Growing up, I was the textbook definition of a bookworm, carrying a book everywhere I went à la Rory Gilmore. Whenever I started reading, I just couldn’t seem to put the book down— determined to discover what would happen next.
When you grow up loving to read, the question of “what’s your favorite book?” comes up pretty often. I knew most of the time people were half-expecting me to spew out something intelligent and sophisticated, like The Great Gatsby or something. But, the thing is, I loved—and still love—young adult fiction novels.
Saying that your favorite book is in the same vein as The Fault in Our Stars just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
I wouldn’t exactly claim my love for reading ever died down, but the habit of reading for pleasure definitely slowed to a pace during high school. I was suddenly swamped with English homework, trying to wrap my head around the classics, and I naturally began to read YA less often.
It wasn’t until I had to come back home to finish school online that I found a couple of dusty boxes in my garage, vaguely remembering when I filled them with books before moving to Philly. I swore to my mom that I was ready to give all my old books away, but I guess she knew better.
Suddenly, I found myself entangled in the imaginary worlds carefully constructed by John Green, Jenny Han, Veronica Roth, and many others once again. I hadn’t thought that there was a particular reason why I was re-reading all these books, until my mom laughed and said, “You really have nothing better to do, huh?”
At first I thought she was right, but I realized I could be doing so many things with this newfound time. Yet, I stuck to reading all these books. Why? The answer seemed obvious once I actually thought about it: I was reading for the certainty of a happy ending that tied all the loose ends.
Only then did it make sense that as I am locked up at home, hiding from a pandemic that is anything but certain, that the reassurance of finding a happy ending at the end of the pages brought me a sense of peace.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from reading YA novels, it is that no matter what obstacles are blocking the main character’s way, there will rarely be a scenario in which they don’t solve the overarching problem. If something goes wrong at the end of a chapter, you know safety lies ahead in the next one. If the book is over, then solace can be found in the sequel.
Most of the time, these novels fit a certain formula. There is a strong main character who is described in detail in some aspects, yet vague in others so that readers can easily identify with them. There is a major problem and a nasty villain. But by the end, the hero or heroine seems to conquer it all, while managing to snag the love interest in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these books do deal with pressing topics and important issues, and some plot lines do manage to go awry. But at the end, there is almost always a sense of finality and serenity to them.
Even though I will always enjoy escaping in a good book, it’s important to acknowledge that not everything in my life will be a clear path. Despite how uncomfortable uncertainty may be, sometimes it leads to necessary changes and growth. During these uncertain times when we’re fighting to solve problems that are long overdue, we must try to seize that uncertainty and take it upon ourselves to build a brighter future. But for now, it's okay that the anxiety around this uncertainty can be eased with a nice YA narrative.