In which I reflect on some aspects of my reading life, and share my thoughts on YA literature.
I have mentioned my little journal where I write post ideas as they come to me.
I opened it up today just to make sure I’ve crossed out all the ones that already got written, and came across something.
I immediately panicked: “Oh no! I already forgot what that means!”
But then I remembered, and decided I wanted to write about it right now.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
As you guys may or may not know, my reading journey started out a little rocky. I talked about it in this post, so I won’t reiterate here.
Once I could read and was confident, I started reading voraciously. My favourite series in the second grade and most of the third was The Babysitter’s Club. But in the second grade, I also attempted Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time. I only made it about halfway through, but that was okay. I enjoyed what I did read. In the third grade, I read Little Women. It took me a couple of months, but I really enjoyed it, and I felt so grown up reading such a big book. After I’d read that, I wasn’t as interested in children’s literature anymore. I still ended up reading a few children’s novels, but my appetite for classics had been whetted.
The Problem With Reading At a High Level for One’s Age
I would like to interrupt my story to give a shout out to all those who dealt with the struggle of reading above their age level. People may not realise how challenging this can be, so I invite you to stop and think about it.
In elementary school, I was scoring at a college reading level on tests. So it’s understandable that I wouldn’t find children’s literature very appealing. At the same time, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t yet grasp, thematically speaking, in books written for adults. The situations weren’t relatable to me, even though I didn’t really realise it at the time. When I reread those books now, I recognise that a lot of things sailed right over my head. (Here’s a letter to my past self, a silly girl who missed the point of a lot of books.)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who had this problem. It happens to all kids whose reading level exceeds their life-experience level. The themes and lessons I needed at that time, and the situations I could relate to, were found in books geared towards children/preteens. But the challenging vocabulary and complexity that I craved weren’t always found there.
By middle school, I had read several classics, and had a few favourite children’s/middle-grade novels as well. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety at that time; I didn’t have a lot of friends and I wasn’t comfortable in my surroundings. It makes sense that I sought refuge in familiar characters, familiar settings, and plots I already knew. During this time, I reread my favourites over and over. I read almost nothing new.
I didn’t lack exposure to book recommendations during that time. We had to do a book report each month, and the other kids chose YA novels, some of which sounded interesting to me (I, of course, did old favourites which I pretended not to have read before). Besides that, once a week we’d all shuffle off to the school library, where the librarian would do a slideshow with some book recommendations. From these sources, I would make note of books that piqued my interested, but I don’t think I ever ended up reading any of those books. I was stuck in my comfort zone, and most YA literature didn’t interest me, anyway. The only new books I tried were nonfiction.
Halfway through seventh grade, I got pneumonia, and missed too much school to make up. So I started going to a homeschool partnership. I was able to take some classes on a campus with really small class sizes and generally nice kids. I also took some classes at home. It was all funded through the school district, and I followed the same curriculum.
With the smaller class sizes and more time at home, my anxiety got a lot better, and I started trying new books again. In high school, I had the greatest English teacher ever. It was her class that gave me my love for literary analysis. She was always recommending books to me—not just classics, but books that I would never have tried otherwise. She’s actually responsible, in a way, for this blog, because she was the one who encouraged me to try blogging. Her encouragement set off a chain of short-lived blogs, culminating in the one you are reading right now.
In that time period (second half of 7th grade-12th grade) I read a lot of the books that I have come to adore, including Les Miserables. I read a few YA books, but not many. I didn’t see the point of reading YA when I still hadn’t read all the classics.
But Things Are Changing
Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve been a lot more interested in YA. I feel a bit funny not having read most of the books that the book blogging community talks about. Plus, I keep reading reviews of books that sound great.
So now that I’m pretty much past the target audience for YA, I’ve started reading it.
What do I think of it?
I think it’s like literature in general. There are good books and bad books, awful books and phenomenal books. There are all different genres, and there are different levels of depth.
Have I come across YA novels that I found trivial, shallow, and really disliked? Yes. Do I think there are some problems common to YA novels? Yes. But I’ve also read ones that were truly beautiful and important (The Book Thief, for one, The Fault in Our Stars, for another). I know that there are many more out there that are beautiful and important, and I look forward to finding them.
So that’s all I wanted to say today. Just kind of a reflective post and some of my thoughts on the YA genre. (And also an explanation of why I am not cool and haven’t read most of the books you all are talking about.)
Have a lovely day!