A YA novelist and indie publisher on books,
Sometimes when I visit middle schools, young people ask me: Why do you write for us? Implied in their question is, I think, two inner queries: Do you really think we matter? And, shouldn't you maybe have grown up by now?
I tend to respond with two answers and one joke. The joke is that I write for middle schoolers because we're on a similar maturity level. Some people who know me pretty well might say that's not totally a joke, but anyway ... never mind about that! Here are my two real answers.
First, books meant a lot to me when I was an awkward, lonely middle schooler. I had been a reader since childhood — my dad was my role model, he was a great reader all his life — but in that difficult time, books became my best friends. I read all the time, and the town and school libraries became my safe places. Years later, when I fell into writing for young adults, it came back to me how much I’d loved good books back then. I remembered how much it had meant when I could relate to the story, when I could connect with the characters. Since the first time I tried it, writing fiction for young adults has felt natural and right to me.
It’s no wonder that middle schoolers seem preoccupied with this stuff. Those are big questions! And most young people are searching, in often-awkward and uncertain ways — just like I was, back then — for the answers.