Most adults say they'd never want to relive their high school years. It feels funny saying that considering where I work, but I think we all understand where the sentiment comes from. The teen years are a time of enormous change and development as you struggle to find your passion and identity. You survive by having good friends and something, a sport or hobby, that means everything to you.
For many of us that something was (often still is) reading. The transformative properties of literature are well documented. You can go anywhere, see anything, move about time and space and discover characters who feel more like friends than fiction. As a writer my main goal is to create characters people can relate to. When readers believe in and root for the characters, the reading experience reaches its zenith.
When I graduated from high school in blahblahblah19blahblah85blahblah the Young Adult book market had just started to take off. Children's Literature and Classics dominated the library back then. I was too old for Nancy Drew and too young for say, Jacqueline Susann. I devoured everything I could find from Paula Danzinger to Lois Duncan. There never was enough.
Well times have changed. If anything would tempt me to turn back time, it would be for the books. I can't believe the choices the kids have today. I don't think reading ever became unpopular, but if I had to pin-point when it became visibly popular again, I'd go with when the second or third Harry Potter came out. And it hasn't slowed down since.
The YA Holy Trinity of publishing success are the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series and, more recently, The Hunger Games trilogy. In between these are thousands of other series or single titles that cover everything from Greek heroes (Percy Jackson series), more wizards (Nickolas Flamel series), fallen angels (Hush, Hush and Fallen series) to engaging realistic fiction titles (by John Green, Sarah Dessen and Gordon Korman) and more dystopian societies than you can shake a stick at (Maze Runner trilogy, Matched trilogy and don't forget all the zombie apocalypse books).
Maybe it's a good thing I didn't have this many choices when I was young; I never would have left the house. To focus on quantity isn't the right approach however. The quality of the writing and the complexity of the narratives can stand up to many adult novels. You certainly don't have to be a teen to enjoy these books, which is the good news.
The bad news? At my age, I lack the stamina to pull off a reading all-nighter. It will take years for me to catch up on all the hot titles our HHS students love.
Better get started!
***A big thank you to the students, parents and faculty who generously donated books in our Second Annual Amazon Book Drive. We received about 40 titles, many of which have already been checked out, returned and checked out again. We couldn't do what we do (and have as much fun doing it) without your support. ***