I write contemporary YA and although I only graduated from high school seven years ago, I am constantly reminded that, while there are certain things about being a teenager that are timeless, the current high school experience is not the same one I had.
Case in point: While teaching colors in French to my freshmen (kids 10 years younger than me) I made a reference about the perfect shade of dark blue ask in the Jack’s Mannequin song Dark Blue which was huge in my later high school years. No one got it. I even played the song and they still hadn’t heard it. I have never felt older than I did in that moment.
Aside from making me feel old, my students keep me current. I feel like I really can say I write contemporary fiction when I’m incorporating aspects of current teenage life. For example, these kids live for social media. Instagram, tumblr, and snapchat are HUGE. Realizing that kids were much more likely to snapchat or Instagram a photo than send it via text the old fashioned way, I changed a line in my book to reflect that. It wasn’t how I originally invisioned it but I don’t want to write dated, period fiction. I want to write accessible now fiction.
So, basically, whether you write abut teenagers or adults or kittens, make sure you have a finger on the pulse of your subject matter. You want to make sure you’re not just pretending to be current but that you actually are current.
Also, here’s Jack’s Mannequin with Dark Blue in case you, like my students, missed the awesomeness the first time around.