Young adult literature is hands-down my favorite genre to read. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a fabulous Nicholas Sparks book every now and then, but there is just something so captivating about being able to sit down with a book and devour it in (literally) one sitting. I love the feeling of not being able to set my book down because I just have to know what happens to my favorite character or love story within the novel. But, many people today question the genre and why they should read books that involve the lives of teenagers. Why should people who are not necessarily teenagers engage in this type of reading?
YA As I Know It
As a senior, I was the teacher’s aid for our school library. I absolutely loved this job; I was able to get the first look at books when they came in the summer before and could read nearly every day during the school year, so what more could you want? Since I got the first look, my librarian that I worked under allowed me to take the books home to read before they even went into the system (Mrs. B, you rock because of this). This was when I noticed the large amount of YA novels that were being filtered into the library. The number was huge, and made me even more excited to look through them and get to make my selections on what to read.
YA literature is currently seen as being in its second “golden age” and is ever growing. Novels are becoming more diverse and have focuses on more than just the old style problems, such as divorce or drug abuse. We can now dive into a novel that focuses on LGBTQ issues that teens go through or even enter into a magical world that includes vampires and werewolves trying to co-exist (inserting my mandatory subtle Twilight reference now). Books serve as an escape and an entrance into the mind of our younger generation. However, these books aren’t just meant for teens anymore; a higher percentage of adults are digging into this genre as well. According to the article A Brief History of Young Adult Literature, 55% of YA books that were purchased back in 2012 were purchased by adults that were between the ages of 18 and 44. Nothing excites me more than seeing this jump; I’ll be reading YA as I age, so it’s a good thing that it’s becoming more accepted. 😉
So. Why read YA literature? Simple. By reading this type of literature, you can enter into a completely different world of your choice. You can follow your favorite hero/heroine into their world and live vicariously through them. For once, you’re able to exit your life and forget about your worries and enter into something completely different. This alternate world will allow the reader to go to a realistic or supernatural place. I, myself, particularly enjoyed visiting the world of the supernatural/fantasy or the dystopian lands of the future. Whether I went to Forks, Washington with Bella or visited the Capitol with Katniss, I always enjoyed my time escaping reality.
The readings for class this week were ones that I found interesting and enlightening. They discussed why we should keep reading YA literature, and the bottom line is that these books can change the lives of those that are reading them. Teens can connect to these stories and tackle some of life’s hardest issues by reading them. Long gone are the single problem novels and in their place stand novels that look deeper into the complex issues that teens face today.
It was also pointed out within the readings that it’s important for adults to not criticize their kids or students for reading YA novels. These adults need to understand that reading is a uniquely personal experience for the individual. Shannon Hale’s post outlined this stance in a way that is interesting for everyone to think about. In my opinion, her words hit the hardest and drove the main idea home:
As adults, I think we need to respect the teenage years and help them live through the experience with as little permanent damage as possible, while still allowing them the experiences themselves. And as readers, I think we need to respect the stories that express those years.
What I Want to Learn
This semester, I want to broaden the umbrella that I read under. I want to diversify my novels and branch out even more. I want to read novels that really make me feel something inside. I want to understand the world that we live in from someone else’s viewpoint, whether that’s the viewpoint of two young women with special needs trying to make it in a cruel, cold world or the viewpoint of a boy or girl that identifies as LGBTQ. To do this, I will ask questions. Lots of them. I’ll go to classmates, professors, and trusted resources to help me find new and engaging literature. I’ll look to my book club to guide me in a different direction than the traditional one that I would normally take. And, finally, I’ll allow myself to branch out and find new loves within the literary world while still holding my old ones.
I firmly believe that, as a future educator, it’s my duty to understand the thoughts that are running through my students’ minds each day. I want to see the struggles that are possible and find books that will inspire the kids that will sit in my future classroom. I want to learn how to identify with my students, and I feel like the best way to do that is through the pages of a novel.