November 2, 2012

Casual Friday: 5 Things I Love About YA

I’m not only a writer of YA fiction, it’s also my reading of choice. Don’t get me wrong. I pretty much love all books - I’m a huge romance and fantasy fan. I love mysteries, and Sci-Fi done well makes me giddy. But I keep coming back to YA books every time. And I know there are a lot of people out there who question why a grown woman would want to read “those” kinds of books. But let me tell you. YA Literature is so full of amazing things that I have become a total evangelist about it.

What’s so great about YA?

Well you’re in luck, because I’m going to share my thoughts on that with you! (as if you had any doubt!)

1.    YA doesn’t ignore the bad stuff
YA Writers are amazing. They write about things like rape, suicide, death, bullying and everything in between. And they do it in a way that actually makes people want to read those books! I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of crying. And I don’t really like getting my heart ripped out by sad endings. But authors like Ellen Hopkins, and Jay Asher and John Green have a way of framing their stories to not only make them accessible, they’re not afraid to get up close and personal with the stuff of nightmares, make us re-live it, and then, just when you think you can’t take it anymore, let you down gently into a puddle of tears. Cathartic, therapeutic, gorgeous, life experiences that you can’t stop thinking about for days. I can’t think of many adult books that deal with the same sorts of topics in the same manner, and leave you hopeful, or at least resigned at the end of it. Which leads me to my next point.

2.    YA Is Often About Hope

Hope for the future, hope for the past. Hope things will change or stay the same. At their core, many YA books offer hope that whatever the characters are experiencing in the story will change them for the better. Or lead them into the future having learned something. I love this message. I love feeling like the world is full of possibilities just waiting to be explored.

3.    YA Books are Personal and Intimate
At their core, most YA books are about someone’s experience. These are stories that take us deep into the mind of a character and let us explore how they see and interact with the world. It’s all about relationships for me. And simply put, one of the biggest strengths of YA books is in the relationships the main character has. Relationships with the world, with themselves, and with the other characters in the book.

The deep point of view that’s common in YA really lets us connect with these characters. I’m an intensely curious person. One of my biggest wishes is to understand other people, and reading YA books is the closest I’ve ever gotten to the phrase “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”.

4.    YA Books take us places we could never go ourselves.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never dated a vampire. Or dealt with the end of the world. Or hung out with fairies. I haven’t become a spy or solved a mystery or done any of the things my favorite YA heroes have done. But YA books have taken me to those places and let me experience the excitement and awe of those things myself. And it doesn’t hurt that most of these books are usually populated with funny, interesting, smart characters. People I’d love to be friends with in real life. Places I’d like to see. Really, there are so many YA books that are just plain fun!

5.    YA Books Take me Back to when I was 16 (and that’s a good thing)

I was definitely not in the cool-kids group in high school. I was shy, a nerd, unsure of myself in groups. And I had a hard time accepting myself or believing in my own self-worth. Even now that I’m kind of old and have a full time job and a relationship, I’m still learning how to be an “Adult.” I still feel insecure and shy and awkward. I still make the wrong decisions and I still need all the help I can get to figure it out.

YA books give me a chance to be a different person, to experience something different from my life and to make different choices. To see what it would be like if I do X instead of Y. To choose that path over another. Even if it’s too late for me to become a dancer, I can read about someone else who does. I may not be a genius, but living life through someone else who is opens up ideas I might never have thought of myself. They provide a framework to make sense of the world that even now I still question.

I think YA books help ground us in the what-ifs and what-could-be’s. And by reading about those experiences, by connecting with that part of myself, I can go back and say to 16 year old Jamie that things are going to be ok. That you’re going to turn out just fine. And that the world really does live up to your dreams. All because I read a YA book.

So how about you guys? What do you love about YA Books?

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski


LoriMarie LaSpada said...

I read it for all the reason you listed. One I'd add which is part of going back to age 16 is its a time we still dream about what we want to do. Nothing has been tried and there are great first experiences happens (not speaking about sex here)

Monika Borua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erica m. chapman said...

Awesome post!! LOVE IT! Those are some of the same reasons I love YA too ;o)

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