As an adult, I still gravitate to YA (young adult) books. My mom doesn't get it. She says that the YA books I recommend are hard for her to get into. I don't understand it, because I love them, but it got me thinking about why I still love it as an adult.
I came up with a lot of reasons, here they are in no particular order:
- YA spans genres
When I go to a bookstore or the library, I don't have to go from section to section looking for something interesting because YA books are all shelved together. I can look through contemporary, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery and sci-fi all within the same group of bookshelves. I have found many authors that I would otherwise not know about, and genres I wouldn't have tried had they all been scattered throughout.
- They are the stories I would have loved to read as a child
Perhaps my reading growth got stunted somewhere between ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET, by Judy Blume, and HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS by Isabel Allende. One spoke to my place in the world, while the other opened my mind to the lack of Latina characters in the books I had read.
Coming of age stories take me back to those days when I was tucked in a corner of my house, ignoring the world around me in order to dive into the one on the page. The most common themes I read had suburban settings and characters that had little to nothing in common with me and my surroundings. Those books still dominate the market, but there are more and more by Latinas who write about growing up in inner cities in the US and loving flan and brownies, having trouble speaking Spanish, and battling the same identity questions I did. I read those books now and I am happy they exist, but sad that my twelve year-old self didn't have them back then. They would totally have blown my mind.
- They help me understand my daughter's world better
My childhood was different from my daughter's in almost every way you can imagine. From the type of city, to the number of family members and the proximity of cousins, her world is distinct. Reading YA is an additional tool in learning about how today's kids process things. While the works I read are almost exclusively fiction, I know from experience that it doesn't automatically mean that the works are not heavily based on truth. The research it takes to write a book of fiction is rigorous and thorough. The author had to place herself in that world in order to do it justice. He had to spend hours dissecting, observing, processing and regurgitating all that he learned when creating the characters, setting, and plot. I appreciate their work and how much insight it provides me in learning about my kid.
- It is something I can do with the kids in my life
I'm the aunt who loves to introduce her niece and nephews to audio books, graphic novels, and signed books as souvenirs. As the kids grow up and their reading choices become more sophisticated, I plan to be the person the kids call on for book recommendations, to discuss the books they love or hate, for writing advice, or at least invite me to see the movie version of the book they last read.
- They're entertaining and complex
As I mentioned, my mother can't get into YA. However, she enjoys a lot of pop culture movies and television series. Most of those are based on YA, MG and children's books. When a good story is combined with special effects, invested actors and screenwriters devoted to the author's vision, you get some very intriguing entertainment that even my mom can be found watching with enthusiasm.
There are lots of reasons I enjoy YA and they influence why I write it. I am not limiting myself to only reading or writing it, but it definitely offers depth that I appreciate, and challenges that keep me going.