On the topic of “growing up” in literature.

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Recently, I’ve started to hear more and more about writers of adult fiction asking writers of YA fiction when they will grow up. The problem? Readers experience the same phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many times someone who chooses to read the classics or someone who chooses to read endless strings of adult crime thriller novels, tells me that I should grow up and stop reading my “silly teenage fantasy romances.”

UM, EXCUSE ME?

My main issue with this does not lie in their obvious literary snobbery or even the fact that they don’t know what they’re talking about, since they don’t read YA fiction. My problem lies in the fact that they’re looking down on a genre that actually gets kids and teenagers to read. I can’t tell you how many of my friends growing up seriously disliked reading because of its association with school, and therefore things like “work” and “bad” and “for smart people only.” Yet when I begged them on my figurative hands and knees to read something (usually Harry Potter), they would inevitably give in and appease me. By doing so, they would fall in love with reading all over again and discern things about the world around them and the world within them that they’d never even glimpsed at before.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if 99.9% of the books I read center around teenagers who discover a hidden magical/mythical world within their own while finding first love in the process, defy a totalitarian government against all odds, or find out that they are, in some way, very different than most people. Because all of these crazy plots are inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on the formulaic crime mystery. As a kid, I would constantly sneak into the study to read Catherine Coulter, Iris Johansen, etc. until the wee hours in the morning. Are these novels bad? No. Are they the only good ones? Definitely not. Are they the most inspiring? Depends on who you are. But in a world where teenagers would rather watch endless hours of TV, waste time reading the same tweets and Instagram photos over and over, and use SparkNotes on every English exam, books that intrigue teenagers are important.

Take Harry Potter, for instance. A scrawny eleven year old with a lightning bolt-shaped scar who, rather than choosing defeat, fights the most feared wizard in magical history and wins. What about Katniss? A half-starving girl from an unimportant district firmly under a horrific government’s control finds herself the face of a revolution. Tris—a small girl from an unassuming faction who chooses to be Dauntless in more ways than one, who begins to understand bravery, selflessness, and facing one’s fears, both in everyday life and in epic battles, and who glimpses her mother’s hidden strength. And Lena? The girl who follows all of the rules, who is perhaps the most afraid of love, who later becomes one of its biggest advocates, and who takes down her society’s walls built upon years of fear of the unknown. Don’t forget Meghan, the girl who risks everything to save her little brother, who finds herself at the center of the faery universe, and who changes from a self-conscious farm girl into a catalyst who changes the very fabric of the faery existence.

All of these stories, and much, much more, tell of teenagers who step up and change something. They find love and they lose it. They figure out what’s important to them in life and fight for it. They aren’t okay with being a part of the status quo. Now, I know that all of the stories I referred to were dystopian or fantasy, but the same goes for much of young adult literature. These authors are so full of imagination that these stories become more than words on a page. These characters are no longer caricatures; they take on a life of their own. Whether young adult fiction tells of transformation of an entire world or of transformation in a single person’s life, it makes a difference.

Camus’ The Stranger, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare’s plays, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Jane Austen’s works, Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thriller series, etc. are all GOOD. The classics, the moderns, the fantastical, the realistic, the sci-fi, the paranormal, the romance (well, not Erotica, sorry), and many more are all GOOD.

My point is, just because something is written for a young adult, a middle grade, or a children’s literature-based audience doesn’t make it childish.

So, THANK YOU to every single young adult author, reader, blogger, or publisher who refuses to “grow up.”

 

Okay guys, what do you think about growing up in literature? I’d really love your feedback! 🙂

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Harry Truman: “Leaders are Readers”

Yes, you read that correctly. How, do you ask, can someone who spends every spare minute of their time poring over words on a page, sometimes more than once, twice, or three times, be someone who leads others? It’s simple, really. Reading gives us imagination. Immersing ourselves in stories in which an orphan with a scar on his forehead discovers he is, in fact, a wizard with a destiny, the Chosen One, rescued and empowered by his mother’s sacrificial love, in which four siblings enter a magical world through a wardrobe and meet a lion and a witch, in which a girl is born into a city where a person’s faction comes before blood and everyone’s minds are supposed to work a certain way; in which a boy with dyslexia, ADHD, a satyr for a best friend and a sword-pen embarks on numerous quests and defies the gods of Olympus, and in which a girl witnesses a demon’s death while in a nightclub with her nerdy best friend strips away the barriers of impossibility that we face daily. While we go about our daily routines—the one’s in which we must return to real life—we take with us a valuable tool: a reader’s eye.

What would this building look like in an apocalypse?

What if this garden were a doorway to a faerie world hidden right under our noses?

What would the world look like if love were treated as a deadly disease?

Would my mind be able to overcome a serum-induced simulation?

I know, I know, you’re still probably wondering how any of this makes us leaders. Creativity, flexibility, and the ability to draw from the experiences of others all enhance our skills and decision-making. While we may not have attended Hogwarts, fought demons, or faced Dauntless initiation in our endless days of school, work, and bill-paying, we have experienced—through a character—the gain and loss of love, the importance of purpose, the thrill of adventure, the beauty of self-sacrifice, the value of friendship, and many others. This isn’t to say that those who prefer sitcoms, movies, live theater, or reality itself are not as good as readers, but much of TV and movies gives you everything. You can’t internalize a TV show like you can a character or a story or a world inside of a book. We take the words and descriptions that the author gives us and we put the finishing touches on what we see in our mind’s eye. We interpret literature according to our life’s experiences, successes, and failures; we make it our own.

Just some thoughts. I’m new at this, okay? 🙂

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