Book Review: The Young Adult Writer’s Journey by Janet Schrader-Post & Elizabeth Fortin-Hinds

Cover from Amazon

I am definitely in the target audience of The Young Adult Writer’s Journey. One of the already brewing works of mine is intended as a YA novel. I actually started a second one between finishing this book and writing this review. Additionally, as part of an active writers’ community, it isn’t unusual for me to be called on the give feedback on works intended for a YA audience, whether shorts or novels. The focus of this book is definitely primarily on the novel side of things, although some aspects of the discussion could easily be applied to development of the short.

I give this book 3 stars overall. I will start with what I liked then round off with the things I was less enthused with and why.

The section of the book I found most useful was that related to the hero’s journey and the different characters and situations that can usually appear along with it. I was so excited by this section that I would recommend the book just for this part despite my lower overall rating. It got my mind churning on the one YA I’d already started work on and how things could develop using some of these ideas. I am sure I will be rereading this section a few times as I work on the novels to get me back on track whenever I get stuck.

Some of the other sections about teen perspectives and society weren’t especially helpful to me, but I can imagine they would be to others.

Now for the negatives. Remember that section I loved? A lot of that content was “recycled” in the archetypes section. I instantly recognized it and found it annoying. But having a big chunk of repeated content makes the total book size misleading, since instead of each page being new information, some of it appears twice.

It might just be me misinterpreting or being overly paranoid, but I felt like diverse characters were recommended solely to check boxes for sale purposes and without sufficient consideration of the research and possible sensitivity readers needed to ensure these voices are portrayed accurately. It really bothered me that it seemed like cultural backgrounds were equated to a simple character quirk.

I believe we need to portray diverse worlds not because it will meet criteria for agents and publishers but because both our readers and our characters live in diverse worlds. While I do believe authors are capable of appropriately portraying marginalizations and diversity they don’t themselves possess, the importance of researching this properly must be emphasized. Otherwise we risk relying on stereotypes, making things worse for the communities we portray, and alienating readers.

I was surprised by the complete lack of reference to #ownvoices in this context and the value of using what experience and knowledge you do have to strengthen your characters.

As an avid reader who has, at times, come in contact with overzealous marketers of books, I also found that section somewhat uncomfortable. Yes, authors today need to do a lot of marketing, especially if they’ve self-published or are published by a smaller press, but the advice given was in the “this will make me unfollow, blacklist, or drop you from my contacts” category. If this advice were followed zealously by an author, they’d find readers like me tuning them out and even removing them from my circle. That would be unfortunate if a new author ended up alienating potential readers instead.

Finally, I found a number of word errors and awkward spots that annoyed me. However, because I read a prerelease ARC, I did not let these impact my rating. I’m hoping these issues will have been caught in final proofing before release.

Overall, I found a large section of extremely useful material that I will be referring back to more as I work on my own YA novels, but recommend authors think hard on how they approach some of the other material in the book. I also recommend following other YA authors and communities on social media so you can see the discussions and get links to great articles to fill out things like sales techniques and sensitivity readers.

Note: I did not purchase this book, but chose to download it from NetGalley with the intention of reviewing it.

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