Why I Read Young Adult Fiction

Nothing excites me more than opening a brand new book.  Even when I am thumbing through the copyrights, I can feel my stomach flutter with excitement.  It’s the actual feel of the pages between my fingers that send jolts of electricity through my body.  I am not sure if anybody else gets this feeling from reading, but it is one of my favorite moments in life.

Me at eleven: What. Is. Happening.

The true magic about a good story is its ability to take you away.  I may be on the National Rail with “Bloodbuzz Ohio” playing in my ears to distract me from the fact that I am face-to-face with a complete stranger, but my head will still be down as I am turning the pages of a book or the Kindle app on my iPhone.  I might physically be crammed inside a long moving Rod of Death, but mentally I am anywhere else.  May it be in Winterfell with Arya and Sansa Stark, or just Indiana with Hazel and Augustus.  

But more likely than not, I am going to be reading a Young Adult novel.  “But Allex, you’re 23 years old.  Why are you reading that girl-meets-boy hearts-and-flowers crap?”  Why thank you for asking, I would love to answer this.  I have been reading for as long as I can remember.  Even at a young age, I was reading books meant for a higher level.  I wasn’t a Matilda, reading Moby Dick, or anything like that.  But I was reading–very poorly, I will add–Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca at eleven.  I began reading Young Adult novels that were intended for the 14-18 range when I was twelve, not because the material was racier but because it was real.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is amazing, don’t get me wrong.  I was sneaking those books under my desk and reading them in the middle of Religion class every day.  But I knew what they were.  These events would never happen to me.  It was highly unlikely.  But the “older” Young Adult novels dealt with things I wanted to connect with.  I was reading Smack and Speak not because I was a dark and twisted child, but because they were books I knew even at twelve people thought were “risqué.”  Parents didn’t like that they were available to us, arguing the subject matter too graphic.  Which immediately drew me to them.  If someone tries to censor my reading, it makes me want to read it more.

Since I have just written a 5,000-word dissertation on the history of the female protagonist throughout Young Adult history, I take a break on that subject.  But I will say that I think I found myself reading these books because these worlds were something I had never experienced and wanted some insight on.  What would I do if I found myself in these types of situations?  What if someone I knew became addicted to drugs? Was sexually assaulted? Or even died?  I didn’t know how I would deal with these problems, so I sought out stories that did.  And strangely enough, they did prepare me for quite a few of those questions I asked myself.

What is great about the Young Adult novels today is that they aren’t preachy.  The authors don’t stand on their soap boxes and tell you how sex is bad, drugs are bad, smoking is bad, drinking is bad.  I give a lot of credit to Young Adult authors because they discuss such difficult subjects in a poetic and absorbing style.  To an audience who can easily cut through the bullshit and toss a book aside if they feel the characters are not genuine.

So say what you will, but I will be reading John Green, Sarah Dessen, Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell and so many other Young Adult authors even when I am 63 and surrounded by nothing but books and cats.

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