Teachable Moments are Critical to YA Novels

Three years ago, I sat down to write another novel and decided it was time to write a Young Adult novel. Well, maybe Young Adult Crossover, something that is a compelling read for young readers as well as my older adult readers. I had written a novel with a secondary character that I felt would make an interesting protagonist. So, I started writing. To ensure I got it right, I read a few YA novels and blogs on the subject of writing YA. I didn’t want to break any taboos.

Author David Yoon recently published his first YA novel, Version Zero. David was interviewed on NPR today and he made an interesting statement. He said “…the people who buy these books, buy YA, they are looking for teachable moments that they can present to students…this is what we learned about, anything in humanity. And so they deal with kind of the known and the teachable.” I fully agree. Many YA novels focus on “coming-of-age” situations where the young protagonist searches for self-identity, recognition by their peers, or a traumatic maturing event. But Yoon feels there is another way to look at your protagonist. There should be something that the reader experiences. Something they learn and take away from the story.

My finished novel, now in the hands of my publisher, has several teachable moments. The protagonist, whose name is Brooklyn, is a sixteen-year-old half Native American girl, who considers herself an outsider. Through a series of rather traumatic events, Brooklyn has to depend upon her community and making new friends in order to find her mother who mysteriously disappears. It’s a page-turner as Brooklyn seeks help from a young Indian boy she abhors and part of a gang of delinquents, a loner trying to forget his past and considered the town drunk, a kind, old Alaskan sourdough, and the town’s only doctor who is a world-known epidemiologist.

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