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