YA lit as I know it: The Wonder Years

Ah, YA lit. There’s a special place in my heart reserved for the many YA books I consumed throughout my teen years.

I’d like to consider myself a seasoned reader of adolescent books; my specialties are supernatural and fantasy, though recently I’ve had trouble finding time for a good book. It’s the same excuses; too much homework, too many distractions, et cetera, et cetera. But now that I’ve started up again, it’s hard to believe I ever stopped.

If I could only put into words the unique magic that YA lit holds.

From some of the readings this week, I found quite a bit of familiarity. The YA trends were the most recognizable; if I had a dollar for every dystopian or supernatural-themed book I’ve read, maybe I could actually afford college (I kid, I kid). It’s easy to write off YA as only fitting into a few categories or write it off as depressed teen romance double-dipped in a new theme or two, but that’s so far from the truth.

As Shannon Hale wrote, YA books serve a unique purpose. The teenage years are something of a phenomenon; they’re messy, exciting, confusing, defining, and beautiful all at once among other things. Teenagers are at this in-between, this purgatory, between childhood and adulthood, and knowing how to feel or what to do is something that’s still being figured out. So how do they cope with the change going on in and around them?

Enter YA literature.

Unique experiences call for unique needs, and YA literature somehow meets those needs. I can’t count how many times I felt a kinship to a character in my books or sought comfort from a hard day in a novel, and for teenagers this feeling of closeness, of someone finally getting it is irreplaceable. So irreplaceable that we still seek it as adults; this is why I believe YA books are so popular across the spectrum, especially now.

This semester, I’d like to diversify myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still go back to my tried and true supernatural and fantasy novels, but I want to really get more of a range in my reading experiences. If I can stretch my reading repertoire and expose myself to books outside of my individual tastes, then I am more likely to be able to understand my students’ experiences in the future.

The teenage years are the wonder years, indeed. They are wonderful and they are tough and filled with more challenges than can be prepared for. Why not get a little help along the way?

Read on, fellow nerds.

 

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7 thoughts on “YA lit as I know it: The Wonder Years

  1. I feel exactly the same as you do regarding picking reading up again. I don’t know why I haven’t always made it a priority!!!!! I am loving taking that time for myself again, and I hope that this time I continue once this class is over.

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  2. I absolutely adore your line, “If I could only put into words the unique magic that YA lit holds.” Well-put and so true! My husband loves to remind me that I am the only 35 year-old on the planet who loves to read what he refers to as “teeny-bopper sparkly vampire books.” Maybe he’s right, but I don’t think so. There really is something special about YA lit. I like it because it is raw and relatable. Plus, I love talking about books with my students and being able to offer the very best recommendations.

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    1. Can’t be! If you were the only one, then how come YA books are continually on bestseller lists? Some adults have to be contributing to that too! Besides, you’re doing your students a service by knowing what books are best suited for them and you truly can provide the best recommendations!

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  3. Shannon, you and I share the same experience with YA literature. While I usually avoided the fantasy section, I lived and breathed for the next story I could indulge in. They let me know I wasn’t the only band geek with braces and a sandpaper mouth around boys. “The Wonder Years” is the perfect way to explain how YA lit makes being a teenager feel.

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  4. I like your reasoning on why young adult lit resonates with young adults. I too, have found the genre to be more encompassing that I could have imagined. This diversity has collected an entirely new reading community to the young adult genre. “Unique experiences call for unique needs,” there you sum up the world of reading perfectly. It’s amazing to see the world of writing and reading as truly timeless. Any supernatural/fantasy suggestions?

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