Why Writing YA Fiction is Pretty Neat

When my editor decided to take on my first book, one of the first things we discussed was what my target demographic is.

For the longest time, I was one of those “I write for me” writers, but – especially as a new author – marketing myself to a specific group would be more effective. Given that my main characters range from 15-25 years old, and the story’s high energy, paranormal action atmosphere, my editor and I came to agree on shaping it to be a Young Adult novel. I’ll admit, I was irrationally butthurt at first about having to filter out most swear words, feeling limited by my restrictions – though to be fair, it’s not like I had any extreme violence or raunchy sex scenes in there to begin with. But as we continued on with the editing process, not only did the YA label feel more fitting, it created an overarching theme that, in the end, made me really excited to share with my future young readers.

As a recent college graduate beginning her new career as a therapist, I feel about as young adult as people get. I’m not so far detached from my youth that I need to ask on writer forums, “What do the young hip kidsters say and do these days?” If anything, I can craft a believable teen far more easily than a believable 50 year old. My emotional, confusing, and admittedly angsty teenage years are still close enough behind me to  be freshly memorable, but my few years of “adulting” through college and the “real world,” offer me much advice to go back to give to young Maria. While I can’t do just that, I’m sure there are plenty of other teens out there currently arguing with their mothers about why they should go to that late-night warehouse party with that older boy who totally won’t manipulate her.

It’s funny seeing my novel evolve over the years. I created the characters and original plot when I was 13, younger than all my characters. There was something really exciting about pairing 17 year olds, writing about their love lives and whatnot. Despite the small age gap, I perceived them as much older than me, almost romanticizing what I believed the future could hold for me. As I got older, it hit me hard: being an older teenager sucks. It’s not just about getting that popular girl’s attention, or wearing the coolest clothes in school. Even now, I don’t think I could have effectively prepared Young Maria for the heartbreak, loneliness, misunderstandings, and struggles of finding her place in the world. I remember how petty it all seemed to my parents. My mom would always say stuff like, “It’ll be okay, someday this won’t matter, you’re young, I know what’s best.” And yeah, maybe some of it was true – heck, I can hardly remember the name of the first boy that made me cry in high school – but it was the last thing my brain was able to process. It wasn’t what I needed to hear.

I needed someone to listen to my feelings. I needed someone to acknowledge that, yeah, things suck right now. They probably will suck for a while. Life isn’t always going to be a happy fairy tale, and that’s okay. Everyone feels sad, upset, and angry at times, and that’s a totally normal thing to express.

But I think what was even harder than getting through my crazy high school years was accepting adulthood. Moving away from the protection of my home to the big city for college was brutal. I’m suddenly making big life decisions for myself with very little time to think. No adults are around to help or do things for me – I am the adult. Worst of all, that older boy my mom warned me not to be around? Yeah, I learned the hard way she was right about him. For the first few months after moving out, life really sucked. But it was okay. While all this sounds so gloomy, the most important lesson I learned was keeping my chin up and finding hope despite it all. I had an amazing group of friends to help me through the ugly parts, and once that was over, so many awesome memories were made. No matter how awful things would get, my friends always helped me stay optimistic and filled me with hope.

While I’m no expert on the teen brain, I’d like to think I can at least share what I think I personally needed at the time in my book, and I hope it will be at least somewhat meaningful for my readers. Coming-of-age, accepting the hard times that comes along with it, and optimism are all important aspects from my life that I believe are important to share with my readers. My wacky urban dark fantasy shenanigans aside, I don’t think I’d be able to portray my hopeful messages the same way if I wasn’t a YA writer.

Do you write YA fiction? What are your favorite things about writing YA fiction? Feel free to drop a comment! Thanks for reading! 🙂


Video Game Review: Cuphead!!

Hello, everyone! Once again, I apologize for being away for so long. I’m a bit late on this review, but I’m so in love with this game, I just have to rant about it to you!

Therefore, I bring to you. . . my Cuphead review!!


Released at the end of September 2017, Cuphead is created by StudioMDHR and is available on XBOX one, Steam, and Microsoft Windows. Cuphead has received extremely positive reviews from pretty much everywhere, ranking 10/10 on Steam, 88 on Metacritic, and 4.5/5 on Microsoft.

The Story

When Cuphead (left) and his friend Mugman (right) lose a gambling bet with the Devil, they are presented with two options: either give up their souls, or collect the souls of runaway debtors. By game default, you go with the second option. . . otherwise there would be no game! Thus begins an incredibly difficult journey around Inkwell Isle.


You play as Cuphead, and can have a buddy co-op play as Mugman. It’s a run n’ gun styled game, in which you shoot glowing bullets from your fingers. Most stages are boss battles (the bosses being the runaway debtors), though there are a few platformer levels where you collect coins to spend on weapon/ability upgrades. As with all games, these upgrades are crucial to your success – having the right bullets for a particular boss can really make or break your battle.



