Why YA for me

When I was 12 I did not like to read. But one day I was bored and I went into my older sister’s room to

snoop around. She had one shelf of books and I remember sitting on her floor looking at them. I pulled out a tattered copy of Judy Blume’s It’s Not the End of the World, read the back cover and decided to give it a try. I went back into my room and I don’t know if I read it in one sitting, but I know I read it pretty quickly and the whole thing. I had never read a book that sounded like a friend of mine. I was hooked. I soon devoured all of Judy Blume’s YA titles, discovered S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders is still my favorite book of all time) and moved onto Norma Klein and Paula Danziger.

This is what the copy I read in 1986 looked like

That was obviously a long time ago, but I found as I graduated from high school and moved onto college and adulthood, I still was drawn to the same kind of books. In the 90s, YA wasn’t really a “thing” in the way it is now, and a lot of novels were categorized general fiction that would be seen as crossovers today. In fact, my favorite novel of the 90s, Blake Nelson’s Girl was first serialized in “Sassy Magazine” published and sold in the adult section of the book store and then reprinted ten years later as a YA novel. In the 90s I started reading novels about 20 somethings (which I was one) and Gen X, but I also spend a couple of years working in the Children’s Dept of a large bookstore (hint, not the one which just filed for bankruptcy), so I read all the YA books I could during my downtime. A that point, I tried to hide my addiction, embarrassed that I was reading novels meant for teenagers when I most definitely wasn’t.

Then I made a fantastic discovery. There was a whole world of academia surrounding Children’s Literature. I did some research and discovered Simmons College in Boston offered an MFA in Writing for Children.  I applied, was accepted and my life became all about YA. I recall sitting around the table at orientation making the introductions. The others were talking about the books I loved. The books that I hid in the back of my bookshelf behind Jane Austen because I wanted to look smarter than I am. I found my people and it felt like home.

So to tell you some things about me – I guess the biggest thing is that I’m a mom of two young boys (one is hanging on my arm as I type this). L & R are 4 & 2 respectively, so I’m in the thick of it  so to speak. I finished my MFA last May and now I’m working on one of the novels I wrote for my final project. I will finish it and submit it. Someday.While there, I was able to read and discuss my beloved YA novels with others who were passionate about them too. I discovered a whole slew of authors that I missed along the way, like John Green and Marcus Zusak. (I may or may not have driven over two hours to meet John Green and David Levithan. I admit nothing.)

I also like teen TV like Degrassi and Glee, and I may have recently bought seasons 1-4 of Boy Meets World. Basically I’m obsessed with high school and the people in it. I love character driven stories, strong voices and flawed characters. I’m also a sucker for romance. But mostly, I just like when a character feels real to me, like they could exist in the world that they are in.

 

 

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