crying through reading my third YA novel of the year, and trying not to be ashamed of this fact, I thought, the reasons why a non-YA seeks out YA lit might at least be kind of like the reason she seeks out TV — except better. And I really shouldn’t be too ashamed about it, right? Let’s face it, I’m probably not alone in trying to relive a little adolescence in mid-life. But more importantly, I know there are pleasure reading levels and there are challenge reading levels. And what I’m seeking in this resolution-to-read experiment is to know what both feel like, jump right in, and eventually become a voracious and diverse reader. But, I’m stubborn and impatient and insecure — just like a teenager. So you have to deal with a little rant now and then until reading begins to civilize me.
I decided to bring for the short Christmas vacation The Perks of Being a Wallflower as 10th of the 12 books I committed to reading for my 2012 resolutions. I brought it along because of husband’s repeated suggestion of it, and because, logically, it is among the stacks on my night stand (that is starting to resemble husband’s, actually), the one that is due back at the library soonest, but mostly because I knew I would speed through it and be able to relax and enjoy passing my time with it. All these things I might say about TV, but — and, yes I know how uppity this sounds — reading, even YA, even Children’s Lit, is a better way to pass the time. Reading it in the quiet of the Christmas house, while everyone else who might need my attention was napping, had a certain quality weight to it. It made me feel full rather than drained in the way losing myself in visual media usually does.
As I mentioned, this was the third YA novel to really strike some chords, and since I’ve not written in much detail at all about any of my reads this year, I thought I’d dig deeper into what I’ve found special about these. Disclaimer — I am not a book reviewer. This will be a brief personal reflection and commentary on my own learning process through reading, and absolutely not a full and proper commentary on the merits of these books. So, read on, or not as you wish.
First, there were definitely aspects of The Perks… that I related to from my adolescence — mixed tapes, panicky feelings, and observing life more than the drug use and a solid family unit. But, as dear hubs pointed out, what’s great about these books is how they explore and often times beautifully articulate a period of our lives we probably experienced in a very inarticulate way. It was common, and intense, and forming, but unless we were gifted writers (or readers!), we lacked the words to express it to ourselves or others meaningfully. One point when Charlie is getting panicky, for example, he finds comfort in covering his head with a pillow “until the quiet slowly put the pieces back in place” (or something along those lines — dammit for letting hubs return the book before I finished this post!). While I never did that literally as an adolescent, having felt like that before, I thought as I read it:
Yes! Why didn’t I just put a damn pillow over my head every once in a while?
Interestingly, though, I more often related to the novel and the characters’ experiences as a parent. This was especially true toward the middle-end when no terrible childhood trauma and adolescent experimental consequence was left unexplored. And this is probably what’s put me in a panicky, worried mom mood since finishing the book.
I had entirely different experiences reading A Wrinkle in Time and The Fault in our Stars. I began rereading L’Engle’s sci-fi novel when my oldest was in the hospital and so, it was nice to get completely lost in a fantasy during that time. Yet, still I found articulate words of comfort here as well:
Happiness at their concern was so strong in her that panic fled, and she followed Charles Wallace into the dark recesses of the house without fear.
But as much as I hold that novel dear, my favorite of the year, even competing with the adult novels I read, was John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Here too, I related as both a kid and a parent of a (sick) kid. I can’t remember the articulate words as much as the fullness of what I learned from that book — how to treat people. This was important to me since, remarkably, I’ve only had one chance in my life so far to experience someone close to me get sick and die. And I was a miserable failure at it. This book allowed me to get close to that again, think through it, cry through it, and learn from it. I also caught myself slowing down my reading towards the end of the book because I didn’t want to stop reading it — just like those
annoying catchy quotes about bookworms say.
So, while I said I wasn’t reviewing and commenting on the merits, I will just say that I think everyone should read The Fault in our Stars. Not sure what of my other 2012 reads I’ll process through next, if any. I may be just looking to finish by January, which means 2 more books in 5 days. Possible? Maybe. I’m starting on Dan Roam’s The Back of a Napkin and may well finish one I’ve been picking up in bits and pieces throughout the year. Stay tuned.