Crush of the Week Crush of the Week: YA Novels Meghan O'Keefe

We are in a situation, people. Well, I’m in a situation. My passion for YA Novels has once again been unleashed and I cannot contain my obsession for romantically charged fantasy stories about teenaged girls struggling to find their paths in life. It is a disease.

How have I arrived at this self-diagnosis?

Well, in the past few weeks, I have sped through Veronica Roth’s Divergent books, gotten into a rant in my living room about how I can’t believe the people of Panem never taught their kids any survival skills even though they knew the Hunger Games were a thing, read half of Graceling (I should be done by the time this is published), filmed this fun little Twilight focus group for New York Magazine, tried to explain to my 18 year old nephew why Saorise Ronan should be the lead of the Divergent film and Shailene Woodley should be the lead in The Host even though they are cast in opposite roles, and then  gotten mad that my nephew didn’t know what I was talking about, considered making fan videos for my favorite YA characters with iMovie and then posting them to a secret shame-filled youtube account, and offended a couple of friends when I didn’t immediately go to them for YA recommendations.

Also, the Beautiful Creatures film looks good, right? I NEED TO READ THOSE NEXT. GIVE IT ALL TO ME. ALL THE TEEN WITCHES AND FREAKS AND VAMPIRES AND DARK BATTLES AND MAGIC AND SEXUALLY TENSE YET EMOTIONALLY EARNEST TEEN COURTSHIPS. GIVE ME. GIMME!

Okay, so what’s brought my YA obsession out of remission and back into full force? Honestly, I think I was just tired of reading like it was a chore. I think what I love about YA Novels is that they remind me of how much I used to love reading just to…read.

Let me explain. I don’t hate reading. I love reading. Reading is the absolute best. I just hate being a jaded reader.

See, I was a super, duper bookworm as a kid. I read so many books that my sister bought me a GameBoy for Christmas one year because she was worried I was reading too much and wanted me to relate to other kids. It didn’t work. I still read too much. I loved reading so much that I became an English major in college, even though my entire family warned me it was a “dead-end major”. I just wanted to spend college learning more about literature. I wanted to read the classics I never had time for growing up. I wanted to discuss important plot points and major themes and imagery. I wanted to be spending my youth surrounded by old, moldy books, and not trying to make conversations at parties, unless those conversations were about books.

The thing about learning how to be professional reader, which is essentially what an English degree boils down to, is so much of the magic of literature is kind of ruined. You learn about how to seek out the flaws in your favorite writers’ work. You learn how to map a book’s entire plot arc in your head before you finish the first chapter. You learn how to be cynical. How to say, “Eh…I’ve read better.”

Now, sometimes reading feels a bit like a chore. I’ve been trying to get through Anna Karenina since this summer just to say I’ve finally read the behemoth of a book. Parts of it are good and parts of it are just Levin moaning about different types of farming. When I’m reading it, I don’t see it as time away from the stress of my life. I kind of feel like finishing it is one of the stressors of my life.

YA novels are still not usually considered proper literature. I mean, my 18 year old nephew is writing a paper on The Hunger Games for his college literature class, but by and large, you won’t see the work of Stephenie Meyer on many syllabuses. I’ve heard a lot of people bemoan this critical snobbery, but I think that because YA writers are putting telling a great story that everyone can relate to over impressing professors and critics and booksellers, they are free to write books that are way more fun.

YA books also can’t fuss about. They’ve got to be easily deciphered by people who haven’t had an education in the history of the epistolary novel or the evolution of literary techniques. So, the characters usually fit into tropes that are almost primeval. The evil witch. The mysterious hero. The young maid with a full heart and clear conscience. These figures have factored into almost every story from the beginning of time. Why? Because they speak to psychological issues within all of us. Because YA novel are unabashed about commandeering these classic figures, they can reinvent these personalities in new and thought-provoking environments. And I think looking at those tropes from different ways is exciting and fascinating.

I didn’t start reading to impress my peers at book launch parties at Housing Works Bookstore. I started reading because I wanted to go on an emotional adventure through my imagination. I wanted to forget about myself and see through someone else’s eyes. YA novels are so simple that I find they’re the only books that just as simply let me do that.

Also, uh, have you picked up a YA novel recently? The guys in the them are way hotter than any guys you’d crush on in the real world. At the very least, when you crush on a YA novel, you usually get to crush on the guys in them.

(PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ DIVERGENT: CAN WE TALK ABOUT FOUR?)

Featured image via The Hunger Games Wikia

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  1. You hit the nail on the head! I too am struggling through Anna Karenina. I’m currently listening to it on audible while travelling through Europe so I can look at pretty things during the long farming sections. Also, coming from Australia, I grew up on John Marsden. He’s an amazing YA author. There’s a great series starting with “Tomorrow when the war began” where some teens are camping in the bush when Australia gets invaded and they become sort of guerillas. It’s great.

  2. I recommend the Poison Study trilogy by Maria Snyder – I think you’d really like it!

  3. Ok, per your guys suggestions I just read Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and I am half way through Evolution of Mara Dyer and I love it! Fantastic read! I recommend it to those who love YA.

