8 Lessons We’ve Learned from YA Fiction

You can learn a lot from books, and I’m not just talking about textbooks. Not to discount American history and algebra, but some of the most important lessons can actually be learned through fiction. Whether you’re a young adult or (ahem) a not-quite-so-young adult, there are plenty of lessons to be had in YA fiction. Here are just a few of them:

1. To find your dream guy/girl, you might need to go to another country

Or go on a road trip. Either way, your dream love probably isn’t at home. Whether it’s Anna or Isla in Stephanie Perkins’ books crushing on guys they met in France or road trip love affairs in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, An Abundance of Katherines, or Open Road Summer, it’s clear that getting out of your house and into a new environment can open up all sorts of romantic possibilities.

2. Exercise is important

Remember taking the President’s Challenge physical fitness test in school and thinking, This is stupid. When will I ever need to do a pull up? I remember, mostly because I still can’t do a pull up. But after reading The Hunger Games, I now know how important it is to keep workin’ on your fitness. You just never know when you’re going to need to run for your life, hide in a tree, or outwit an assortment of enemies from neighboring districts as your fellow citizens watch you fight to the death on TV. Now when I’m clumsily running one whole mile on the treadmill, I just think about Katniss.

3. Pants can be magical

How else would one pair of thrift store jeans fit four girls with very different body types in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? “Because this is a work of fiction” is probably the correct answer, but I choose to believe it’s because sometimes pants are actually magical. Sure, Bridget, Tibby, Lena and Carmen could have kept in touch without mailing a pair of jeans back and forth across continents, but that would’ve been boring.

4. Real friends are forever

Okay, so here’s a slightly more serious lesson from Sisterhood the Traveling Pants: Your real friends are the people who stand by you forever, even if (when) you lose touch, let each other down and say things you can’t take back. No matter what happens, your real friends are there for you when you need them, even when a pair of pants isn’t involved at all.

5. Being a princess isn’t all that great

Let’s get real for a second. Even if you’re not princess-crazy and didn’t watch Disney movies on repeat as a kid, you’ve still probably had a moment where you thought about how awesome it would be to live as royalty. Wearing gorgeous clothes, having long, shiny hair, doing that little princess wave at everyone you see . . . it all sounds pretty cool. But, as Mia Thermopolis shows us in The Princess Diaries, being a princess isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes, it means getting princess lessons from your scary grandma and dating guys who just want to use you for your fame.

6. Music can fix anything

YA books that heavily feature music are some of my faves because I relate. Mix CDs (or tapes, or playlists, depending on when the book is set), sharing headphones, connecting over a mutual favorite song . . . music just makes it easier to form friendships and relationships, and YA books know this. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, music is practically another character, and in This Song Will Save Your Life, music has transformative power. But when it comes to music in fiction, one band stands out above all others. As Rookie points out, The Smiths show up over and over in YA. So if you want to reach out to that guy or girl and don’t know what to say, just let Morrissey say it for you.

7. Magic can happen on a school bus

Okay, so all that ever happened on my school bus was that I had to hear a lot of Celine Dion on the terrible radio station the bus driver blasted. But in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, a love connection happens in that unlikely environment. You never know when you’re going to meet your dream guy or girl and start sharing comics and music with them.

8. Keeping a journal is always a good idea

We all have feelings we need to let out somewhere, and a journal’s usually a good place to vent. Whether you’re a princess or just a girl missing her best friend (Sloppy Firsts), journals are safe spots to put all of your secrets. Well, as long as you keep them hidden.

Clearly we’ve learned a lot from YA fiction. What about you guys? What lessons have you learned from your favorite YA books? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, if there’s something you’d like to see in Young Adult Education (or if you just want to chat about love triangles and mix tapes), please leave a comment, find me on Twitter @KerryAnn, or send me an email at [email protected].

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