I know a lot of adults see YA lit as juvenile and meant for children. I took a class in college called Young Adult Literature and it was my absolute favorite. (I spent 5 years in college, so I’ve got a pretty broad selection of classes to choose from for this coveted favorite award.) The professor really focused on how anyone can enjoy the YA genre because it’s so relatable and meaningful. YA novels pack a bigger punch and carry more weight than we adults give it credit for. Here are 5 reasons why YA lit should be read – and enjoyed – by all.
You guys, being an adult is freaking hard sometimes. Recently, I went to the dentist and was told I needed a root canal and slapped with a large bill. I remember sitting in my car, in my garage, on the phone with my dad…crying. I literally said, “I hate being an adult. I don’t want to do this anymore!” After I dried my eyes and collected myself, you know what I did? I finally went into my apartment and picked up a book. Not just any old book, I went straight for a YA book called Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. The main character, Georgina Nicolson, was like an old friend between the pages of a book. She made me laugh and forget my troubles. I literally didn’t think about my worries or…any other productive thing I needed to do, because I was completely drawn into her world. I didn’t want to read a book about someone getting fired from their job or losing the love of their life! I wanted Georgia’s journal entries on her crazy cat, Angus, and the “sex god” she’s obsessed with. Young Adult literature is a great resource when you need to take a beat and step away from reality for a little while. There’s no shame in that. We have to take a good break sometimes and this is a healthy way to do that.
Everyone has a book from their childhood that’s smile-inducing. I was six-years-old when the first Harry Potter book was published and I remember a few years later trying to convince my parents to let me read the series. (I was attempting to convince them that I was mature enough to read about a magical realm and not run around trying to cast spells, myself.) Sometimes picking up a book that we’ve previously read, ,or that’s written in a similar style, can take us back to a time in our lives when everything was simpler. For me, I grew up with Harry Potter and his gang. I read all 7 books multiple times and I won’t even bother telling you how many times I’ve seen the movies. Just sitting here thinking about the series makes me grin – I have so many fond memories of late night movie premieres and movie marathons with my friends. YA lit has that effect on its readers – it fills us with memories and takes us back to a place we don’t mind going every once in a while.
I joke that the reason I read YA lit is so I can stay relevant as a middle school English teacher. While there may be a tiny truth in there, it’s not the whole truth. There are so many books (most notably Wonder by R.J. Palacio) that adults should be required to read. The school dynamic is so vastly different from how it was just 10 years ago, let alone when my parents were in middle school. YA books like Wonder are a simple way for parents, and teachers, to peek into the door of school hallways without that awkward “Mom? What are you doing here?” thing. I’m in schools every day and I still have a lot to learn. When I finished this book (and after I’d wiped the tears from all over my face) I felt invigorated. I felt a sense of purpose. There is a long list of YA books that are so relevant and are incredibly necessary for all to read, not just young adults.
I’m referring to two types of reflection here that can be mirroed in the pages of a YA novel: seeing yourself reflected back and a chance to reflect on an event. When I was reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for the first time, I covered both of these reflections in one. I saw the person I am now within the pages of Rowell’s novel. I saw the way I see the world through the lens of a fictional character. At the same time, I had a time of reflection regarding my college years. I had a similar outlook on the whole college experience to Cath, the main character, and it was thought-provoking. I realized how others must have seen me and had a chance to think on what motivated people to treat me the way they did. I’m grateful to Rowell for writing my life…even if that wasn’t her intention.
A lot of YA lit serves to prepare “young” adults for actual adulthood. Authors of the genre explore the various trials that face all newly minted grownups: love, death, jobs, loss of jobs, money, lack of money, etc. As a 24-year-old with a real job, I appreciate the truths that can be found in young adult literature. YA doesn’t always sugar coat the daily struggle (sometimes it does…but that goes back to #1’s discussion on escapism.) YA allows people to say, “YES! Thank you! That DOES suck!” to various events that so many people face. For me, I had this reaction while reading The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider. The main character’s life gets turned on its head, something I could really relate to. Ezra’s voice and struggle was something that I got lost in, appreciating his POV and the way he approached his struggles.
What are some YA books that you enjoy(ed) reading? Do you read YA? Or are you one of those skeptics, equating YA to children’s literature?
Happy reading! – Caitlyn