I am 22 years old and will never stop loving or reading YA lit. I an shamelessly excited about John Green’s upcoming book (out in November!) and I am currently reading the latest Sarah Dessen book. I am in love with each world that young adult books transport me to, and I am a vehement supporter of each trend within the genre.
My incredible undergrad institution put on events for English majors every other Thursday, and the theme of one of the events was “guilty pleasures.” After I shared mine (John Green), I realized I truly didn’t mean it. I was only saying The Fault in Our Stars because I felt like that was expected of me. Like somehow I should be ashamed of loving one of the most critically acclaimed young adult books of all time, because the writing is targeted at a younger audience. I still feel guilty about my choice of words. When I saw John Green in person at BookCon (how can it be??) three years ago, I cried like a baby, I was so excited. My mom had taken me to New York just to see John Green, and I was floored by the gesture, as well as the sheer excitement of it. When I visited Amsterdam in April 2016, I insisted on finding the TFIOS bench, even though it was super far out of the way. I cried then, too.
The reality is… reading YA lit is not a guilty pleasure for me at all. Young adult literature is where I find the most vibrant of stories, images, and truly the deepest of metaphors. When I need a laugh, I read YA. When I need to emotionally invest in a story or character, I find myself most intensely engrossed in a coming-of-age story. I have every Sarah Dessen book under the sun, and I tear through each new book with so much delight. I am at my happiest when reading a book I feel I can understand.
When I talk YA, I’m not just referring to Catcher in the Rye. I am talking about books that whisk me away to a new country, a budding romance, or a friendship in need of repair; all of which I can empathize with.
The true reason I love YA lit, you ask? Because Green’s Looking for Alaska changed my life irrevocably. I believe that people find books at the right time for the right reason, or more specifically, books find you. When I first read Looking for Alaska, I was sixteen and enrolled in a high school known for cluster suicides. I was desperately searching for answers, and as cliche as it sounds, I wanted to believe there was a purpose for everything, but I could not wrap my head around death. I still can’t, and refuse to believe taking your own life at a young age is part of a larger plan. But Looking for Alaska gave me the healing I so desperately needed. It described grief in complete accuracy, as well as the unending quest of searching for answers. I was dealing with my own bout of depression at the time, and I found solace in a book that seemed to speak to exactly what I needed to hear.
John Green wrote a very important things in that book, which I think about daily. The first: “The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” This statement, so simple yet so profound, has gotten me through countless hardships since I read the book nearly seven years ago. I have learned to forgive others and to forgive myself.
Maybe I’m missing the point of YA lit, or reading too much into it. Truthfully, young adult literature has given me a world outside my own where I feel secure and safe. I am thankful for it everyday.