These days, it would seem that YA fiction is dominating the scene. Since film adaptations of novels such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have become global phenomena, a whole generation are turning back to the books that inspired these blockbusters. Of course there has always been a market for young adult audiences, but with the constant cycle of books to films becoming the norm, the interest in both mediums has increased substantially.
Some get frustrated at those who only read the book because of the film, but surely anything that gets teens reading is a positive thing? Surely we should be encouraging young adults to read, whatever that may take? As I reach the end of my teens myself, I’ve come to realise that it’s one of the most pivotal times of your life, and actually, one of the most important times to be reading.
Teenage years are stressful ones: they are years where lots of big decisions are made about the path you’re going to take in life, and the person you want to be, and actually, I think that reading can really influence that.
As a child, I always loved reading, and that carried through into my teen years, even though the books I was reading were of a different style. A lot of people look down at YA, but to be honest, I think that YA Lit does perfectly target its audience, and teaches young people a lot. Although, of course, there will always be the trashy romances and the stereotypical high school dramas, I think that YA has a real gift in the way it captures the essence of growing up.
These years are the years where we do a lot of changing and a lot of growing- physically, mentally and emotionally. And though the rest of our generation is also going through the same thing, we have such a tendency to isolate ourselves during these changes, insisting that nobody else could possibly understand what we feel and what we’re going through. Instead, many turn to fiction, and it is in these fictional characters that we find someone who shares our experience. It is when we escape to these worlds that are so familiar yet slightly different from our own, that we find the connection that we so desperately crave.
There tends to be two main things that people look for when they read: they either want, as aforementioned, to find a narrative and protagonist that they deeply relate to, or they want to find a world into which they can escape. Although these things are seemingly opposing ideals, they both share that yearning for fiction to be something authentic and believable. When everything around us is changing, and everything within us is changing, to have a steady narrative that we can return to again and again is such a massive comfort.
Reading does not just comfort us however, it also has the power to challenge us and shape us. When we are trying to work out where we stand on so many issues, where we are trying to explore our spiritual and political positions, being able to immerse yourself into the words and bias of so many different authors from so many different backgrounds is such a blessing. By reading and absorbing so many different points of view, we are influencing our own world view, and by reading this wide range, we are able to consider differing views to help define our own.
As we decide whether we want to go to university or not, when we start to consider our future careers, as we enter relationships for the first time- we can always count on literature to be there beside us. Reading in this time will influence the way in which we approach these things, and also offer an escape when the pressure of these things gets too much (which it will). So to the kids who are just entering this period of life- Read lots. To the young adults who finally feel like they may one day have their life together. Read even more. But also look back on your teen years, reflect on them, and see the ways in which reading helped you when the world was changing around you. Maybe it didn’t, maybe you didn’t allow it to.
Regardless of that, I think that reading in your teens is so beneficial, and is in fact, a big deal. Try picking up a book now and then. Try and find yourself in that narrative. Question what the book says about people and about the world. Ponder these things and shape your own view of the world. Read lots, and expand your mind.
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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin