Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I Read YA

I read it because it helps me make sense of the world.

I read it because it makes me laugh and makes me cry and just generally makes me happy.

I read it because it helps me be who I am.

I have always loved reading. Ever since I read Mary-Kate and Ashley's Slam Dunk Mystery in the second grade, I've loved reading. It allows me to experience things and imagine things outside of myself. I was an academically obsessed nerd with very few friends, who made very little trouble and had very few adventures. But through books, I've gotten to experience so much more than that. Through Gayle Forman's If I Stay I got to experience death. Through Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries, I got to be royalty. Through Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I got to have the three best friends I always wanted. Through books, I got to experience.

Through YA, I also got to think. John Green's books, for example, always make me think. About life, about death. About relationships. About math. About love. Through Robin Brande's Fat Cat, I started to question what I do and what I eat. Through Alicia Thompson's Pysch Major Syndrome, I got to anticipate what university would be like, think about what my future would be like. Through Megan McCafferty's Bumped, I got to think about what everyone's future would be like.

But why YA, you might ask. Don't all books do this? Yes, I'm sure they do. But only YA books do it for me. YA is the genre that speaks to who I am and what I am interested in. YA is the genre that I can relate to, more than any other. Sometimes, when I'm reading YA I can't help but break out a pencil because I have to underline a passage because it feels so real to me, because it speaks to me exactly.

Recently, I started to question the YA genre. Because it wasn't speaking exactly to me anymore. It wasn't describing my life anymore. You see, I grew up reading YA romance. I feel in love with Marcus Flutie and Michael Moscovitz and Etienne St. Clair. As a result, when I had my first real life romance, I had certain expectations. Certain ideas. Not many of which were true. In books, girls seemed so sure that this was the right guy or that was the right decision. They didn't just date; they feel in love. As I was questioning and struggling, I tried to remember a book that had incredibly awkward first kisses. I tried to think of a book where the right guy turned out to be the wrong guy. I tried to find a book where the girl not only felt awesome, but incredibly guilty and scared and unsure. But in the books, they always end up together. Things always work out.

Well, for me, things didn't work out. And for a while, I resented YA.

But when I needed YA most, it was there for me. When I was struggling to be confident in who I was and stick to my beliefs, I had Mia Thermopolis to tell me I was right. I had Judy Blume's Forever to show what my options were. And that's why I read YA: it gives me the confidence to be who I am, and it gives me the knowledge to find who I want to be. It lets me experience everything, so I can choose my things. It makes me think about my decisions and my life and my identity. It makes me me.

Why do you read YA?

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