When I reflect back on my reading as a teenager, I’d have to say that my favorite Young Adult author could be none other than L. M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series and so much more). Now you might not think of her as a typical YA author. I know, I know—that genre didn’t even exist until the 1940’s when the term teenager came into use. But when I think about the 1990’s when I grew up, there just wasn’t a whole lot of new YA fiction out there and definitely not Christian YA.
The first Golden Age of YA fiction started in the ‘70’s with the likes of Judy Blume & Robert Corimer (Chocolate War). The 80’s brought in more genres like horror & R.L. Stine and even the Sweet Valley High series. And then the 1990’s arrived and YA fiction slowed almost to a standstill. Why you might ask? Well, through a little bit of research this week, I discovered that in the mid-late ‘70’s there were lower birth rates so that there were not as many teens in the ‘90's when I was a teenager. Thus, there was not as much YA literature written (or should I say published) during that decade.
This makes a whole lot of sense when I think back on my love of L.M. Montgomery. Every time I made it to a bookstore during those teenage years, my young heart skipped a beat as I made it to the YA section to discover a new Montgomery. They weren’t publishing new authors, but they were rereleasing these classic novels and publishing all her short stories into anthologies for a new audience. I still have them all stacked neatly on the top of one of my many bookshelves.
After the baby boom in 1992, the YA market rebounded just in time for Harry Potter and the Princess Diaries in the year 2000. And as I began to consider writing for the YA market, I thought about my love of Montgomery and compared it to the trends for our youths today—the paranormals and the supernaturals and now the return to realistic fiction with John Green. And where did I fit into all that?
I’ll admit I love Meg Cabot. Without a doubt, she’s a talented author. Her teenage voice and relatability just can’t be beat. Even this quote from her makes me like her just a little bit more. "The whole reason you're reading is because you want some hope that you're going to get through whatever you're going through. I know how hard it was as a teenager, and I understood how it felt to be an outsider. I want to be able to offer people hope."
I love that. And I too want to offer teens hope, and fun and a great journey. Meg’s style and sense of humor are similar to mine, and I’ve always felt akin to her books, and yet I can’t agree with everything in them. Besides that, I wanted to take my books a step further. I want my readers to latch on to that hope through a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Andrea & the Five-Day Challenge (Book 1 in the Aubrey Christian Academy Series) is written in a Meg Cabotesque style. It’s funny and quirky with its own set of memorable characters.
I wish to entertain my readers, but I want to reach them too but in a natural, organic way. I want them to be encouraged that they are not alone. We’re all going through the same thing (or we have). I want them know that you can be a Christian and have fun too, and make wrong choices, and be forgiven. I hope Christian and non-Christian teens will be inspired by my books and to what they as individuals can be and can do.
And that brings me back to L.M. Montgomery. She was a little girl who dreamed of being a writer. She wrote of characters who too dreamed the same dream. And she shared that dream with me. It’s a dream I hope to pass on to another generation of dreamers and writers and whatever else they dream of becoming.
"I don't exactly want to make people know more... though I know that is the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams
(Previously published on the Christian Fiction Online Magazine.)