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.
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?