YA and I have had a long history of back and forth, love and hate colliding so I never knew just what I thought of the genre. I enjoyed the ever-popular Twilight when I read it, but I despise it now. I was late to the Harry Potter bandwagon and finally caught up all things Potterhead when I was a sophomore. I trolled only through the teen section at the library, but nothing ever truly interested me (so much so that I left a lot of series unfinished). And after all of that, I started reading adult novels when I was, let’s say, 15. I started reading Nora Roberts (hello, porn in books—ha, actually, her sex scenes aren’t that explicit) and I stepped away from the young adult genre. From then on that, but mostly romantic suspense books of Carla Neggers and Heather Graham material, were all I read. I didn’t get back into young adult until my freshman year of college.
I’ve always wondered why, so I’ve come up with two simple reasons. One, I was more mature for my age, felt like an adult stuck in a teenager’s body. And two, I didn’t have a typical high school experience. I was an overweight band geek with glasses and had very little true friends. I spent my free time reading, and at school, I was incredibly shy and rarely ever talked to people. I did my homework, tested well, and dreamt of a future away from the small-minded and infuriating people of Lakeview. I hated it there. I hated the present so much I think I became interested in adult because it was an escape for me. The future, what I could have after this hell was over (okay, it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be—but I truly hated high school). I wanted time to speed up so I could have those futures, the ones where I was happy and in love and had the life I’ve always wanted. Sounds kind of ridiculous, I know. But it was all better than reading books with characters my age living the life I wanted in high school. I didn’t play sports. I never wore a guy’s football jersey or held hands with one in the hallway. I didn’t start driving until I was a senior, and I never went to a party. I didn’t drink or smoke or experiment with drugs. I never gave my parents a reason to ground me, and I never rebelled except when it came to the books I read. I can’t believe my mom let me read Nora Roberts in high school, considering I literally had to force her to let me find out why Harry Potter was so freaking popular. But after a while, she let me make my own decisions when it came to books. Because she trusted me. Because I didn’t rebel. Because I was a good little girl who didn’t give her any reason not to give me that kind of responsibility. Sometimes, I wish I’d rebelled more. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and have a “normal” high school experience. But then I remember how great college is and how I feel like I’m finally finding my niche in the world. And I tell myself that it’s okay to feel nostalgic about the past, so as long as I don’t reminisce about changing it. It’s in the past. Yeah, high school wasn’t all that great for me, filled with ups and downs and a few lows that I don’t want to think about again. But I wouldn’t change how everything happened, because I like who I am right now.
I honestly don’t even know why I got back to reading young adult novels. I was pretty much against them for years. This is going to sound bad, but I was one of those people who thought YA was nothing more than fluff. Inconsequential. I snorted at the girls and boys who thought they’d found the love of their lives within days. I placed higher standards on the characters and never thought about the fact that they’re teens and that they have a lot of growing up to do. They were nothing more than pleasure reads that didn’t have much substance. I’ve since learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Young adult is a genre that’s been discredited, judged, and ridiculed for years. I don’t know if you knew this, but an article was recently published on Slate that opened up age-old arguments and created a freaking movement. Bloggers, readers, authors, and people alike rallied against the person who wrote that article and became a force so strong that not even a hurricane could destroy it. Really, Slate, we should thank you. Because of you, people forged alliances and dominated the social media outlets with their opinions on your not-so-factual article. Lauren DeStefano, author of The Chemical Garden and Internment Chronicles series, created a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. #PromoteaYAInstead. Positive against the negative. Love against the hate.
They failed to understand the repercussions of what would happen when they decided to publish that article. Or maybe they had, and creating such a shaming article was their exact intent. Who knows? People like that woman who wrote the article will always exist, but that doesn’t mean we have to listen to them. Young adult novels nowadays might not be of Charles Dickens or Jane Austen variety, but they are more than just teen dramas with “likable” protagonists and satisfactory endings (and I say that in the snobbiest way possible, Slate). …But criticizing the Slate article is not why I wrote this post. It isn’t even the point I wanted to make.