YA is just a story, after all. It’s a story about people who want something or need something or are trying to get away from something. Maybe all three. They just happen to be young people, and therefore they’re not equipped with a ton of life experience to help them navigate whatever the hell this is you’re putting them through.
I think that’s part of the huge appeal of YA – because no matter how old you are, you can identify. You can remember what it was like to want more than the life people expected you to accept. You can remember dreaming big and the universe being a wide open realm of possibilities. You can remember feeling stifled and marginalized and questioning where you fit into the world around you.
Or maybe you feel that way right now – no “remembering” required.
Longing is a powerful thing. And there are many ways it manifests itself in a story.
As someone who’s written a lot of romance, I had no problem making that a big part of my protagonist’s journey – though it’s certainly not the only part of the journey that defines her. In YA, romance can’t get steamy or detailed or terribly vivid – and I find that challenging and even sexier, somehow. The mind of a reader is a wonderful place to sow those seeds, to turn off the light and leave them inventing what happened in the dark. To build and build and tease and leave them wondering and wanting more.
It’s been a real exercise in temperance, and my writing is better for it.