Young adult readers, who are 12 – 14, know what each of those terms mean. Do you? If you want to write for these kids, you’ll need to.
Here’s a quick primer:
This group is into wearing all black clothes. But there are levels of “goth-ness” shall we say. Some stop at the clothes, while other kids do the black fingernail polish, the heavy black make-up, and dye their hair black. Some go for piercings and tatoos, though most of the kids who are into those areas are a tad older than our young adult group. Yet, the appearance is just a “look.”
The gothic lifestyle is more of a philosophy. They’re interested in what would be considered “horror” themes – witches, ghosts, vampires, etc. But Goth doesn’t necessarily mean that they worship the devil. Some kids get into that as a shocking mechanism, and basically, that’s what this whole gothic movement is about. It’s shocktastic. Most kids grow out of the phase, but some are dedicated and remain so into adulthood.
Punks have some elements in common with the goths, but they’re not quite a severe. They dress in shredded jeans, lots of safety pins, and if you want an example, just think back to the ’80s. Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Billy Idol… There are different types of punk, too, like “steam punk,” for example, which involves apparel that has a zippered, mechanical feel to it. Punks aren’t so much into the dark side of things, but they are anti-establishment and include attitude in their modes of dress and hair. Remember the Mohawk?
Pronounced “EE-MO,” these are the sensitive, unhappy, miserable crowd that listen to lots of emotional music. Some are prone to self-inflicted wounds or “cutting.” They have very definite hairstyles, which are usually off-balance, much like their emotional state. They feel disassociated from the mainstream crowd, and listen to bands like “My Chemical Romance.” And don’t forget the very skinny jeans that really look painted on. Those and the hair are always a dead Emo giveaway.
These are the “cool” kids. They look a bit like clones of one another in that they all dress the same. They’re popular, and all the kids in school want to be them. Of course, their cliques are quite exclusive. They tend to look down on the other groups and some of them are prone to meanness. If you ever saw the movie Mean Girls, you know some preps. They’re the football players and cheerleaders of the school. They get good grades and suck up to the teachers.
Yep! You guessed it. These kids do drugs. They’re usually poor students because they’re so busy ruining their lives with pot and whatever else they can get their hands on. Shame, but this happens more in suburban schools that in the inner cities.
These descriptions seem to paint a rather bleak picture for today’s kids, and that’s not what I intend, really. Not all kids fit into these groups, of course, and not all kids are dark, mean, or lost. But every single one of them knows what each group means and who they contain.
Overall, most kids in this age group are just struggling really hard for acceptance and react in different ways to peer pressure. Sometimes, the group that takes them in is where they remain, just because they found a home.
My point here is that if you want to write for kids, you need to know the goths, the punks, the emos, the preps, the stoners, the skateboarders, and on and on… It may not be the world you lived in, but you’re writing for kids today. Figure out who they are and what their world is like before you even try.