Writers On Writing / Wai Chim on why we should all be reading YA


We chatted to bestselling author Wai Chim, ahead of her online course Writing YA – Channelling Your Teen Voice, about tackling big themes, what makes a story fit into the YA genre, and some of her favourite reads at the moment.


Your most recent book, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, tackles issues like mental health, culture and family. Do you find Young Adult (YA) is a good genre to explore big issues?

Absolutely. Teens deal with so much in their everyday lives and young adult literature introduces the language and ideologies they will need to be resilient and empathetic to become flourishing adults. Literature is a safe way to explore difficult subject matters and it would be irresponsible of us not to provide this to our teens.

What makes a story YA over middle-grade or adult? Are there markers of the genre?

Having written books for teens, middle grade and younger readers, it really comes down to the characters and how they grow in the story. Young adult novels feature young adult protagonists and good young adult literature has richly developed characters grappling with real emotions and the cognitive contradictions that become apparent as one crosses the threshold between childhood and adulthood. As adults, we assume we have all the answers, yet we face emotional and moral contradictions every day; I think we ought to all be reading more YA books to help us process and understand these complexities to better understand ourselves as human beings. 

What are some of your favourite YA reads?

So many amazing #LoveOzYA titles to choose from!! I recently read and loved Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley and Deep Water Sarah Epstein and my favourite YA reads from last year were the heart wrenching Between Us by Clare Atkins and Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard. All extraordinary works that you should check out.

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Writing YA at Writing NSW

Wai Chim is the bestselling author of The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling. She is a first generation Chinese-American from New York City. Her previous books include the Chook Chook series and Shaozhen, part of the Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zone series. Freedom Swimmer was her debut novel for young adults and was shortlisted for the inaugural Readings Young Adult Book Prize.

Join Wai Chim for her online course, Writing YA – Channelling Your Teen Voice, starting Wednesday 26 August. Enrol now>>

Online Writing YA Channelling your Teen Voice with Wai Chim Writing NSW

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