Category Archives: Books

Audaciously Adequate

It is no big secret that I love to read–even this might be an understatement. Specifically, one of my favorite genres to read is young adult (YA) fiction. Some of my favorites include, Harry Potter, The Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices series, Far From You, and countless others (shameless plug for YA fiction!!).

As I’m in my twenties, I sometimes get embarrassed that I read YA fiction. I tell myself I still read those teen novels because one day I hope to write them (which is true). I still read YA fiction because I work with kids and teens and I want to stay relevant on some front (which is also true). But plain and simply, I love YA fiction. Specifically, I love what YA fiction stands for.

YA fiction is ground breaking, and it pushes limits. Authors take hard issues such as addictions, sexuality, depression, family conflict, political stands, and personal insecurities, and weave a coming of age story that is both relevant and creative. YA authors push the envelope in ways that give readers hope, or allow readers the change to grow in empathy and simply feel.

As far back as I can remember, my favorite YA books have featured protagonists learning to overcome conflict and find they’ve always had the strength within to overcome all adversary through the power of self-belief and a kick-ass sidekick or two, not to mention some sort of romance. Most importantly, I love when characters realize they are worthy and strong and are audacious enough to act upon it.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had this idea floating around in my mind that stems from a quote I heard earlier this year. The idea is: for some, our deepest fear is that we are stronger than we hope to dare.

It is also not a secret that I struggle so hard with vulnerability, and I think it stems from this place of believe that I am far too inadequate. I paralyze myself with the fear that I am severely lacking and attempt to make up for it by putting up walls on top of walls on top of walls to shield myself in order to stave off any type of external failure as well as create a self that constantly strives for personal perfection to fight my own fears. I know I’m not the only one to believe this (at least, I hope not!).

In YA books, the main character always goes through some sort of trial and tribulation and somehow, must save the day. Prior to the trial, the character often expresses the insecurity of being dull or terribly unworthy. Perhaps they become isolated. Or they must train harder than they have ever trained, or they meet wise secondary characters that speak truth and humor into their lives. Somewhere along the line, the main character must face their trial, either alone or with a band of merry helpers. As much as I love the climax of the story–it is the build up that stands out. Somewhere along the line, through pitfalls and despair, characters realize that somewhere, even through the ordinariness, they were perfectly aqeudate. The fire-breathing dragon or militant dystopian government could only be overcome by their skill, and their skill alone. They were more powerful than they dared to dream.

clary

Clary Fray from “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare

While I don’t hope to fight dragons or overthrow governments anytime soon, I do hope to get through grad school. I do hope to do an excellent job as a counseling intern. I hope to shakedown my own walls that I have spent years consciously and unconsciously reinforcing, and I hope to be the best human I can be in all of my relationships. Most days, even now as I type this, all of these hopes are tinted by the fear that I will never be good enough to overcome and accomplish these goals. But still, a smaller, whisper-faint thought in me reminds me that I just might be more powerful than I realize. Perhaps in order to overcome my personal trials, I have already been abundantly equipped with the tools necessary to slay my own dragons and dystopian governments.

And that’s what YA fiction does–it paints a good story (depending on the author), and it reminds its readers that they are stronger and more worthy than they will ever know. YA books reminds readers that while they may be ordinary by some standards, they are perfectly extraordinary for their particular story, and that they are the necessary component to the best story imaginable–they are perfectly adequate. 

Will I ever write a YA book and have it published? I don’t know, I hope so! I also hope that the kids and teens I work with will always think me relevant enough to create a good working relationship with. Until then, and even beyond these moments, I will continue to read YA fiction. I will read it because of the sheer audacity of a few talented writers. I will read it because I love a good story. And I will read it to remind myself that I am adequate, if only I allow myself to be audacious enough to believe it. And because I’m trying to fill the Harry Potter-shaped void in my heart.

Tell me, what’s your favorite YA story?

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Literature and Faith

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One day I hope to write something that will be published. It is a dream of mine to one day walk into a bookstore and see something that I poured my heart and soul into being taken off the shelf by a curious reader looking for a fun read. Until that moment, I am content being an avid reader. One of my favorite things to read is YA fiction with elements of fantasy and dystopian worlds. When I read such works I am always amazed not only by great story lines, but by the ones who write them. I am amazed by the author, who dreamed up all the ideas and decided one day to sit down and write it out. It’s a beautiful thing.

Yet as I read these fantastical works of fiction, my thoughts are always brought back to my faith and what I believe. I don’t believe it is wrong to read books about magic and fantasy, but I do encourage readers to be careful when they read. Remember where they stand in their beliefs, thoughts, and ideals, and realize that the books they read may not always reflect the same mindset.

I strongly believe that when a writer decides to write something, even if it is fiction, they are essentially sharing a piece of “truth” that they come to believe. Perhaps they don’t believe in vampires or warlocks, but maybe they do question if there is a heaven and their characters portray that. Perhaps the writer believes in God and his or her beliefs are expressed in their protagonist.

Recently I just finished the last book of an excellent trilogy by Cassandra Clare a wonderful YA author (who may as well be my favorite writer). Her stories, in a nut shell, feature the idea of “shadowhunters” a breed of nephilim who protect humans from demons. The idea of nephilim comes from the Bible (Genesis 6:4). Her writing also features vampires and warlocks and other fantasy elements. Aside from that, and perhaps one or two more elements, her writing is not based on faith but fantasy.

Along with her books, my other favorite works include Harry Potter, John Green novels, and many more. All in all, I love works that include our ordinary world coming across extraordinary things.  Each of these writers (and countless other writers that slip my mind) have a unique talent for stringing words together in such a beautiful way that gives them an extraordinary opportunity to share the truths that they have learned.

As for me, a follower of Christ, every book I read that is not about God always leaves me thinking momentarily in what I believe in and what I hope to accomplish as a writer. When I read, I read for art, beauty, and pleasure, though I know there are many others who, when they read, they are seeking answers.

For all writers out there, those who are established writers or writers who hope to one day be published, I encourage you to remember that the things that you write hold power. The words that you pull together out of thin air to create a story are going to be read by people who have impressionable minds and by people who are simply looking for a good book to take with them to a coffee shop. As for readers, I encourage you to read a lot and keep an open mind to every book you read but remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Let the writers move you with their stories, but remember that even the simplest of books have the power to change minds.

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