Hell hath no fury like my Twitter feed right now after a WSJ article about YA. I’ve seen incredibly brave blog posts from authors and bloggers in response and the #YAsaves tweets have made me remember why I love being a part of the bookish community.
I wasn’t initially going to write a post that had anything to do with this subject because after reading some of these amazingly brave and articulate posts…I’m seriously doubting what I really have to contribute. I’ve been through bad times..but nothing like some of the things I’ve read today. I don’t have this huge story to tell about how YA saved my life. But…you know..YA and reading in general has done some incredible things in my life and those around me. I’ve always been a reader. I devoured books even faster when my parents got divorced and during the messy custody battle and then our ultimate move. Books made me forget about what I heard. But at that point..I wasn’t reading books that really delve into Real Life Issues. I was still young..I was reading Little House On The Prairie, Sweet Valley High, etc. etc. I was reading to forget the nasty things that were being said and forgetting the look on my dad’s face when I told him I wanted to move 4 hours away with my mother.
Enter into my high school years. I read..but not as much. I wanted to be popular. I thought popular people didn’t read so I wasn’t going to be a bookworm anymore. I was too busy trying to decipher an AIM conversation with the Boy of the Week, going shopping and having the right stuff to be “cool.” Life was easy peasy. It was light, it was fun and I had hope. I was a good student and I loved my life. All my friends and I had these happy little lives. Then came my senior year and my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Inoperable. My teen self did not understand this. Things like this DID NOT HAPPEN. A fucking tumor…and like that my life was beyond different. I couldn’t relate to my friends and they couldn’t relate to me. They didn’t understand where this anger was coming from within me. I DIDN’T understand where this anger was coming from within me. Had this always been inside of me? Was I always this messed up? I ended up moving out for a little while because things became so hostile in my house. I cried myself to sleep, read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath over and over again and tried to be bubbly and happy when I was with people…because I didn’t want to lose my friends and I didn’t want to lose the happiness that I once had.
I didn’t read YA books during this time. But GOD..I wish I had some of these YA books that I’ve read now (as a twenty something) when I was in high school and especially during this time. I was too busy trying to grow up and being TOLD I needed to grow up. As most of you know me, I read a variety of adult, YA and non-fiction. I read them as the mood strikes. I read adult and YA that is light and fun and I read adult and YA that is dark and depressing. Because…that’s how my life is. As a YA I saw some horrible things with my mom being ill. Horrible horrible things that I can’t ever erase from my head. I said HORRIBLE HORRIBLE things that I can’t ever take back. But at the same time, there were so many fun and carefree times in my life. That’s just how it goes and I’ve found literature that reflects both of those times in my life.
I WISH I had books that were as real as the YA books I’ve read in these past few years…I wish that I could have had these books to feel not so alone during this time and to understand that the rage I felt within me was ACCEPTABLE and NORMAL…even though my friends made me feel like I was insane and “not handling things well”….considering THEY never dealt with anything like I was dealing with. They didn’t understand grief and pain of this magnitude. And I am SO happy that they didn’t have to experience that during these years of their lives. I read books now that deal with losing a parent and I find myself having a deeply personal reaction to them. Even though it has been years since my mom has passed away, I bawl and really feel something when I read these. And each time I begin to understand more and more of the feelings that I couldn’t explain back then. I realize I wasn’t a lunatic and that I wasn’t alone. Other people have gone through things like this and even worse. It’s therapeutic for me really and I wish I could go back in time and hand my teen self these books and say…”you might not be at risk for suicide or being harming yourself in any way throughout this experience…but these books…they will SAVE you from thinking that you are crazy. They will SAVE you from thinking you are alone. They will SAVE you from being too afraid to have hope ever again. You deserve to have hope.”