Youth, maturity and The Green Woman

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.

TDCfuture4

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Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

23 thoughts on “Youth, maturity and The Green Woman”

  1. I have never considered the Green Woman books to be in the young adult category. I think they are suitable for young adults, which is an entirely different thing. Your series explores themes people of all ages can relate to or understand. I will continue to recommend the Green Woman to all readers who enjoy beautifully written stories with substance and meaning.

    1. Thanks for that, Tricia. you are absolutely right about suitability not being an exclusive thing. I read Ivan Denisovich when I was fourteen. I don’t imagine Solzhenitsyn would have been offended that I found it suitable, nor do I expect he intended it to be read only by middle aged Siberian political prisoners.

  2. Juliet was 13 rising 14 and although Shakespeare never actually specifies Romeo’s age we can safely assume he was no more than 18 and possibly as young as 15. Yet there’s is one of the most powerful, poignant and potent love stories ever written. I rest your case 😉

      1. A case of knowing no different I imagine. Unimaginable for one born in the comfort of the second half of Century 20. I can try but I’d take a reasoned guess that I can’t actually get close.

      2. I can’t imagine what personal relationships must have been like. Not giving your child a name before it had passed its fifth birthday because it would probably die. For a few years having a child around, learning how to work, then leaving to be married when we would be getting our babies into secondary school. What time did they have for affection?

      3. I think like everything else, what we call affection has evolved. Then, it was a question of survival. Watching footage from, for instance the Himalayan earthquake gives more of a window, perhaps on what it was like rather what we are priviliged and entitled to assume. Of course I am conjecturing because I was not there. It is, as I say almost unimaginable.

      4. I only have to think ‘childbirth’ and I get cold sweats. Death was always looking over your shoulder and it took anyone. We are very lucky not to have first hand experience of life/death in pre-modern times. The 1970s were bad enough 🙂

      1. Well said. There really is no definitive age category, and in a creative field, it always seems slightly bizarre that books are set as being for specific age ranges when as you say, people are so different.
        Damn those marketeers!

      2. Where we lived in the north of France, our local library put all fantasy books in the children’s section. My kids (10, 12 and 14) brought home the most atrocious space fantasy porn and judged them on plot not gore/sex level or ‘suitability’. They seemed to find the highly sexed ones unrealistic (!).

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