Young Adult fiction: why I love it. 

Teenagers are pretty amazing little things. They manage to juggle love, life, study, social and fun much better than any self respecting adult I know of (I mean seriously – I can’t think of anyone in the adult world who has the perfect work/life balance!) but at school you’ve normally got it just right, and I don’t ever think that should be over looked. 
Teenagers can teach us a lot. Not simply how ‘sick’ (cool – not ill) something is, or how to wear your hair in the perfect, balanced ratio of shaved, to flopping over on one side of your head, or even which trainers are the most fashionable – right here, right now. 
No. They can teach us how to be better human beings, and how to really enjoy life (and hold all your shit together). 
On holiday over the past week, I have completely binged on fictional books. Three young adult (YA) ones and another, slightly more grown up read. 
When I read, I want to choose something light-hearted and fun (I do enough of the dense reading for things on the curriculum), this is my down time. 
YA books are a guilty pleasure of mine. Who cares if I’m now in my twenties? I often find it easier to relate to the life of an 18 year old than I do to a middle aged divorcee anyway. And what do we class as young adult? Can I still fit into that category? I’m not sure I even care! I could give you some spiel about how reading YA fiction helps me with my teaching, and how it’s great to be able to recommend books to your students (all true) but if I’m honest with you, I just love it. 
This past week, I indulged in one of my favourite authors (Paige Toon – check her out if you like a light hearted read!) whose new book was all summer vibes, hot guys and Hollywood lives. The book gives you a sneak peak into one of Toon’s well loved characters, but this time – from his daughter’s perspective. Although we have not all had first hand experience of being an uber-hot, world famous rock star’s daughter, who gets to attend A-list parties; it is a treat to indulge in the idea of it – and how cool that life might have been (given half a chance!) 
But more exciting than anything this year, was discovering a new author. An author who had me hanging on every word, excited to turn every page, and unable to think of anything other than her loveable, realistic, and raw characters. 
Rainbow Rowell. An author I have seen pop up on several sites recently, and somebody who I was intrigued to ‘give a go’. 
Her bestselling book ‘Eleanor & Park’ follows the story of two teenagers from completely different worlds, who came crashing into one another’s lives. The story shows the development of how a stranger can suddenly become so much part of your life, it’s like they were there all along. 
The story is beautiful. It reminds you what it’s like to be a teenager, to have the weight of the world on your shoulders, and how the look of one person, the touch of somebody’s hand on yours, or simply the company of someone who cares, can send your whole being; spiralling into a different universe. 
The story reminds you how sweet life can be, even when you’re going through something shit. 
Rainbow Rowell writes with grit and gumption. She is not afraid to swear, or to make her characters nerdy and normal. She shows life as it is for a teenager. The difficulties of a new situation. The realities of how horrible other kids can be. And she certainly doesn’t sugarcoat how shit some people’s home lives really are. 
And I respect that. It’s refreshing. 
Without getting too much into a full on book review – Rowell’s books made me realise how much we might take our students, or children, for granted. Do we realise the pressures that they are facing, and the fact that they are still managing to bob along in a pretty convincing manner? Do we give them enough credit for this? In fact, do we give them any credit at all? 
How great is it to be young and free? To have no pressures and minimum levels of stress – and to live life to the full. I think we need to let kids know that this is okay – y’know you still need to get your head down and do well (I’m not disregarding that fact) but I also think they need to have the message loud and clear – that it is okay to have fun. 
I would love to meet my 14 year old self again, and tell her to loosen up a bit, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you to be square, you might as well relax some of the time. 
I also think if we let kids know it’s okay to enjoy themselves, we might start enjoying them a bit more too. Looking around at families on holiday, it was like some parents resented their kids just for being there, cramping their style. Whereas actually, as an onlooker all I saw was well behaved and happy kids, who were making the most of being young – and what is there to resent about that (apart from being jealous that you can’t do it all over again!) 
Anyway, side bar – I got a bit distracted there and I’m sorry if you’ve lost track of this, I suppose I got a bit caught up in my love for YA fiction. But what I’m really saying is I think everyone should read some YA stuff and remember what it’s like to be 15,16,17 etc. Teenagers are amazing little things y’know – it’s a shame to just ignore that. 


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