When I read, I gravitate towards the young adult aisle. Stories of firsts: first love, first crush, first failure, first adventure...these stories just appeal to my love of learning and re-learning. Even as a 30 year old woman, I feel like these books get what life is. My favorite authors come from all walks and genres, but the majority of them are young adult writers.
I've asked myself why, over the years, do these books make me so happy? Why do I gravitate towards them? Why do I enjoy reading them more than the adult fiction I pick up? And I think I have a few answers. First, I grew up a bookworm. So the smart, brave, adventurous, nerdy, complex young adults that populated the books I read made me feel like I, as a child and teen, could be those things. I could be important. I could do big things. When I read young adult books with characters who have all the zest and adventure that only young beings without fear can bring, I still feel like that young reader from years ago: able to do anything. Powerful.
Second, I am a playful person with a vivid imagination. I like the books I read to be open to change, fun, and playful. Not all young adult books are these things, but most are. Young readers don't come to the table with a box of rules, things they don't want to see a writer do and things they do want to see a writer do. Young readers are open to anything: genres shifts, fantasy smacking itself into realistic situations, animals talking, dystopian realities. Their brains are not yet trained to be serious. So, while the subject matter of many YA books are serious, they are often very open to playful plots, characters and situations.
Third, I enjoy the renewal of firsts. Young adult and children's literature makes me remember what it was like to have that first crush, that first date, that first big adventure, the first time I left the home, the first time I had to say goodbye to a loved one. They help me to remember that life is about the firsts. As a mother, I love the look on my children's faces when they suddenly realize something grand: their first word, their first step, their first lost tooth. Children's, Middle Grade and Young Adult literature captures these firsts like no other literature and lets the reader re-live or live it for the first time. I treasure the memories of all my wonderful firsts and find comfort understanding the more difficult firsts through a well-written author's eyes.
Lastly, I think young adult authors have a knack for honesty. It's not that there is no "gray" area in young adult literature, that YA writers see things in black and white. Young adult literature is extremely complex and varying. However, the characters see things the way a child, teen or middle grader would. The issues they are dealing with may be complex, but their reactions are often wonderfully honest because children and middle graders (and most teens I know) are very straight forward. Why would the characters representing them not be? Sometimes the adult literature I read reminds me of how much I over think every single thing. Maybe that's not a bad thing, but it's a little exhausting. It's kind of wonderful seeing life with young, untainted eyes.
These are just a few points in support of the wonderful authors creating a new breed of avid reader. I hope to see the world populated by bookworms in the future, raised on John Green, Deborah Wiles, Rowling, Collins, Halse-Anderson, Snicket, Alexie and others. I think a world like that will be a beautiful one.
So why haven't I written Young Adult books myself? Why am I stuck in the New Adult genre? Oh, don't you fear, young adult readers, I have two young adult stories a-forming. It is my first love, after all. It's just that every time I go to write that YA book, it sounds like an adult is writing it. I need to re-find that youthful voice, that persona, so that my characters are not little adults. Until the time when inspiration or perspiration pays off, you should read these YA books:
Flight and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie
Any book Tamora Pierce has ever written
Any book Laurie Halse-Anderson has ever written
Love, Ruby Lavender Deborah Wiles
Monster Walter Dean Myers
Any book John Green has ever written
The Mighty Miss Malone Curtis
Futuredaze and Futuredaze: Reprise Edited by Erin Underwood and Hannah Strom-Martin
Thorn Intisar Khanani
Any book Lloyd Alexander ever wrote (Rest in Peace, Lloyd)
Heartbeat or Love That Dog or any book Sharon Creech has ever written
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
Any book Trenton Lee Stewart writes
Any book Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) writes
The Gregor series or Hunger Games Trilogy by Collins
The Wondla books, Tony Diterlizzi
Any book Lois Lowry writes
Saavy and Scrumble Ingrid Law
Any Roald Dahl book, but especially Matilda
Any Kate Dicamillo book
The House of Scorpion Nancy Farmer
13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher
-and so many more-
Please comment below and let me know what your favorite YA book of all time is.
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H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.