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Issue-driven YA Fiction

21/08/2020

Just how big and bad and ugly is the world out there? Unfortunately, this is a question many young adults have to face. As teenagers try to forge their own identity in a confusing world, they are faced with many unpredictable events, disappointments and changes which can rip their worlds apart. Many experienced authors have ventured into the volatile psyches of teenage minds where emotions can seesaw, hopes can be dashed and dreams can come crashing to the ground.

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 Young people in fiction need to grapple with many issues and overcome a variety of hurdles on their journey towards self-discovery.

 When I set out to write my Young Adult novel, ‘The Seekers’, I found myself being naturally drawn to some of the issues teenagers have to face: divorce, enforced separation from other family members, boyfriend break-ups, being forced into boarding school, being let down by your best friend and having different beliefs from one or both of your parents. How on earth is your character going to negotiate all of that through the pages of your novel?

With a healthy dollop of determination, a carefully devised plan, and a lot of help from God who is always working out his purposes for the good of his people, even when, like the protagonist in this novel, they are unaware of it.

I love setting my stories in places I have visited, especially if they have made a deep impression on me. My novel, ‘The Seekers’, was no different. A visit to the quaint Karoo town of Nieu Bethesda inspired me to use this fascinating place as the backdrop for my novel which attempts to answer the questions, ‘Who am I?’; ‘Where am I going?’ and ‘Who is coming with me on my journey?’

In setting romantic entanglements, family dramas, and the betrayal of friends in this iconic Karoo setting – with Helen Martin’s famous ‘Owl House’, Kitching’s well-known fossil centre and numerous artist’s studios dotted around in homes – among other local delights like the local brewery, the post-office restaurant and the bed and breakfast establishment in the shape of a tower, I am giving my readers more than a dab of local colour to enrich the life of Courtney Love, a very determined young girl on a very specific mission.

Things turn out very differently from expected for her, when her ex-boyfriend and her ‘best friend’ come crashing in on her life in this out-of-the-way Karoo town where she is desperately trying to forge a new life for herself – without their help.

'Issue-driven' is a very popular phrase on the lips of YA novelists, but as a YA author, how can you not write about events that come crashing in on young peoples’ lives, causing their emotions to spin out of control and challenging them to cope – or not – with the external events that are driving such radical changes in their lives. And how can you not, at least, point to a solution, in my case, a spiritual solution which the title itself, ‘The Seekers’, hints at.

To all those YA issue-driven novelists out there – enjoy your explorations.

Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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