How The Books Began
"Hey, Mrs. Wood, why don't they ever write a good love story for boys?" Sixteen-year-old Dave Paland turned from the book rack he was twirling and directed his comment to me. "They either write about raw sex or goody-goody stuff. Even you could do better." I had to think about that . . . very cautiously . . . for a long time. I knew exactly what Dave was talking about. I taught six Reading Lab classes a day, filled with kids who had never found any reason to read books. There were very few novels in print that I could tempt them to read voluntarily. Yet, being in the presence of all the daily dramas those kids were experiencing, surely I was exposed to enough raw material to create a new type of young adult novel for them. And so I began writing—one page at a time.
Eventually I had a completed manuscript. I took it to school and nervously handed it to several students without telling them who the author was. To my amazement, they started reading, and they kept on reading, right to the very end. At that point I saw my new mission—to convert bored students into enthusiastic readers, by providing them with books, written in an easy, flowing style, that would draw them in and involve them emotionally.
Over the years, young readers have been attracted to my books because, although they are deceptively easy to read, they focus on values, human relationships, and the essential qualities of goodness and hope. These are the very things that teens subconsciously are looking for. In a society that bombards them with sex and sordidness, tragedy and disaster, young readers are longing for some portrayals of love, kindness, sensitivity, and problem solving! They crave role models to admire. They want some vision of how life can be lived decently and compassionately.
This fact is sometimes a surprise to the more cynical adults of the world. Young Adult Literature today is becoming increasingly "adult." It is a challenge for teachers and parents to find books for young readers that can make reading a pleasurable and enriching experience for them.
Today, the older and the younger generations need each other more than ever before. My hope is that my books, as they are read and discussed, will open some new channels of communication that will be very satisfying to both generations. If that happens, we can thank Dave Paland for tossing out his backhanded compliment.
Phyllis Anderson Wood