Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Teen Reader's Perspective

My beautiful niece, Amanda, visited us a few months ago and gave us her thoughts about YA literature (you can read the previous interview here). Her ideas and opinions are a treasure trove for YA writers.

Amanda is now 18, and will graduate from high school this Thursday night. Before she steps from her high school life into college life, and from college life into the big world, I wanted to bring her back again to share her perspective about YA books. Even if you don't write YA lit, it's cool to take a peek inside the teen mind.

Ok, folks, here we go:

After our last interview, Angelina C. Hansen asked, "How do you choose which books you'll read?"

I hear about books from friends. I don't go to the stores and choose. I also go by suggestions from my Seventeen magazine. I've read a few books off their suggestion list.

LTM asked Amanda, "Who's your favorite YA romance author?"

I don't necessarily have a favorite author of any type, and I don't choose books based on the author. And I don't choose "romance only" stories. My favorite books have another story, but with a little romance mixed in. If I had to choose a favorite author, it would be Suzanne Collins.

How have books shaped your view of the big world out there?

When I read books about characters caught up in the real world, I become nervous, curious, and excited about what's out there. I'm also inspired to make a difference.

Do girls and/or guys at school talk about books? Or is that just a YA writer's dream?

No, we don't usually talk about books at school, unless it's about a book a teacher's assigned. Sometimes me and my friends will discuss a book if we're reading the same story, but it's not our usual topic of conversation.

How has your taste in books changed through your school years?

When I was younger, I loved reading picture books, or light books about adventure. But now I like reading bigger books that are more intricate, with a lot of symbolism and deeper meaning.

In the YA books you've read, how accurately are the lives of teens reflected? What could be improved?

Teen life is not always interpreted correctly in books. If authors want to portray true teens, they could interview multiple teens to gain perspective. Not only the popular people, but also the not-so-popular people, too. The girl doesn't always get the guy. It's hard out there, and real endings aren't always happy. But we like reading about happy endings, so it's a catch-22.

What types of books do you wish there were more of?

I wish there were more books like Matched, Crossed, and Hunger Games. And I wish there were more books with older teens as the main characters. It's fun to read about characters who do crazy things, and I love a big twist. 

And finally, what advice could you offer YA authors?

Teens like books about relatable things, such as family. We like books with deeper meaning, and with symbolism. Teens aren't shallow, and we don't want to read about hair and make-up. We don't always want to read about school and grades. 

Teens are still getting used to big books. We're growing into our own, and figuring things out. We're still maturing and growing. It's nice to read about characters who are going through the same things. 

Amanda, thanks so much for your time! We writers appreciate hearing a reader's perspective about what works and what doesn't.

Writer friends, thanks so much for welcoming Amanda. Did any of her answers surprise you? What are your thoughts about teen readers today?


  1. I remember the previous interview you did with your niece. It's always fun to get an avid reader's viewpoint. How about ebooks? I've heard others say that teens aren't really into them yet.

    1. Oooh, great question! I know for sure Amanda doesn't read ebooks yet. Her dad has a Kindle Fire, but she hasn't used it yet.

  2. Yay for Amanda! And good luck to her in her future. Keep reading~ :D <3

  3. When I read books about characters caught up in the real world, I become nervous, curious, and excited about what's out there.

    I so loved this! Amanda seems like a really cool gal. Warm wishes to her as she transitions into life's next phase. I think she's going to do great!

  4. Firstly, Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, Amanda! My oldest son graduates on Wednesday. Lots to do and think about.

    Thank you for sharing your views and ideas with us. It's always exciting to hear what teens of today think/feel. I especially like how you mention that you don't always want to read about school and grades.

    Thanks, Julie, for hosting your niece!

  5. LOVED this! Terrific idea and soooo helpful to get a teen perspective first-hand. Thank you Julie and Amanda!

  6. Congrats on you graduation, Amanda. I loved Matched, Crossed, and Hunger Games too. All three are thought provoking and it's great to hear that teens are very much into the bigger questions.

  7. Great interview! I loved the answers. I think you have great taste in books and in what you're looking for :) Good luck with your grad & college life :)

  8. Thanks for that insightful perspective, Amanda and Julie.

  9. This was so wonderful to read! Amanda reminds me of my stepdaughter (nearly 17 years old) in her answers :)

  10. Congratulations to Amanda! Graduation is exciting even if a little bitter sweet.
    And a wonderful post. I always love reading the perspective of teens who are also readers.

  11. Amanda, you're awesome. And, I'm so glad to hear that teens are thinking about the bigger picture. I think many YA authors stereo type teenagers. Many teenagers, especially those that read, are more complex, and much smarter than the books make them out to be. When I read a YA book that is dumbed down because the author thinks that teenagers can't read between the lines or think beyond the tangible, it's kind of offensive.
    Congratulations on your graduation. You will go far. Best of luck in college~ Remember to have fun and find your passion.

  12. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, Amanda! Thanks for your teen point of view in regards to YA literature. Great interview, Julie.

  13. Thanks, everyone, for welcoming Amanda. Isn't she amazing? Seriously, I can't believe she's graduating :/

  14. Thanks, Amanda!! And Julie! I especially liked your "is that just a YA writer's dream?" question.

  15. Great idea for an interview. Love the question "Do girls and/or guys at school talk about books? Or is that just a YA writer's dream?" And, bummer that they don't!

  16. Great interview!! Older teens in books are something that's a hard sell, or so they say, with agents/publishers. I wish it weren't so though.

  17. Love getting this perspective, Julie! Thanks! So true, the girl doesn't always get the guy, or the guy the girl. That said, I do love me a happy ending and I'm glad to hear many teens do as well!

  18. Thanks, guys. It sure is handy having a teen reader for a niece :)

  19. She has some great information for YA writers, Julie. Word of mouth is still so powerful and if a writer thinks teens aren't interested in reading about deeper subjects, they're very mistaken. You are lucky to have such a wonderful teen reader in your family.

  20. Thanks, Amanda! I am so glad teens don't want to read about hair and make-up all the time because I don't want to write about it. ha ha!