What? That’s often a question young adult writers start out with. So, how do you get to know them? Simple. It’s almost the same way that you get to know the little ones — go to places they hand out. A fast food restaurant is good, as is the mall. Go to places where kids ages 12 – 15 hang out.
Notice what they’re wearing, how their hair is styled, and when you can be a fly on the wall. Listen to their conversations and see what they’re talking about.
Not many Americans are unaware that the Twilight series of books and movies is HUGE right now. But what about video games? Which ones are they playing and what systems are they most interested in? They all love cell phones, but do they have smart phones already or do they just use the phones their parents gave them for texting. They do a lot of “sexting,” even at this age, too, so be aware. And Facebook and Twitter are important in their lives.
Some gender-specific things are important, too. What kinds of make-up are the girls using? And what about tatoos and piercings? Do they want them? Do their parents allow them to even think about it? And plastic surgery. Realize that there are plenty of girls, at least here in Florida, that get boobs for graduation or nose jobs or other procedures to raise their self-esteem.
Boys are still into bikes and skateboards, but they’re thinking a lot about girls. In fact, they may have already had girlfriends by 12. Many of them love comic books, and they’re either DC or Marvel and superheroes are huge.
So, you see? There’s lots to consider and you need to go out amongst them if you want to write for them. Your characters should sound like teenages and be just a tad older because it’s always more fun to live a vicariously older life. They aren’t driving yet, so independence is still a big thing for them. Hang out, get to know them, and have fun. You’ll certainly have TONS to write about.
But the bottom line is that if you don’t know them and try to write for them, your writing won’t ring true. They’ll be bored and probably not finish reading because for many of them, reading is the last thing on their minds. You have to spark an interest first, using information that they can vibe with and you’ll be much, much, much more successful.