The popularity of Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid books and the David Walliams catalogue is undeniable, so why does humour disappear when readers move into the Young Adult category? Their fiction moves towards action and adventure, romance, horror, historical fiction, science fiction and mysteries, all of which are worthy genres, but the laughs are few and far between. While most teens would prefer a comedy film given the choice, they would have to look back over thirty years to Sue Townsend’s episodic Adrian Mole series to find something successful and funny to read.
At first, I thought this couldn’t really be the case, but searches for any such books in local bookshops proved fruitless. The light-hearted material has dried up despite the fact that the sense of humour is blossoming at that age.
This huge gap in the market helped me make up my mind to write my own book, fuelled by 25 years of zany incidents witnessed while teaching young teens and even more so by scrapes from my own childhood when teachers left pupils to their own devices rather than interfering with pesky pastoral care.
The unique heart of my story, The Heroic Truths of Neil Peel, is a decent boy who, after an incident in his younger years, will only ever tell the truth. Neil’s about to start his first year at secondary school where teachers, girls, bullies and even his best friends won’t find his honesty easy to take. At home, his parents are used to dealing with the fallout while his evil-genius older sister, Lemony, manages to ignore Neil whenever she isn’t sticking the knife in to make his life harder. Comedy can be situational, but little quirks of a character will always work better if you are emotionally attached.
The scope for outrageous situations was rife, and writer’s block was only rarely a factor. Ten months after setting finger to keyboard, the first draft was ready. The search for a literary agent was fairly hopeless since agents seem reluctant to step away from their preferred genre. How do you get representation in a genre which isn’t represented?
Austin Macauley agreed to make a book out of my manuscript and now, finally, The Heroic Truths of Neil Peel is available to the public.
There is much for adults to reminisce about in the events of the book; my test audience ranged from twelve-year-old boys to a seventy-four-year-old lady, via a fifty-something vicar and older teen girls. All seem to have thoroughly enjoyed it.
I hope the wider public can discover my story and it might even encourage more writers to enter the genre of Young Adult Humour. After all, we can hardly complain about them being miserable and monosyllabic if we don’t give them some good old funny books to read.