Understanding the YA Character

All of us possess skills, strengths, and emotional scars from our experiences in life. Development is fluid and flexible. Adolescence is  a time for abstract thinking which helps to form concepts of how one thing relates to another and question possibilities. The young person is trying to define themselves and gain an identity.  They may become self-absorbed until they figure out who they are. To understand the YA character, in order to write through their eyes, we must first understand the stages of adolescence. Everyone matures differently, but the average development is shown below.

Early Adolescence ages 11 to 14:

  •  lack of impulse control
  • wide mood swings
  • preoccupation with self and physical changes
  • insecure about appearance
  • growing intelligence
  • wild fantasy life
  • more need for privacy
  • idealistic life goals
  • less active in family activities

Middle Adolescence ages 15 to 17

  • peak of problems with parents and adults
  • beginning acceptance of new body
  • interest in feeling more attractive to others
  • peak of peer influence and energy
  • more sexual activity and experimentation
  • broad range of feelings and expression
  • feelings of omnipotence
  • growing velocity and risk taking

Late Adolescence ages 18 to 20

  • new acceptance of parent values and advice
  • acceptance of adult body
  • peer groups are less important
  • more time spent on intimate relationships
  • practical and more realistic life goals

Someone that wants to write a YA story should keep these stages in the back of their mind. A successful YA novel or story must show emotion. For the younger YA, keep in mind that sex is veiled. You should ask yourself if the sexual content is necessary to the story. The YA category is more about the emotion and romance than the actual sexual content. To retain the interest, choose intimacy such as holding hands, kissing, or a light touch. Be aware that some sex scenes can alienate the school market. Also subjects containing drugs, alcohol, and smoking are frowned upon by the school market. Good luck!


Leave a Reply