‘It needs to happen NOW!’
The First Person and the YA Novel
By Stacey Agdern
Darker Still, by my friend, author Leanna Renee Hieber, is in first person. It’s a big change for her, because all of her previous books were in third. And not just any third; it’s the gorgeous, atmospheric third person voice that brings her particular historical world to light. But her voice in first works, and well, because ‘Darker Still’ a young adult novel.
What is it about young adult novels that warrants such a big change? And as a general rule, young adult books need to have a sense of immediacy to them. They need to make the reader feel as involved in the story as they possibly can.
Sophie Jordan writes both paranormal romances(under the name Sharie Kohler) and historical romances in the third person. Yet her young adult paranormal, ‘Firelight’ is in first person. I adore her books; the hero and heroine of ‘Wicked in Your Arms’, her last historical, took me through an amazing journey. But the switch to first person gave ‘Firelight’ that sense of direct involvement in the story that a YA needs. Readers end up hating the cliffhanger ending more because they not only identify with Jacinda, but they make her pain their own.
Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn paranormal romance series is also in a very atmospheric third person, with some gorgeous language. Examples of this abound in my favorite book of that series, ‘Night Lost’. In the same way as both Jordan and Hieber, Viehl wrote her young adult book ‘After Midnight’ in first person. That voice again provides that immediacy, so that the reader caught up in Caitlyn Youngblood’s story and feels the sense of surprise when she discovers her family secrets and what that means for her developing…friendship with the mysterious Jesse.
On the other hand, there are authors like Richelle Mead and Kelley Armstrong. Both of these authors write their YA and adult urban fantasy series’ in first person. But yet there’s a different feel to both sets of both authors books. There’s still a sense of immediacy, but the change here is in the vocabulary and writing style. What do I mean?
One of the things I’ve always loved about Emily Giffin’s titles (Something Borrowed, Something Blue) is her ability to completely alter her first person writing style to fit her characters. It’s in the vocabulary, the cadence of the story.
That kind of complete alteration is one of the things I’ve always loved about Kelley Armstrong’s writing, so it seemed no surprise to me that the narrators in the four published books of her Darkest Powers YA series, have unique first person voices and the story involves the reader in a way that her adult books don’t have to. Richelle Mead does the same thing with her amazing Georgiana Kincaid series and her Vampire Academy series. A distinct narrative voice for both series, there is a degree of immediacy in the Vampire Academy series from Rose’s pov that you never need from Georgina.
So what do you think? Does YA read better in first person? Are there some YA’s you’ve read in third that you’ve liked? Do you like it when an author changes their voice for a YA? Let me know , and I’ll see you next month ! 5 winners are chosen weekly on Romance At Random – comment below to win – winners announced on Sunday – good luck!