I’ve always found writing for young people, including the high school age range, a lot of fun, which is why I’ve been doing so for many years now. There’s something awesome—for me, anyway—about reconnecting with a part of my past, with how I used to feel about certain things in life, and with what I used to think about back in those Prehistoric days (OK, it wasn’t that long ago). And I explore some of that in my first published novel, a young adult dystopian called The Fourth Generation, in which a plague that kills everybody when they turn seventeen has been ravaging the Earth for about one hundred years.
What I find fun about my book’s premise is that legacy becomes very important for kids in a world like this. These days, kids in high school are really just starting to think about their legacy. Or, at the very least, they’re considering and thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and what college they want to go to in order to prepare for that. So it’s interesting to imagine a world where you need to, in essence, live your legacy by the time you’ve turned seventeen. You’d have to have started to think about your legacy at a very early age in order to have it be fulfilled by the time your seventeenth birthday comes around. Even though high schoolers don’t need to do that, I think they can at least connect with the idea of leading a legacy, of looking forward to the type they want to have.
It’s those types of high school-related themes and subject matter that are fun to explore in a YA novel. Another one that crops up in The Fourth Generation is romance. High schoolers are just beginning to explore or have already been exploring the dating scene for a while. With my book, I thought it would be fun to imagine a post-apocalyptic world in which romance is totally forbidden, and how that would impact the teenagers existing in it (bear with me here; romance does exist in the story). In The Fourth Generation, the sexes are forbidden by the rulers to intermix. The rulers’ reasoning is that everybody needs to be constantly spending their time working hard to not only keep society going, but to find a way to rediscover electricity and invent a cure to plague. In fact, the teenagers aren’t even allowed to meet who they’re assigned to produce babies with (as they obviously need to reproduce in order to sustain the human race). But, of course, some kids are not going to buy into everything their leaders say. Some are going to find a way to have themselves a little romance, or at least discover a way to explore that aspect of life. That’s why my main character, Gorin, purposefully attempts to find out who the mother of his kids will be, and the two of them immediately hit it off. I think teenagers can relate to that sort of thing—curiosity about the opposite sex and putting themselves out there to satisfy—or at least test the waters—of that aspect of life. And, of course, some of them can relate to making a genuine connection with a member of the opposite sex.
In fact, curiosity in general is a major theme of The Fourth Generation, and is something I think high schoolers can relate to, too. High schoolers are naturally inquisitive about, well, everything—romance, their potential future careers, how the world works, etc. It’s a great age of exploration, and that’s mirrored in Gorin—as well as his romantic interest Stausha—in many ways in The Fourth Generation.
And I think that’s not just what YA books, but all books, are about, too: exploration. Reading a good book brings us to a different time, a different place, and sheds light on an important element (or elements) of the human existence. Which is why I think it’s important for not just kids, but everybody, to read. Reading isn’t just about escaping from the real world to relax and be entertained, though that’s certainly a nice side effect. It’s also about growing more aware of the world around us through the story. Sometimes it’s so easy to get carried away within the real world that it’s tough to step back and really think about it, to really analyze what makes it tick, and that’s exactly what a good book helps us do.
Anyway, moving back to writing YA specifically, when it comes to writing within that age category, I always include the subject matter and themes that are relevant to that age group. Which I do for when I write any age group, really. Among other things, high schoolers specifically are just starting to experience, think about, and explore things like romance, their careers, and the world at large. It’s a very exploratory, and therefore very exciting time! And that’s what makes YA (and, my book, of course, if I don’t say so myself) so much fun. And I hope those who “explore” The Fourth Generation find it fun, as well.
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You can purchase The Fourth Generation on Amazon.
Guest Contributor -- Author Chris von Halle
Chris von Halle has had many different lives in many different worlds—the near and distant future Earth, other planets, and even other dimensions—and his books recreate his childhood memories of such outlandish locations. In this world and life, he lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and enjoys such extraordinary activities as playing videogames, tennis, and basketball, and writing the occasional comic strip.