  4. I am super psyched about Stephanie Thomas’ new “Luminosity” YA trilogy! I got to read a sneak peak and now I’m hooked. You guys can see if here at Amazon, if you want something new and addicting… http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=stephanie+thomas

  5. meeee toooooooo!!! Four is the hottest! LOVE the Divergent series :)

  6. Wanna read the BEST of YA? Read The Mortal Instruments! I similar to yourself, did a beyond useless Film and English degree and now, at 27, am done with the constant submission to read what makes me appear ‘intelligent’ like my degree would suggest I am (I’m on the fence personally, someone asked me the Capitol of Greece yesterday and I had no idea! But I didn’t do a geography degree in my defence….)
    I loved Roths books, helllllloooo Four! And i believe The Hunger Games is arguably the first of the YA onslaught to actually bridge the divide between YA and adult fiction, and the first book to be widely appreciated amongst “critics” and be accepted into ‘potentially classic literature’ as it’s actually a bloody brilliant book!
    But then there’s the Mortal Instrument series.
    Seriously.
    I read all five books in 2 weeks. And I work full time.
    I barely did anything else.
    You think you love Four, wait until you meet Jace Lightwood.
    I am now re reading them as I just cannot get enough. I wish I was 14 (and i never thought id say that! 14 was an awful age for me…) again so I could just spend all my free time fangirling, blogging and making tumblr gifs about this world without being judged….I’ve blogged about it….but it was a grown up post….sort of…..and okay i did tweet about the recently released trailer for the movie for a whole day….but I feel VERY strongly that everyone I know should be as excited about the upcoming movie as I am!
    I was even tweeted by the official movie twitter feed AND Cassie Clare the author and I swear I didn’t stop smiling all day, THAT’S how obsessed I am!
    I really think its important that you now read, become obsessed with, and then write on here about them, as this article was lovely and was like you were inside my head and blogging about it ☺

  7. I LOVE YA! I love that there is a community of older people reading these books. I am going to have to pick up some of theses. :D

  8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy is awesome too! Only two books have come out so far. I am dying for the third one! Soooo good! I dont know why but I didnt like Beautiful Creatures.

  9. I have been reading YA books since I was fifteen, and I have no plans of stopping. I read what is consider adult books as well, but YA novels always seem to have another element that others do not.

  10. This is me exactly. I just read the first 3 Mortal Instruments books in 4 days and I’m obsessed! Beautiful Creatures is way way good too! I hope the movies hold up. I’m hopeful with Jamie Campbell Bower cast as Jace.
    Four is the best!! By far my biggest literary crush.
    Try Legend by Marie Lu and for sure the Maze Runner series.

  11. I know exactly how you are feeling, I considered doing an English lit major, but changed my mind because I was fearful of exactly your experience :) I went with a Library degree instead so I could still enjoy the books and after my degree I would work amongst an endless supply of reading material. WIN WIN :)
    Meanwhile I have read the City of Bones trilogy and am a fan! For the other person that commented about it I recently found out they are doing a movie of it (details on IMDB) we’ll see how that goes… not holding my breath though hahaha.
    One saga I LOVED is the Fiona McIntosh Trinity series, I loved the story, the character development was fabulous and there was great imagery. Couldn’t put them down. If you are looking for something to pick up over the Christmas break you can’t go past this series!!!

  12. You need to read THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray next. It’ll tickle the literary sensibility while also being hysterical and swoony and tense and terrifying and just all-around AWESOME

  13. HELLO!! OMG I FIND MYSELF IN THE SAME SITUATION!! I am finishing my English degree just because I loove the english langugae (I am Spanish) and I love reading, so… I have been in a YA fever recently (you should read Poison Study and Magic Study, they are amazing, there is a third part that i haven’t read but i haven’t read good reviews…) I am stuck with Ana Karenina, I almost finished but, OMG it is beautifully written but some parts are too much (and I like thick dense books, but…) right now I am in the first book of Mortal Instruments City of Bones. Really nice, very witty and sexy. I am really enjoying it.
    I also read Insurgent and Divergent, like them too, and Four… I like him but I think he has to sort some things out with her family, but apart form that, he is just really cool (did you read the special chapter of Insurgent from Four’s point of view? It was interesting. It is on the web of the saga.
    I am a bookworm and I love the classics, but as you I find myself looking for more relaxed and fresh reading not the thick classics (just read Tess of the D’Ubervilles) and when I need to go anywhere in my mind I go for YA or for sequels of Pride and Prejudice (I know, kind of lame..but I usually like them)

    Please I have a blog that (basically ) I talk about my books as a bookworm, check it out!! Is ” Tea with Sir Munchies and the Blazer Ladies”.

  14. I’m 28 and I am obsesed with the Marked series. Sad but true! I think maybe I vicariously live out a cooler teenage experience through these books! lol

  15. Yes! It’s so true! I have the same background in loving reading to the point of obsession, studying it in college and finding myself jaded over it, but now I devour YA fiction! (Also, FYI – the Beautiful Creatures books are an excellent read as well. Sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes darned insightful. I highly recommend them.)

  16. OMG you’re so right they should have taught their children survival skills! then again, the capitol folk want deaths, like, all the time… so if they learned TOO many skills, the games would be drawn out for months… tricky sitch.

  17. YES YES YES I LOVE THIS. It’s exactly why I decided to start blogging about YA. I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

    (and yes yes YES WE CAN TALK ABOUT FOUR!!!!!)

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