This post was initially published in 2014.
I am a READER. I’ve always been a voracious reader, I took pride in my advanced reading level from a very early age. My parents were very proud about that so they allowed my book collection to grow and grow and grow when I was younger. However, in elementary school I think my reading was more about consumption and quantity. I wanted to read any and everything that I could get my hands on and I would finish a book and immediately pick up another. When I got older, I discovered Harry Potter (surprise, surprise, HP changed my life).
Not only did Harry Potter change what I read, it changed how I read. I was no longer obsessed with reading as much as possible. I took more pride and care into what I was reading. With a series it’s not about getting to the end and finishing the story, well, it’s partly about that but it’s mostly about getting to know the world and the characters. Each book has a conclusion, but the story doesn’t end. It’s very similar to life in that way.
What I also discovered during this time (when I was in the YA demographic) was that in young adult novels, whether serial or standalone, fantasy or contemporary, the main character is normally going through a period of discovery. Whether learning things about themselves or learning about the world they inhabit; either facing harsh truths or accepting great wonders, the characters in YA novels never assume they have everything figured out.
I have always been a late bloomer, I come first in being last and I know, even now while I am staring at the last year of my twenties, there is so much I haven’t experienced and so much I still need to discover. This is why I relate to the characters in YA novels so much more than I relate to characters in adult fiction books. I recently read two novels set around college, one The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides had characters who were recently graduating from undergraduate the other Fangirl by the ever brilliant Rainbow Rowell centered around a college freshman and though I am older than all of these characters by a number of years I still felt an instant recognition of Cath and her quest to learn how to be in a world without retreating into the depths of her imagination than I ever would with Madeleine, who was dealing with issues of love and building an independent and adult life.
Modern YA fiction doesn’t paint the world as all sunshine and rainbows from the dystopian sensations of The Hunger Games and Divergent to the real world trauma of The Fault in our Stars, you are pulled into spaces that show heartache and pain and young people being forced to make tough decisions. This is what I love about YA fiction and this is why I will always love it and always read it. I don’t care about the stories of adults who think they have the world figured out. I may be an adult, but I am certain that I haven’t figured out a thing.
I haven’t experienced love and relationships so reading about people in the throes of young love is more interesting and relatable to me than those made jaded by years of failures and disappointments. But mostly beyond all of these things Young Adult fiction is just REALLY good and endlessly enjoyable. It may not be the popular opinion and I have and probably will continue to be mocked for it but I firmly believe that literature does not to be hard work. The difficulty of a book does not equal genius, to me, there is as much genius in John Greens simple observation that “some infinities are larger than other infinities” then there is in James Joyce proclaiming that “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
Do yourself a favor, pick up a YA novel and get lost in the youth and beauty and endless possibility to be found there. No matter how little youth is left in your adulthood.