This post is part of series known as #30DaysOfThanks.


YA LIT

There was a time in my life when all I read was young adult literature… when I was in my early teens. As I entered high school and became more and more intrigued with the idea of becoming an English major, I realized I should probably expand my interests. As I entered college, I got to the point where I stuck my nose up at the idea of young adult literature. I wanted to read the classics, real literature for adults that had deep themes and powerful life lessons, and, and, and… my pros and cons list for young adult literature grew increasingly lopsided.

And then I signed up for the Young Adult Literature class spring of my junior year in college. Fine, I thought. This will be easy; I’ll reminisce on my childhood a little and whizz through a few simple books and have another three-hour credit under my belt.

So Christmas break came and went and I found myself sitting in this YA lit class with five assigned books and the freedom to pick 11 of my own for that semester. What on earth was I going to do and what books could I possibly pick? My knowledge of young adult literature didn’t go past Harry Potter (which I would read again, anytime) and books like Eragon and other fantasy-dragon-elves-swords-and-magic-plus-romance type books. Nerdy, right? I didn’t know that young adult books could be anything more than that. When I thought young adult, I thought genre fiction and nothing more. But, this class proved me wrong.

I learned a lot about young adult literature and its value in our society. I discovered hidden gems and a few books that I now consider favorites. I also discovered that young adult literature, just like adult literature, has so much to offer… to teens and adults. Here are a few of the reasons I have become thankful for young adult literature:

1. They portray real-life issuesThe first book that comes to mind under this topic is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’d seen the movie and loved it (Emma Watson, am I right?) but didn’t think the book would be worth my time. There were other books I could read that would be of higher caliber, right? It was an assigned book, however, so I had to read it and now it is one of my all-time favorites.

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It resonated with me, in particular, because of my struggle with depression. The main character faces the same problem and readers see him cope in all sorts of ways, good and bad. He deals with everything from social anxiety, loneliness, sadness, first love and familial issues, all of which are so very real in our lives, as teens and adults.

2. They teach in a way teachers and parents cannot. What teen takes to heart everything their parents say? Not one. Some day they will look back and realize they should have listened but we all go through a stage when we think we are smarter, wiser and old enough to make our own decisions. We don’t listen to authority, but we listen to other sources, like books.

When parents and teachers cannot get through to young adults, books very often can reveal the same lessons. So many young adult books these days are focused on real life, but also the value of kindness, uniqueness, love and carrying on through difficulties. If young adults cannot be inspired by their authority figures, then a fictional role model can be the next best thing. (Three cheers for Hermione!)

3. They keep young adults reading. Raise your hand if you read every assigned book in middle school and high school. No one? I rest my case. I hated The Red Badge of Courage and I never, ever finished anything by Charles Dickens. I was too emotionally unstable to enjoy Where the Red Fern Grows or Bridge to Terabithia. But I enjoyed the other books I read. I grew up with Harry Potter and soaked up all those dragon books. Eventually I grew out of that genre, but what remained was my unquenchable thirst for reading. I had to be grounded from books, for goodness’ sake. If everyone were to stop writing young adult novels, we’d have a bunch of adults, years later, who would hate reading because they never learned to enjoy it. The world needs young adult novels.

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4. They reveal truths. I cannot stress this enough. As a writer of fiction and aspiring novelist, I believe that fiction is one of the most powerful ways to reveal truth and the same goes for young adult fiction. It can reveal a truth as simple as the riskiness of love, like Eleanor & Park or it can be as thought-provoking and powerful as the idea of purpose and death in Looking for Alaska. Fiction can reveal truth in a way the real world cannot. It yanks on heartstrings and causes us to feel in a way our disconnected, fast-paced world doesn’t allow.

I scoffed at young adult literature for quite a few years of my life. I didn’t believe it held the same educational, emotional or literary value as that of adult literature. But in the end, young adult literature is where so many begin to discover their love for reading. And if that love is never fostered at a young age, it will never continue into adulthood, and what a sad world that would be.