Why I Love Reading Young Adult Novels
Why I Love Reading Young Adult Novels
by Jennifer Chen
I’m 33 years old and I love to read books intended for teenagers, even though I shudder at the thought of actually being a young adult again. I’ve had enough unrequited crushes, pinch-rolled jeans, and hairspray for the rest of my life.
I love reading YA because it’s exciting. Imagine trying to capture the attention of a text-crazed, Facebook-status-every-second teen—the writing must be captivating. YA authors take risks with stories, structure, and even characters. Their characters are experiencing everything for the first time: first kiss, first love, and for dystopian novels, first time saving the world from utter tragedy.
While I love adult fiction, lately, I’ve been heading straight to the YA section of bookstores because I know that I’ll be hooked to the point of staying up at all hours to finish my current read. Some may think that YA consists of vampires, bow-and-arrow shooting girls, and magical wizards, but the reality is that there is more to the genre.
Just to give you an idea of what exactly I’m talking about, there’s the gorgeously written If I Stay by Gayle Forman about 17-year-old Mia whose entire family is killed in a car accident. She’s the lone survivor, stuck in a coma, deciding whether or not to stay or go. She flashbacks to important moments in her life while in the present, her musician boyfriend brings her his iPod full of milestone songs to wake her from her coma. (Sidenote: Try not to cry during this part of the book. I swear I’m not tearing up writing about it.) Or how about Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver—where popular/mean girl Samantha Kingston relives her last day on earth seven times à la Groundhog’s Day, and learns that even simple actions can change the course of history. Finally, there’s the enchanting/boys-are-kinda-gross book Will Grayson, Will Grayson by YA darling John Green and David Levithan (one half of Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist) that’s told as parallel narrators both named Will Grayson. When these two characters finally meet, their lives inevitably change and culminate in an epic piece of musical theater (I bet you didn’t expect that).
The naysayers around me, like Time magazine’s columnist Joel Stein, may dismiss young adult as childish, which is fine by me. In a New York Times Room for Debate series, for a piece titled, “Adults Should Read Adult Books,” Stein writes, “I’ll read The Hunger Games when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” Go ahead and make fun of me for reading books with teen girls on the cover. Books that make me cry in public. Books that feel real, tender, funny, and poignant all at the same time. If I’ve learned anything from reading YA is that in high school (and beyond), people will make fun of you, but ultimately it only matters what makes you happy.
I’m perfectly happy reading my young adult novels, Mr. Stein. And it looks like I’m not alone. In 2012, industry experts claim that more than one-third of YA books were sold to adults. After exchanging countless emails with friends and acquaintances about what YA books we love, I launched my own virtual YA book club on my blog so that we could discuss the books we love with fellow YA bookaphiles.
While I’ve only named just a tiny amount of amazing literature in the genre, NPR has compiled a stellar list of readers’ top 100 favorite YA books. I promise you that you’ll find at least one book to enjoy.
Jennifer Chen is a freelance writer, senior editor at VegNews magazine, and a young adult novelist. She lives in Berkeley, CA with her TV writer husband, three-legged cat, and adorable dogs.
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