I recently finished ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ by Jandy Nelson. It’s a beautiful book, emotionally gutting, but also one that had me laughing alone in the car and checking out with headphones as I folded laundry or scrubbed the kitchen (audiobooks are a Mom’s best friend). There may have been a time that I would have been embarrassed to tell you that this is a YA novel. What business does a thirty-two year old have falling into the story of sixteen year olds?
Around the same time I read this, someone prompted me to remember what I was doing, what life was like as a sixteen/seventeen year old. The contradictory feelings of freedom and constriction, sureness and insecurity, feelings of being on the cliff edge of life almost ready to take off- all came flooding back.
It’s easy to forget the previous incarnations of ourselves as life chugs along. We slip off a few things, add more layers, sometimes carelessly, sometimes with intention. But I love going back and revisiting those years. Not always the moments in my own life, but the general atmosphere of that transitional time. Going back through the eyes of a character is like getting a re-do, or seeing another way it all could have played out. Reading YA takes us back into the intense emotion of those teen years and allows us access to a softer more understanding connection with the younger folks in our lives.
I don’t remember YA being a thing when I was a teenager. My YA was assigned high school Shakespeare and historical fiction or memoir like Elie Wiesel’s incredible ‘Night’. In my early teen years I had Tank Girl comics and Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat, but later it was more heartbreaking memoir and everything Tom Robbins. I think Young Adults are so lucky to have an abundance of options today holding up mirrors to their lives.
There is a growing trend of adults reading YA, I am certainly not the only one! I think we all kind of want to fill in that gap now that we’ve got the chance. It’s soul soothing reading to your inner child, seeing the world from that fresh vantage point. It is thrilling to go back and feel the weight of the world, how real those struggles were, feel that big blank slate ahead and remember that the conditions and responsibilities of our lives may have changed, but we can still carry that passion and inventiveness into our grown-up lives. I’ll read YA unabashedly to dip into that blindingly fresh world of possibility to remember.
How about you? Do you read YA? Any Favourites to recommend?