Dear Young Adult Novels

17 Feb

Dear Young Adult Novels,

I’m talking Twilight. I’m talking Sarah Dessen (the author). I’m talking the lesser known yet still fantastic Lioness Rampant series. I’m talking all the way back to the Penny Parrish series, written by Janet Lambert starting back in 1941.

Eight Cousins and its sequel Rose in Bloom (Louisa May Alcott).  Freckles.  And its sequel  A Girl of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton-Porter).

I’ll stop listing.  You can contact me for a more comprehensive bibliography.

Part of why young adult novels are great is because they’re forced to avoid this whole “explaining life” or its counterpart “explaining why we can never know anything about life” thing. Because teenagers already know life. They know everything. Yay stereotypes!

[If you want to disagree, let’s talk about how every ninth grade classroom is made up of the same thirty kids. I recently started observing a creative writing class being taught in a public school classroom– yay nonprofit contributions to education!– and on my first day, I was like, Julian’s still here? Jennifer!? Shouldn’t you have aged? Why is that quiet boy whose name I never figured out but is probably Ben, he looks like a Ben, still sitting in the far right corner doodling? This is where stereotypes come from. Experience. Truth. And then, of course, mass generalizations and blatant misinterpretation and outstanding exaggeration.]

The other part of why young adult novels are great is because, for the most part, they’re written by adults, and unless they get way, way over-edited to “sound like a teen,” they do a pretty good job of sounding like teenagers. Sometimes.  The ones I like do.  In that they sound smart, and sarcastic, and like they know something of what’s what.  Like they’re thinking about the world and dealing with real problems like negotiating relationships and power struggles and trying to figure out how to let go and hold on at the same time.

Also sometimes there’s kissing, and somehow that always makes me blush.  And giggle.  There’s nothing quite like a crush…

And really, let’s be honest– you can hate Twilight or love it, you can be very proud of the fact that you have never read Harry Potter, but those series get teenagers to read.  At some point in the past, I started to understand that not every child got in trouble for ignoring her mother’s request to empty the dishwasher– because she was deep in the limberlost of Indiana in the late 1800s, and there weren’t dishwashers back then!

Reading is good.  Get in touch for more amaaazing young adult fiction.  If nothing else, there used to be (and possibly still is) a wonderful librarian named Gail at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Library…there was a book about a quilt, and something about roses in the title…she can tell you what it is.  Also, ask for the one about the older sister who gets sick in the summer.  And the one…I’ll stop.  If you want to be really up on what’s going down today, read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Plus, you can read young adult novels really fast.  Because they are not like slogging through Pulitzer Prize winners (highly overrated, as are many so-called classics).  It’s like reading large-print edition books because your library has too many holds on regular print.  You turn pages all the time!




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