So I was reading through a manuscript last week and it’s a young adult dystopian, futuristic novel, which is a super hot genre right now with Hunger Games, Divergent, all that good stuff, so I was super excited when I heard we might be working with this best-selling romance author who was branching out, and wanted to be the first to read through the book.

The story starts off by essentially introducing the lead character, a young girl that’s just starting 7th grade, so we can assume she’s about 12 or 13. why-do-teenage-girls-travel-in-odd-numbered-groups

(As an aside, if any of you are parents of teens and can chime in on this, please do!)

Well, my excitement about this book plummeted quickly as soon as our main character opened her mouth – “Gee, I wish I wasn’t such a geek.” Yikes. And okay, you might be thinking that could be overlooked, maybe this little gal really is a little quirky and retro, but it got worse. She gets to school and there’s an onslaught of dialog that belongs in a Leave it to Beaver episode.

Writers, do your research. If you’re writing YA and don’t live with teens, you need to do some recon. Go hang out at the Starbucks down the street from a local middle school, pretend you’re shopping for a niece at an American Eagle on a Saturday, but don’t bother going till at least 1:00pm, teens sleep in.

Oh, and if you don’t get the joke in the image, do your recon. I had to ask a co-worker but hey, I’m not writing for teens.

This applies to any genre really, you need to remember who pays your bills, it’s your readers (maybe not ALL your bills but hopefully a couple), and you need to make them feel like you “get” them.

YA is hot, a lot of authors right now are writing YA because they think it’s an easy way to make a quick buck – but take heed – teenagers are not stupid…when it comes to knowing what they like. And they’re super media and technology savvy, so they know what’s out there and YOU are the one begging to be invited to the cool kids table at lunchtime.