I’m often asked by friends/family/random people on the subway why I enjoy reading books that are “kid books.”
Normally respond by glaring at the person for a moment for their unnecessary judgment and condescension by even asking the question, and then explaining that I read what I enjoy reading. Sometimes it’s an illustrated children’s book. Sometimes it’s a biography. Sometimes it’s comic books. Sometimes it’s new adult. And, more often than not, it’s YA.
Inevitably, when I tell people that what I’m reading isn’t, technically-speaking, a “kid book,” but a book that’s considered young adult, they say, “What’s that mean?” and I want to yell HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF THE MONSTROUS SUCCESS OF THE HUNGER GAMES AND DIVERGENT WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING?
But I refrain.
And I, somehow calmly, explain that it’s any genre of book whose protagonist is a teenager experiencing life and emotions as a teenager typically would.
Then they say, “Being a teenager was the worst, why would you want to read about going through that again?
I respond by doing a really great job of not rolling my eyes and say, “Well, what I love about the teenage experience is that it is universal.”
No matter who you are, you know what is was like to be a teenager. You know what it’s like to have an unrequited crush on someone. You know the giddy rush of falling in love for the first time. You’ve felt the first pulls of hormones and overwhelming lust. You’ve felt angry at your best friend, brokenhearted because the person who thought was going to ask you to the dance didn’t, rebellious toward your parents. Even if you were somehow gifted with being the beautiful, smart, popular, athletically inclined, rich kid, you, at some point in your life, felt bullied or outcast.
These are the things that being a teenager is.
And that is what YA is. It captures the experience of feeling everything so acutely for the first time. It echoes the growing pains of becoming who you are.
So why do I read (and write!) YA? Because it’s for everyone. But, mostly, because I love it.