On YALSA-BK, where I lurk and listen to brilliant librarians who know what teens like to read, I learned this morning about five critical developmental tasks of an adolescent: Identity, Intimacy, Independence, Integrity, and Intellect. As I revise Sparrowblog: The Campaign Rant (Dutton 2007), I realized that my own voice tends to skew "middle-grade" rather than YA, so in this revision I've been striving to make Sparrow's expressions of independence and identity more appropriate for a fifteen-year-old.
The problem is ... I'm wondering if these "I"s apply more to WASP protagonists than to South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Latino, or Orthodox Jewish teens. Will North American teen readers relate to my Sparrow, who is shy and quiet, and not into rebelling against her parents? In Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge 2007), Naima's angst is expressed much differently than her counterparts who don't live in Bangladeshi villages. How do writers from non-Western traditions feature non-western protagonists who don't want to go after independence, intimacy, and identity in the way that a North American reader expects?
Maybe the "I"s of YA lit need a bit of revision out here on the fire escape ... Anyone care to try?