I enjoy reading YA novels, I truly do, but sometimes I find the characters just so flat and boring. In a lot of the girly ones, the guy or love interest is an absolutely perfect teenage guy who does these super romantic or heroic things and is nice all the time, but frankly that’s just not realistic or even interesting…at all. The ones where the main character has no distinct personality and is motivated mostly by her love interest, are especially boring. I love a good love story, but why can’t we have two distinct characters with distinct personalities and destinies, that have other important things and people in their lives? I really don’t think this is too complex for a YA novel!
But wait…what I was reading when I was younger? I know when I was really young I read stuff like the Babysitters Club and every Sweet Valley High book there ever was. Yes, that’s right… the blond haired, blue-eyed twins with perfect size 6 figures, one shy one outgoing, plus tons of hilarious mix-ups…really appealed to me back in the day. I also liked this series called The Saddle Club (yeah, I had a horse phase), and I read Nancy Drew books, which when I think back I’m pretty sure it was always the same plot line in a different setting, kinda Scooby-Do-ish. I gobbled up Christopher Pike novels. I just adored the creepiness, the mystery, the murder. Remember Me, for example, was told from the perspective of a dead girl who was trying to solve her own murder. I have such fond memories of Pike’s books that I refuse to ever read them again, in case I’m disappointed. I also loved Madeline L’Engle, books. I did reread A Wind in the Door recently and it’s still absolutely fabulous. Her characters are definitely very distinct and well defined, and her female characters are smart and motivated by things other than cute boys- which is extremely cool considering this book is now 50 years old.
It was probably around age 14 or 15 that I began reading adult books. Specifically I remember being enthralled by my Mom’s Margaret Atwood novels. The themes were very adult, and I’m not sure I fully understood them, but that never took away from the experience. A lot of the themes revolved around sex, or feminism or male/female relationships, which I obviously knew very little about. But, I really fell in love with the way she used words, and played around with and questioned language and sayings. I loved the tone she used, which usually carried with it a very dry and clever humour. I also liked her characters, despite all their faults and quirks, and despite the fact I couldn’t always relate to them directly.
I know there’s a lot of controversy right now about what YA books should and should not contain, and what we should and should not let our kids read. Personally, I wouldn’t censor what my daughter reads. I was not censored and I believe reading should be about freedom, escapism, exercising the mind, and possibly thinking on important issues. I’m not saying I would never have concerns about the content of a novel, but if I did, I would 1) read it myself 2) consider context (is it glorifying sex or violence – or does it take you realistically through a character’s experiences) 3) use it as an opportunity for discussion about relevant and important topics.
What did you read as a teenager?
Do you think some books are inappropriate for teens?
Remember Me image source: fictiondb.com
Sweet Valley High image source: The YA Department