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“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying?”

“It sets a dangerous precedent.”

“For avoiding pain?”

“For avoiding life.”

Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

If you see a glimpse of yourself somewhere between these lines, Young Adult fiction, popularly known as YA, might just be the thing you need in life right now.

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is about 19-year-old Cath, an introvert who struggles to adapt to the new world of college. This description of the book may not seem particularly intriguing or make you want to read this novel. Honestly, the novel’s plot or its setting isn’t particularly life-changing either. However, at a time when the world seems to be going through a collective existential crisis, this book will give you something that’s hard to find these days – comfort.

You see, the strength of a YA novel like Fangirl lies not in its story but its characters. The reason why YA has become such a popular genre lately is because these books have relatable flesh and blood characters. American novelist and activist, James Baldwin once said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” It’s possible that when Ari from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe says, “I have always felt terrible inside. The reasons for this keep changing.” he may be describing your life. The heart-warming friendship between Simon and his friends in Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda is something you have (or crave) or even something as simple as Percy’ sarcasm in the Percy Jackson series, while reading YA you may come across not only the people you see around you every day but maybe even yourself.

Such books can make you discover things you never knew about yourself and may bring back the magic that you once believed in as a child. You may be cynical of the fact that the writing isn’t perfect, or that the 16-year-olds say profound things like “Stories can make someone immortal as long as someone else is willing to listen.” Or you could just for a moment tell your inner literary critic to keep quiet and let the words and emotions wash over you.

A YA novel may also present an idealistic love story or a less than interesting premise at times but that is what makes it so perfect. With all the troubles of college stress and raging hormones, it’s comforting to know that your western counterparts are going through similar, if not identical problems. From To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, here is a reason why so many YA novels get adapted into hugely successful movies. I can assure you, like in most cases, the book is better than the movie.

That doesn’t mean that such novels have no story element to them at all. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief explores the life of Leisl in World War 2 Germany. Suzanne Collins’ gut-wrenching bestseller The Hunger Games is about a post-apocalyptic world where teenagers are forced to kill or be killed in a violent game show of sorts. That Hate You Give by Angie Thomas is about a black girl who becomes entangled in a national news story after she witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend. What follows is a story of pain, power, and protest. A group of students retaliating against systemic injustice and sparking a revolution. Seem familiar?

In the lockdown, I rediscovered the joy of finding pieces of my younger self between the pages of such books. It’s funny how much yet how little has actually changed. I realized that while I still have the insecurities I did as a teenager, I have also grown into a person who knows how to deal with them. Laughing at the sheer awkwardness of being sixteen made me feel a little better about inching a step closer to my twenties.

Even if it doesn’t have the charm of an Agatha Christie mystery or the thrill of a Dan Brown adventure or the literary depth of a Jhumpa Lahiri book, a YA novel can, if only for some time, whisk you away to a different place. It can change the way you look at the world and the people around you. If even that isn’t possible it can at least make for an enjoyable weekend read. And that, folks, is why YA novels deserve your time.

Snigdha's articles are better than her bios. An English major, reading and writing play a pivotal role in her life. On a bad day, you can count on her to make it better with poetry, a playlist and a steaming hot bowl of Maggi.    
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