My high school library was tiny and outdated. It was one room, about the size of a standard classroom, and held all the different kinds of books you were supposed to find in a full size library, complete with card catalog cabinet and giant dictionary open on a pedestal, which only took up valuable space.
I read everything I could get my hands on, from Catch-22 to Dick Francis's horse related English mysteries, to thrillers by David Baldacci, and to the stuff that was YA before YA was a thing, like Lois Duncan's books.
I love Lois Duncan. Those were the ones I wanted more of and could hardly find. I could read all the adult mysteries and literary fiction I wanted, and I enjoyed them, but they did not speak to me.
Even now, they do not speak to me. They are good books, to be sure, and can be nice escapes for me. But I will never be a CIA agent tracking down a serial killer. I will never be a man in a war. More than likely, I won't even be a woman embroiled in a life or death mystery, à la Mary Higgins Clark.
But I have been a teenager.
I think it is safe to say that the feelings associated with adolescence -- discovering things about yourself, trying things for the first time, finding your place in the world, longing for something more, wanting freedom -- those are not things you grow out of. They start in those important teenage years, but we never stop dealing with those issues. They may shift and change over time, but they never really go away.
When I dropped out of college at 21, I moved back home, full of anxiety and severely depressed. I got a good full time job that I was horrible at and eventually I felt miserable every single day. One of the perks of that job was that we could listen to audio books or music while working, and one of the ladies had a binder or two full of books on CD. I listened to a lot of adult books and they entertained me enough to keep my mind focused while at work.
But then I bought a YA audio book at the bookstore because it was on sale. The premise sounded cute so I thought I would try it. It was like a breath of fresh air after being trapped under ground for years on end.
Then someone gave me Twilight and Harry Potter. Not only was I entertained but I was enthralled. These books gave me something to be excited about because I could see myself in these stories in a way I could not with the adult books.
That is why I love YA. I can relate. I can relate because I have been through those feelings, those life-altering events that sometimes take place only within, and I may still be going through them now though in a slightly different way.
I will never be a teenage spy like in Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series, that YA audio book I picked up at the store, or a teenage art thief like in her Heist Society series, but I know what it is like to be good at something and not sure you want that for your life.
I will never be a teenage cancer patient, but I do know what it is like to not understand the things happening to you, to be sick in a way no one else seems to understand, and what it is like to lose someone you love dearly, like in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
I was not a girl who had to deal with physical abuse from a boyfriend, but I did know what it was like to lose my way, which is why Sarah Dessen's Dreamland hit home for me so much when I read it in high school. I have not read one of those thrillers or mysteries that I used to read in high school in years, but I have and will read any of Dessen's books I can get my hands on.
This is why I love YA. No matter the story, the setting, even the genre label, YA is what I love to read because it speaks to me, to the me that was a teenager, to the me that is still growing as a person and has a human being.
And now that I have been all sentimental, time for the fun stuff!