Friday, October 21, 2011

What I Wish I'd Read: Books Just for Teens

Today, Kady stops by to tell us about her non- YA reading teenage years and what she'd change about them.

I wish I had read YA when I was in high school. My mom, bless her heart (that's the southern way of saying someone has done something incredibly stupid) didn't believe that YA books could count as literature. "I don't feed you trash at the dinner table, why would I let you put it in your head?" was a pretty common refrain in our house; it also applied to watching tv and some music. As a consequence I went from reading Nancy Drew to reading My Antonia. (I also never saw Dawson's Creek until this year (hey Nico!) and I never knew the music that was playing at school dances. Top 40, what?) I re-read My Antonia in college, as part of a college lit course, and I enjoyed it a whole lot more the second time around because I understood the little things that I didn't quite grasp the first time. Same goes for 1984 which I first read as an 11 year old. Shwooooop, that's the sound of loads of things flying straight over my head. When I graduated high school my favorite books were Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Granted these are still two of my favorite books, but I can't help think I would have enjoyed them 10 times more if I had some background in coming of age novels written for those actually coming of age, or if I knew more about comic books (those were also considered trash).

Because I missed out on YA when I was in high school I only discovered Anne of Green Gables, possibly the greatest book to ever exist featuring the most swoonworthy guy of all freaking time, until I was 22. I felt robbed the whole time I was reading it even as I was enjoying it to the point of going "squeeeeee" out loud. I didn't read His Dark Materials until my first year of college. Zoing! Where were Lyra and Will and that delicately handled exploration of institutions versus the individual when I was feeling out numbered and out manned in high school religion classes?

Those are the two big ones that I know were around when I was in high school. These are a few that I wish Teenage Kady could have read if she had been reading YA.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockheart would have given me a kick-butt feminist role model who survived and thrived in an old boys network. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta would have taught me about the type of friendships that everybody deserves and helped me not settle for less (mean girls are mean y'all, stay away). And if I'd read Graceling by Kristin Cashore in high school, maybe I wouldn't have such a knee-jerk negative reaction to fantasy now that I'm approaching the A side of YA.

So that's it. Read more YA, any YA, cause it was written for specifically for you. And if your parents are as YA adverse as mine were show them this blog post, it's never too late for them to catch on. Good news, I recently made my mom read The Book Thief and she's now recommended it to her fancy-pants adult book club. I also gave her American Born Chinese and she has since conceded that comic books do have a place on the bookshelf.

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