YA Contemporary

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, my YouTube, or my Twitter feed you already know that for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) I decided to focus on my first attempt at a young adult contemporary novel.

Let’s talk about that, shall we?

I pretty much exclusively write young adult so that is the easiest part of that to explain. Young adult novels are written with teenagers in mind and typically star a character who is also a teenager. That doesn’t mean they don’t appeal to adults. Quite the opposite, actually. Many adults prefer to read these particular books. I, for one, enjoy them because they tend to not take themselves so seriously. I love that YA is the age category that is breaking all the “rules” of the writing world. YA authors, in general, aren’t afraid to stand up to stereotypes and smash them.

Typically, I write fantasy or science fiction. My books often have elements of unrealistic, unbelievable, or just-haven’t-happened-yet. Take Projection, for example. This book takes a technology that DOES exist and implements it in a way that DOESN’T exist. Some would call it unbelievable. But that’s what good science fiction does, right?

Anyway, contemporary books do not do that. Contemporary books are those books that feel like they COULD be happening right now. They are realistic. They star characters who read like real people. They are general fiction, basically. No magic. No crazy technology.

I read contemporary stories.

Ok, that’s obvious since I literally read everything. Let’s try that again.

I enjoy contemporary stories. But I hadn’t given myself permission to dive into that genre before. I hadn’t taken the personal challenge to write a story that didn’t weave magic or something unrealistic into its very core.

So, in November, I decided to do just that.

National Novel Writing Month is a good time for something different because the challenge itself is to write 50,000 words before the end of the month.

I’ll have a video up on my YouTube channel Tuesday that will detail how the month went and if I met those goals.

But, in the meantime, I wanted to offer you a short scene from the book.

This book is the story of two teenage girls who are best friends. They are embarking on their first year of high school, which we will follow them through. But, and this is the part that drives my story, they have a toxic friendship. Our main character, Becca, has to come to terms with that and then decide how she will proceed. The book itself will be a lesson in recognizing toxic friendships and what you can do about them.

As many of my books do, this one also has a little romance in the subplot. Nothing serious (hello, that’s why I said subplot) but it’s still there. More cutesy than anything else, this story has been fun to write. The scene you’re getting today doesn’t feature my toxic friend pair. Instead, here’s Becca and the boy she’s crushing on. Enjoy.

“She’s just a friend.” His mouth twitched up into a smile that Becca couldn’t help but return. 

“You said that before,” Becca said, looking away to hide the blush creeping up her cheeks. 

Car headlights appeared along the back road behind the school, moving in their direction. Likely this was for one of them, since no one else appeared to be waiting in this area for a ride. Becca knew the car would have to wind behind the football field and around the parent pickup area before it was in front of them. They didn’t have much time, but they had a little. 

“Did you really have fun?” Scott asked. 

“Yeah, of course. I really do like dancing.”

“I wish you hadn’t sat out all the slow songs,” Scott said. “I feel bad I didn’t ask you to dance even once. I should have.”

Becca shook her head, emotions warring inside her. “No, I’m good. Honestly.” She wanted to add, I don’t need your pity dances or don’t do me any favors. 

“Becca,” Scott said her name in a low voice and then paused. She turned her head to find him staring at her like he was waiting for something. 

“What?”

“Will you save me a dance at the next one, no matter who your date is?” he asked. 

Becca blinked, unsure of how to answer this. He sounded genuine and serious. He didn’t sound at all like he was making fun of her. She nodded, the gesture small. But Scott must have seen it despite the darkness because he nodded in return. “Good.”

The car pulled up in front of them. It was a large car, possibly orange in color. A woman was behind the wheel. “That’s my Mom,” said Scott. “I should go.” He stood up, brushed some dirt off his pants, and smiled down at Becca again. “Can I ask you one thing though?”

“Of course.”

“If I hadn’t taken Sarah to this dance… if I’d asked you instead… would you have gone with me?” he asked. 

Becca felt a surge of joy through her entire body. It was like chugging a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. That burning feeling almost hurt but at the same time, it felt so good. “Were you thinking about asking me?” she asked quietly.

The way Scott was looking at her in that moment was the exact way boys in movies looked at girls. The way that made their hearts flutter and blocked out the rest of the world. When he nodded, the motion slow and precise, Becca felt like her joy was going to explode out of her chest and coat the entire parking lot with little hearts and pieces of confetti. “I thought about it a lot. I’m sorry I chickened out,” he said.

The car horn behind him honked, and they both jumped. Scott turned around, holding up a single finger for his mother in the universal signal for “just one second”. Then he turned back to Becca, who had taken the interruption as a moment to catch her breath and compose herself. 

“I would’ve liked that very much,” she answered. Then she tacked on the part of the line she’d composed when she’d had that second to think of something witty. “You’ll have to ask me to the next dance.”

Then Scott delivered an even bigger surprise. He leaned toward her with his arms out and wrapped her in a hug. Becca patted him on the back. She didn’t have time to do anything else because the hug was over before she fully knew what was happening. Then, he was gone. In the car and out of the parking lot. 

But Becca had a memory that would last a lifetime.

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