April 18th is Celebrate Teen Literature Day, right smack dab in the middle of National Library Appreciation Week.  Seriously, this week is entirely devoted to books, and I may or may not be freaking out about it.  Okay, I’ll admit it – I’M FREAKING OUT.

Celebrate Teen Lit Day pays homage to all the awesome new books written each year that deal with common coming-of-age themes like discovering your sexuality, becoming more confident and assertive, and establishing your independence.  But once a reader ages out of this all-too-familiar teen angst, it’s easy to think you’re ready to move on, that you somehow need to put all those comfortable coming-of-age tales aside now and read more “mature” books.

But come on.  If that were the case then we would have stopped reading classics like The Catcher In the Rye years ago, and more recent hits like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games would appeal only to that narrow band of readers they were originally intended for.

Truth is, a well-told story for teens has something of value for all readers, no matter their age.  And to convince you all of that, I’ve put together a list of reasons – because you Internet kids just looooooove lists, don’t cha? – why everyone, young and old alike, ought to be reading more teen lit.

(1) Young adult books are easily relatable.  Even when the setting is completely fictional, like Narnia or Hogwarts, the characters never stop being human.  My favorite scenes in the Harry Potter films were always the arguments between Harry and Ron and Hermione, partly because I'm a sociopath and partly because it shows that while these characters might be battling countless magical horrors, they’re also battling their own emotions.  There’s comfort in knowing that even witches and wizards can grow jealous or fall in love or feel afraid sometimes.

That's right, Ron.  Get angry.

That's right, Ron. Get angry.

(2) Many young adult books are part of an ongoing series.  It’s no surprise that most readers roll there eyes when they hear that this book or that book is going to be turned into a trilogy – or worse, a quartet.  After all, it seems like a pretty clear marketing tactic to sell more books and make more money (if it ain’t broke, why fix it?).  But let’s look at the positives here.  Some authors create such vivid, dynamic worlds it’d be a shame to constrain them to telling just stand-alone tales.  Imagine if Harry Potter’s story had ended after his first year at Hogwarts.  It’d suck, wouldn’t it?  And while we tend to gripe about the long wait between books’ releases, I’m convinced that waiting for a book makes reading it that much sweeter.

When did this post become all about Harry Potter?

When did this post become all about Harry Potter?

(3) Young adult books are accessible and absorbing.  Let’s be honest, after an exhausting day at work, sometimes you just want to read a relatively straight-forward story, rather than have to struggle through some 18th century Russian epic.  Not to say that young adult books don’t stimulate the mind – lately, in fact, I’ve found myself reaching for my pocket dictionary more and more often.  Today’s authors don’t seem as afraid of challenging younger readers as past ones do (or did).  Or maybe, after realizing how successful young adult fiction can be, they’ve begun to write for a wider crowd by using more intelligent prose to draw in adult readers.  Either way, we can easily say that most modern teen lit remains accessible, engrossing, intelligent, and – perhaps most importantly – relaxing.

Cat_Asleep_on_Book

Hopefully not THIS relaxing.

(4) Young adult books are fueled by imagination.  Sounds cheesy, sure.  But for fantasy readers, there’s no other genre that’s more on the cutting-edge of storytelling than teen lit.  On the whole, younger readers aren’t as turned off by weird, off-beat, completely made-up stories as their older counterparts, so authors of young adult fiction don’t have to edit their stories for strangeness – in other words, anything goes.  And you’ll often see new methods of storytelling – like ascribing a different font and color to separate narrators, or using photographs or paintings (Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Clive Barker’s Abarat series are fantastic examples) to aid the text - crop up in young adult books before they take root in adult fiction.  For these reasons and more, teen lit tends to be fun.  Which is exactly what it should be.

Haven't read me yet?  Do it!

Haven't read me yet? Do it!

(5) Everyone else is reading it.  Young adult books are growing more and more popular each year, which means a lot of your friends will be reading them at this point.  And don’t you want to be just like your friends?  Okay, admittedly that’s lame.  But it is true that more readers today are turning to teen lit than ever before, and if that isn’t proof of the genre’s awesomeness, I don’t know what is.

So, there you have it!  What do you think?  Have I convinced you to read more young adult books?  If you don’t say yes, you’ll crush me – just me mindful of that before you give me an answer, please…

And for anyone interested, I’ll write more about my favorite young adult authors sometime in the future, because I think that’s a discussion
that hasn’t really happened yet but definitely needs to.  Stay tuned!

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So, what do you think?