A Gen-X Writer’s Foray into Young Adult Fiction

Know your audience. Or don’t, and have fun.

CT Liotta
4 min readDec 30, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of young adult (YA) fiction, my recent journey as a late Gen-X author was both an eye-opener and a tightrope walk over a generational chasm. My endeavor to pen a YA novel, NO GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE, only to discover post-publication that it strayed from the genre’s conventional path, turned out to be a lesson in cultural shifts and reader expectations.

The genre of YA, predominantly favored by women under 35, pulsates with social engagement, progressive ideals, and a heightened sensitivity to the identity politics of the 21st century. My approach, rooted in my coming of age in the ‘90s, was less cautious and sprinkled with humor that sometimes missed its mark with this audience.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The generational gap became apparent through feedback I received. In a sentence since corrected, I used the term “African-American,” for example, neglecting that capital-B Black is important to many capital-B Black YA readers. I appreciated the feedback and made the simple change. Two words out of 70,000 is no big deal, and in ten years, when it becomes something different, I’ll change it again.

Harder to change? The narrative voice.

One insightful comment noted the incongruence of my lead character’s voice with that of a contemporary teenager, a deliberate choice that seemed to misfire among mainstream YA readers. A literary agent even suggested a complete overhaul, switching from third-person omniscient to first-person narrative, presumably to resonate more closely with YA readers’ preferences.

Despite these hurdles, a surprising outcome emerged. A segment of readers, primarily men and boys and those in the LGBTQIA+ community, connected deeply with the story. They saw humor where others saw insensitivity and found relevance in a narrative that diverged from the didactic, strife-heavy tales common in today’s YA fiction. Their appreciation was not only genuine but also indicative of an undercurrent in the YA market — a desire for entertainment, humor, and perspectives that deviate from the norm.


The publishing journey was an uphill battle. Mainstream publishers and agents unanimously agreed: my manuscript was a tough sell. It didn’t fit neatly into the established YA mold, and its target audience was unconventional for the genre, if it existed at all. Nevertheless, I found solace and a degree of success through a micropress. Whatever. GenX invented all things indie.

This experience raises a question central to creative writing and publishing: should authors mold their narratives to meet market expectations, or should they remain true to their vision, even at the risk of alienating a portion of their intended audience? My foray into YA fiction, though not a runaway bestseller, struck a chord with a niche group of readers. It highlighted the existence of an audience that craves different stories, ones that perhaps challenge the status quo of a genre.

Currently, as I embark on writing a sequel, I find myself at a crossroads. The decision to continue in the same vein — writing for an audience that appreciates my unique take on YA — is both a risk and a testament to artistic integrity. It’s a choice to prioritize the voices that resonated with my work over conforming to broader marketability.

This journey has been a revelation of sorts. It underscored the dynamic nature of literary genres and the importance of understanding your audience. However, it also illuminated the value of busting into a genre and smashing some of the crockery — of paying little attention to finger-wagging scolds and following bizarre rules, expectations, and norms.

As a Gen-X writer in the YA arena, I’ve learned that bridging the generational gap is not about diluting one’s voice to fit into a predefined formula. Instead, it’s about acknowledging and respecting the shift in cultural narratives while offering something authentic. My experience is a testament to the fact that even in a market driven by well-established trends and expectations, there is room for stories that diverge from the norm, and for writers willing to navigate the complex currents of generational differences in storytelling.

In the end, perhaps what matters most is not conforming to a genre but finding and cherishing the readers who find a piece of themselves in your work. For any writer, that connection, however unconventional its route, is the true measure of success.

It doesn’t guarantee an income, but GenX saw what the network did to Lelaina’s documentary in Reality Bites. So, we don’t care.

CT Liotta is the author of NO GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE, an incautious LGBT coming-of-age adventure, available in paperback and eBook from all fine retailers and independent bookstores at this universal link.

He is also the author of a series of short stories, available at Amazon individually or as part of the complete short story collection at this link.



CT Liotta

World traveler & foreign affairs enthusiast. GenX. Lawful neutral. I write gags and titles . Smoke if you got ’em. www.ctliotta.com