run faster, jump farther, and fight better than a Navy SEAL—which comes in handy when she’s not sure if axe-wielding Vikings or any number of other terrified and often dangerous beings come through the Rift. A fine-tuned weapon, Ryn is a picture-perfect Citadel. But that’s all about to change.
When a young man named Ezra is pulled through the Rift, Ryn finds herself immediately drawn to him, despite her training. What starts as a physical attraction quickly grows deeper, and Ezra’s curiosity throws Ryn off balance when he starts questioning the Rifts, the mysterious organization that oversees them, and the Citadels themselves—questions that lead Ryn to wonder if the lies she’s been telling her family are just the surface of a much bigger lie told to her. As Ryn and Ezra desperately try to get to that truth, they discover that each revelation blurs the line between the villains and the heroes even more.
ABOUT AMY S. FOSTER
Amy S. Foster is a celebrated songwriter, best known as Michael Bublé’s writing partner. You might recognize her work in his four hit singles, including “Home” and “Haven’t Met You Yet.” She has also collaborated with Destiny’s Child, Diana Krall, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and a host of other artists. She is also the author of the novel When Autumn Leaves. When she’s not in a studio in Nashville, Amy lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Amy is the daughter of singer B.J. Cook and the legendary music producer, David Foster. Fun fact about Amy: Her extended family tree includes Bella and Gigi Hadid, Sara and Erin Foster and Brody and Brandon Jenner, and Clay Aiken! The Rift Uprising, her YA debut, will be released on October 4, 2016.
Filed under: YA Lit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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