Sure, the controls are really simple, but the stages are ridiculously tricky! For starters, you only have 3 HP (certain abilities can boost this, if you choose to purchase them), making each life extremely valuable, especially with so much stuff falling and launching toward you. While the difficulty can be frustrating, I find myself laughing more than anything when I die. It’s challenging, but in a good way. It’s all fair, a very possible to beat with patience and skill. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to beat a level on the first try. Especially since each boss undergoes multiple transformations, it’s hard to know what to expect until it literally hits you. Luckily, the game is pretty fast-paced, so it doesn’t take much motivation to keep trying, and it’s SO satisfying to finally win!


If you are doing co-op, your buddy can revive each other by parrying your ghost before you float away, but that’s easier said than done. Risking your own lives to save your friend can bring more harm than good – plus they only come back with 1 HP. It’s difficult to say whether co-op makes the game easier or harder, at least from my experiences. Having double the bullets makes it harder to focus and see what’s going on, but it’s nice to have an extra hand on deck. It’s also nice to have someone to suffer along with you.

This video sums up my Cuphead experience quite accurately: https://www.facebook.com/JustMeBeingACircle/videos/1491688894249876/


The game’s 1930s cartoon aesthetic is what initially drew me to the game trailers. Drawn in the “rubber hose” style used by Walt Disney and Fleischer Studios, and heavily inspired by their themes, Cuphead feels like it’s right out of their era. Complete with a fitting jazz soundtrack and beautiful hand drawn art, Cuphead’s style alone earns the game an A+. The fact that the artists and animators used the same techniques as the artists back in the 30s shows serious dedication to vintage authenticity. Many of the character designs are inspired by popular cartoon and pop culture icons of the decade, including jazz singer Cab Calloway inspired King Dice.


At a glance, Cuphead looks like a lighthearted, upbeat game. In a sense, this is true, but the surreal themes of hell, soul stealing, devil, gambling, etc. are fairly dark – though not surprising. StudioMDHR noted the Fleischer brothers as a big inspiration, especially their short “Swing, you Sinners!” To summarize: When Bimbo the dog is caught stealing a chicken by the police, he escapes into a nearby cemetery. There, things get freaky when the tombstones and ghosts sing an eerie (yet catchy) tune, punishing him for his crimes. Every second gets progressively creepier, leading up to the ghouls basically chasing him into Hell. It seems a bit overkill,  torturing a dog for chasing women and stealing chickens, but what do I know? That being said, the Fleischer brothers have created some dark, creepy toons in general throughout their career.


While on the topic of 1930s cartoons, I feel it’s necessary I do bring up the controversial elements this style brought to Cuphead. Yup, you guessed it:

Racism in 1930s cartoons, and how it applies today

I won’t dive too deep into this, since I believe this topic alone is worthy of its own post, but I feel it’d be wrong to completely brush it off. The creators of Cuphead are Canadian, and when asked about the racist connotations, claimed to be unaware of them. It’s not like they are literally or intentionally spewing racist dialogue. I believe they didn’t mean any harm, especially since people outside of the United States are sometimes less aware of our racist history.

For starters, cartoons in the 1920s/30s came about when vaudeville shows were popular and were heavily inspired by them – including the minstrel aspect. The black body/white glove style donned by Cuphead – and Mickey Mouse – is based off the stereotypical minstrel costume. Characters drawn like this, such as Bimbo, are often portrayed as little troublemakers, who endure endless slapstick punishment with seemingly no physical consequences, mimicking the dehumanizing violent “humor” toward minstrels. Themes such as gambling and punishment were common (like in “Swing, you Sinners!”). Though I appreciate old cartoons for what they’re worth, watching a cartoon character get basically tortured makes me a little uneasy, I’m pretty sure this was seen as comedic back in the day. It kind of has this, “Ha, serves them right!” attitude about it. Since StudioMDHR wanted to be true to the 1930s cartoons, it’s no surprise they chose a theme and plot similar to something the Fleischer brothers might’ve created – and it’s a great story nonetheless – but I believe it’s important to know why these themes were so popular back then.


While most people stand by their positive reviews of Cuphead, many people were disturbed by the imagery and themes and refused to support the game. With characters like Mickey Mouse still prominent, I think it’s difficult to completely remove the old styles from current media. That’s why it’s so important to discuss these tropes, recognize our history, and find ways to rise above it. For example, rapper Jay-Z does an excellent job using 1930s cartoons to depict America’s racism in his music video for his song “The Story of OJ.” Just like the lead character in the video does, it’s important to look back in time and comment on the issues rather than ignore them, no matter how disturbing they may be.



Cuphead is truly a well-made game in every aspect. While I do recommend it, I do stress the importance of remembering the past.

Thank you for reading my review! 🙂 I hope to stay more consistent with my postings.

Have you ever played Cuphead? What are your thoughts on the game? Feel free to drop a comment!