Growing up, the genre of Young Adult literature available to me was fairly small. Sure, I enjoyed detective work of the Bobbsey Twins & Nancy Drew; coming of age tales in Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High; and stark, realistic fiction by Paul Zindel, Richard Peck, and Cynthia Voigt. These titles were inspiring and entertaining, sending me eagerly unwrapping copies for every major gift-giving event (Christmas, birthday, Tuesday…) I gratefully pay homage to these YA trailblazers, yet I also can’t help but swim in a pool of jealousy when I view the vast titles available to today’s teen readers. What I wouldn’t have given to add a little John Green, Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell, Simone Elkeles, Veronica Roth, or Victoria Aveyard to my repertoire as I navigated the murky waters of high school. But what I’ve discovered today, is that it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I was a teen because YA lit is deliciously addictive and entertaining for readers of ANY age.
We’ve all been there. Though we will diverge greatly in our adult lives from the paths of our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors–high school is a mandatory experience. Every one of us can remember athletic events, dating highs and lows, good teachers, bad teachers, embarrassing moments, cafeteria food, exams, Who’s Who and Who Isn’t Who….the list goes on and on. So take a trip back to teen life by reading YA, or if you’re in the midst right now, stay and ruminate with a great story to share the angst.
Who wouldn’t like a temporary time travel experience? Just a quick hop back to the moment when Ms. Queen Bee orchestrated a humiliating scheme, but this time, we’d know what to say; or the time we chickened out at that key audition, tryout, prom invitation. You name it: I guarantee there’s a least one moment we’d all like a second chance to handle. Until Apple invents iTravel, there’s little hope of going back…except in spirit. YA lit is a great chance to root for the teenage experience.
There’s plenty of darkness in YA lit, but the difference between the tragedy of adult fiction and the tragedy of young adult fiction is measured in shades of hope. Despite all that the hero faces, if he’s the star of a YA novel, his chances of coming out the other side are pretty good. Some may say this detracts from the reality of the experience, but in every romantic comedy or action-adventure story line, we lovingly expect the same, so why not embrace the kernels of optimism in these dramas?
4.) Fountain of Youth
Vowing to stay young at heart? Reading about every exciting first in life: school dance, rock concert, blushing romance…these thrills might only be new to us once, but in the eyes of YA characters, they become new all over again.
At the heart of every good young adult novel lies a deep connection to the power of relationships. YA celebrates best friendships, first loves, sibling bonds, and the truths we all long to uncover about our parents. It celebrates finding the Real Deal and awakening the self-actualized versions of ourselves, or at the very least, taking the first steps toward that completeness we all long to achieve.