I’m a middle-aged woman who loves to read, as evident by my participation in two book clubs, Lit Ladies and Wine Not Read. My literary tastes run the gamut from historical fiction to biographies to mysteries and almost everything in between. However, lately I’ve been finding myself gravitating toward Young Adult (or New Adult) literature. And I’m not sure why. I guess it started back when I jumped on the Hunger Games bandwagon and got quickly sucked into the trilogy. A young girl kicking ass in a futuristic, bleak world run by overindulged, wealthy bad people who watch children fight to the death for sport? Who doesn’t want to read about that?
Earlier this year, I read Hopeless, by Colleen Hoover, on the recommendation of a friend. It’s about seventeen year old Sky, who has basically been kept in a bubble by her devoted mother who home-schooled her until her senior year and kept her from any technological gadgets (sort of like living in the seventies). Sky meets hunky Dean Holder who is quickly taken with her and eventually she is forced to realize who she really is and that she has been living a lie. I couldn’t put it down. It grabbed me by the heart and took me for a ride. It was awesome.
Then I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, a coming-of-age story told through letters, written by socially awkward freshman, Charlie, who is experiencing, among other things, teenage angst, molestation, death, fitting in, acceptance..yada, yada, yada. Loved it.
In June, I hosted Wine Not Read and chose The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, mainly to accommodate the many teachers among us who needed a quick read because they had to deal with the end of the year festivities. Not to sidetrack, but in my next life, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, I’m coming back as a gym teacher. Sweats all day? Summers off? Pensions? These people are brilliant.
I digress. I read The Fault In Our Stars and thought, this is YA? At seventeen, I never once had a conversation that would have compared to the ones shared between Hazel and Augustus, two well-read teens in cancer remission who fall in love. In fact, I was never in their league. A typical conversation between my friends and I at that age (and I wish I were joking) would have revolved around Taco Bell, who was driving and what we were going to eat, which would explain my single status at that time. I promise things got better, but I’d be lying if I told you I still didn’t make a run for the border every now and then.
Anyway, the story was sad and beautiful. The whole group read it and agreed.
I was on vacation in July with the family, waiting for the library to send me my next book club pick, Reconstructing Amelia, when I decide to spend some more time with my friend, Colleen Hoover. I read Slammed, the story about eighteen year old Lake, who suddenly lost her father and is forced to move across the country so her mom can work. She makes it as far as her new driveway, still in the U-haul, when she meets Will from across the street. They connect immediately. He takes her on their first date to a poetry slam and Lake is hooked. So am I. Of course, Will and Lake find out quickly they can’t be together and I can’t turn the pages fast enough – they HAVE to find a way! I read the story in two days, thanks to Florida rain and a husband who teaches Texas hold em to two impressionable teens. I even tweeted Colleen and told her how much I enjoyed the story.
What is it about the YA books that has me so enthralled? What does it say about me?
At the pool, a girl who couldn’t be older than sixteen planted herself on a lounge chair clutching The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. It took everything I had not to exclaim from the deep end how much I enjoyed that book. Death is narrating, I wanted to yell to her, how cool is that? I refrained only to save my fourteen-year-old son complete embarrassment.
Instead, I tread water trying to convince myself I’m not regressing..You loved Unbroken, I silently pointed out, The Great Gatsby, Catcher In The Rye…State of Wonder for Pete’s sake. Thoughts of abandoned Anna Karenina collecting dust on my bookshelf crept into my psyche. Pull yourself together!
Floating on my back, the sun on my face, I decided not worry about the types of stories I enjoy. The fact is, I enjoy them. Isn’t that enough? Don’t we all have enough stress in our lives? If I want to read a YA book, then by God, I will. Kids are smarter than we were anyway. I still have so much to learn.