The Daily Post prompt is: Youth.
I am a writer. I like saying that because it has become true and can be said, shouted, written, scrawled on walls or in the ‘occupation’ box of official forms. What I’m not that keen on is being called a Young Adult writer. My stories are full of young people, it’s true, but does that make the story specifically intended for a particular age demographic? I write about young people because they are vital, energetic, growing up and hating and loving it at the same time in their innocence and wisdom. Young people have fewer ties and scruples, more ideals and bigger mouths than many older adults.
Does that mean any book featuring a sixteen year-old is automatically destined to be read by twelve to fourteen year-olds (because, we are told, kids read about other kids older than themselves)? Did Jack London write for dogs (or puppies)?
My series, The Green Woman has as its central character a sixteen year-old girl. While I am prepared to concede that in some of our modern societies, sixteen is considered childhood. A sixteen year-old should be protected from the more unpleasant aspects of existence, not be expected to occupy a responsible role in society or even understand much about what makes it tick. However, the notion of childhood is a relatively recent one and adolescence even more of a modern idea. The ages at which one ends and the other begins, change depending on who is being asked. For some, the period of intense introspection called adolescence, when the individual is the pivot of the universe, never ends at all—it just changes its name to adulthood.
Deborah, main character of The Dark Citadel, is sixteen. She is betrothed to be married and about to embark on what society has in store for the rest of her life. She is expected to never be any more mature than she is at the beginning of her story, never learn anything else, never do anything else except rear two children according to the book of rules. Deborah is as much an adult as any forty-year-old woman in Providence.
If I chose a sixteen year old as the catalyst of a revolution it is because she has not been worn down yet by years of despair. She has energy and ideals. The young people in The Green Woman story have to contend with infanticide, genocide, attempted rape, physical and mental torture, insurrection and prison. None of it is nice, comfortable or gung-ho. Most grown up, cynical adults that I know wouldn’t have a better idea of how to cope.
So, is the age of the main character enough of a clue as to the content of the story? Should having a main character under the age of consent automatically relegate the novel to a story for kids? I don’t think it does, any more than I think Jack London wrote books for dogs, or Anna Sewell for horses.