As first posted on Feminist Book Club’s blog
Dear YA books,
Adults should read YA books. I used to think I graduated from needing you in my life, thinking I was too cool. I was trying to be more adult than I really was. High school problems? I scoffed at them, thinking they would be trivial compared to the real adult books I was reading (and I read some ~adult~ stuff). To me, as an adult now (some days), the issues seem surmountable. I believed in the myth that if the story doesn’t contain trauma, then it’s not worth telling.
Just because you wouldn’t struggle with the issue, doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s struggle. Everything is relative.
And even when adult readers think your conflict is juvenile, sometimes it’s still good to see those stories of kids being kids, and growing up in an environment where they are allowed to make mistakes. My adolescence was a lot like that, where the only drama was the one I created in my head. I used to feel guilty about not being like a Katniss Everdeen or Starr Carter.
Thank you, YA Books, for reminding us we are allowed to still be young and carefree (but also thank you for teaching us to be nicer to people different from us, because while I wasn’t awful, I could have been less cringy).
One of the best things about you is that you are a gateway in which teens can feel seen. You are meant for a time in life when young people think that they are the only ones going through something hard in life, a time in which they just want to feel understood. It’s refreshing to have your isolation normalized, that so many other people feel the same.
As for adults, you are that letter to our younger selves letting us know it will be ok. You remind us to slow down and take a step back to see that even during some of what we considered dark and stormy days, we got through it with some laughs and joy along the way.
I feel that young people and adults alike resonate with that message of suffering in silence. We put on a brave face for friends and family, and we pretend that everything is fine. We all need that reminder that we don’t have to shoulder our burdens alone.
I promise to you, YA books, that I will challenge the other adults in my life to engage with you (and your younger cousins, Middle Grades and Children’s books). Because seeing the world through the eyes of young people, helps us gain a new perspective on how to understand the world.