Rachel Charlene Lewis
March 31, 2016 1:50 pm
Shutterstock / Inga Dudkina

Growing up, I devoured every book I could get my hands on from my local library. I flourished at the yearly book fair, and nothing made me happier than when my mom would slip me a $20 dollar bill every so often as we entered a bookstore. We didn’t have much money when I was little, but books were always at my disposal. My mom made sure of it.

My favorite books were always of the Young Adult genre. When I was a child, reading them made me feel older. They offered a glimpse into my future: the world of a teenager, a world where dates and road trips and ever-deepening friendships would all be within my reach. These books told me that someday, I would have a first kiss and a first love. I would lose friendships and gain new ones. I would travel, see new places, and meet new people. And I would grow into the best traits of the characters I loved most — I’d be fearless, kind, and thoughtful. I’d be ready to take on the world.

But I’ve grown older, and some of these things have still not happened for me. I have anxiety, and I’m scared of many things, and hesitant to leave my comfort zone. It’s frustrating, this anxiety, because I know that that brave little girl still exists. I can still glimpse that version of myself when I read YA.

I can read about the traits I want, whether they exist in 13-year-old or 18-year-old characters. Vicariously, through them, I can live a thousand lives and fight dozens of battles, and still come out on top. I can become stronger with every struggle. Book by book, I leave my comfort zone.

YA does this for me in a way that no other genre ever has. When I read more literary novels, I honestly often feel bored. The willingness to engage with emotion in a way that feels authentic is hard to find beyond the youthful openness of the Young Adult genre. Where younger characters are often hopeful and optimistic, older characters tend to leave me feeling frustrated by their pessimism and bad decisions. They’re rarely desperate for growth and newness in the same way younger characters are.

The 13-year-old soul within my newly adult body still has big dreams, and craves that growth — that newness. She wants to experience things that this anxious version of me has been too timid to experience, at least so far. And even though she is younger, she is somehow calmer, more thoughtful than I am. She’s less worried about minutia and more optimistic — she’s more curious and excited about the future than she is afraid of what may be around the corner.

YA feeds that part of my soul. YA keeps me young. And I won’t ever let that feeling go.

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