Monday, May 2, 2016
I'm pretty excited about this week. It is "I Read YA" week (#IReadYA).
I both read and write YA (Young Adult) fiction. Sometimes, I get asked about it. You know, because I am definitely not a teen.
But here's the thing...
When I was the target audience for YA books, I didn't read them. It wasn't a solid category for fiction when I was a teen. As a child, I did read books that would fit the category. I zipped through every Sweet Valley High book available in elementary school and gorged on Sweet Valley University and V.C. Andrews in middle school. I read a couple of Judy Blume novels and I wish I could go back in time and UNread the Fear Street books by R. L. Stine. I blame them for my inability to relax when alone in a house at night. I started writing my own myth retellings after reading a Christopher Pike novel. But I got bored with the "teen" section of the library quickly. Although, come to think of it, it wasn't a teen section. It was just the kids' section, and I didn't want to be a kid anymore.
By the time I was the target audience for YA fiction, I chose my library books from the grown-up shelves. I read the Hitchhiker's Guide books and the Mayfair Witches from Anne Rice. I loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and read everything Amy Tan wrote faster than she could write it. I sobbed through The Green Mile and was glued to every page of Carrie. I snagged Dad's Pratchett novels. I swallowed whole volumes of Nikki Giovanni's poems. Cheap grocery store romance novels and even Nicolas Sparks made it into my backpack.
In other words, I read good books and not-so-good books and award winning writers and dime a dozen writers. If it was made available to me, I sucked it down and begged for more.
As an adult, I picked up Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and that's what first hooked me. I wanted to know where those kinds of books were when I was fifteen and in a terribly unhealthy relationship. Because almost every book I read dealt with adults in adult situations, I had no teen lens to look at my own situation through. I was viewing my struggle as stupid because it wasn't a struggle I saw mirrored in anything I read. I thought I was probably just being a baby about dating and sex and drinking and all of these other issues that were taking up space in my brain.
I recently read I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios and saw my own infatuation with a 19-year-old bad boy Marine. That story had a happier ending than mine, but I wondered how I might have been helped by a book like that when I was living a similar situation.
Once I read Speak, YA books became a staple in my "Mount To Be Read." There is just something about that time in a person's life. When you are sixteen, as far as you know, your whole life is stretching out before you. There are endless possibilities. You have not closed too many doors yet. On top of that, as a teen, I often felt adults didn't take me seriously, but now I see that I faced some really serious situations. I was often in over my head, but I still came up swinging.
Adolescence is a time in our lives that we are most like clay, in many ways. Everything that happens is molding the person we will become. Everything matters. Nothing is unimportant. As a writer, that is addicting. Symbols and meaning abound, hiding out in every corner, leaping off of every page.
I love YA. I will always read YA. If you have never tried a Young Adult novel, shoot me an email or leave a comment. I bet I can find a book you will love.