I spent a lot of time at the YA stage. The downside was that I had to sit in direct sunlight, the upside was that the stage had GREAT authors and great topics. One question that came up over and over again was "Why write YA?"
The first item this came up was during the first panel's Q&A when a woman asked (in a very condescending tone): Why do you write YA and not adult books or anything else? After this, the moderator made sure to ask it himself in a less offensive way before taking questions. But the answers were great, and a few things kept popping up at the different panels. Here are the highlights:
-YA explores a lot of the feelings of insecurity, or challenging the establishment, and finding your place in the world. Adults still feel all of these things, but it's no longer okay to talk about them.
-A number of writers thought they weren't mature enough for adult books and many of these same authors said they wrote about teens because they were so traumatized by their own teen experiences. This was often in jest, but I think it goes back to the first point... the teen experience is more universal than the name would imply.
-Some of the writers also thought you could explore darker, racier, more mature topics than in children's books. Garth Nix actually made the point that it's Young Adult and not Older Children's. He said you can do anything, you just have to be careful with how you present the material. Books are a fantastic opportunity to grapple with these tough issues without teens having to experience awful and difficult things in real life.
-One of the biggest points made was that YA as a label is relatively new. It seems to be a marketing tool to get books to teen readers, but it doesn't mean that these types of books haven't always existed. Good fiction is good fiction and kids will always find the books that are right for them, whether it's labeled "Children's" "YA" or "General Fiction".
I like reading YA, I like writing YA. It has very little to do with the age of the protagonists or intended audience. I'm drawn to the themes often explored in YA... finding yourself, rebelling against the established order, fun stuff like that.