Why You Should Love Young Adult Fiction

Throughout my life the words “active imagination” have been used to describe me more times than I can count. As a child, the world was a magical place filled with fairies, floors made from lava, avalanches of couch cushions, and, of course, the occasional transformation of myself into a countless number or magical creatures and characters. For example, I used to pretend orange tic tacs were small doses of polyjuice potion, from the wizarding world of Harry Potter, that kept me from transforming into my real self, an evil genius. This resulted in me rationing my tic tacs to one every hour and of anything that could be seen as an antidote (AKA water).. Unfortunately, I could not stay an evil genius or a princess forever. Unlike Peter Pan, I had to grow up. Slowly my sparkly pink dresses got to small, my barbies turned into flashcards, tic tacs became just another candy, and the mountain of stuffed animals that had once covered my bed became a mountain of never ending homework. I was suddenly being told that there is no such thing as Santa Claus and liking faires, sleeping with stuffed animals, and jumping on couches is considered “childish”. The vast majority of the population would take this in stride and let the world extinguish their last bits of childhood wonder. I am not apart of this population. I saw that my magical kingdom was under attack and just like the warrior princess I had always thought myself to be I protected my territory. How did I do this? I found books that kept my spark of child-hood wonder alive. In particular, books you can find in the young adults section of your local bookstore. 

Yes, you heard me right. I, Tess Harvey, an 18 year old freshman in college read books about superheroes, fairies, princesses, and daring quests instead of political theory, war, and the French revolution. Now, before you make any judgment, let me explain. Here are a few reasons why I love these types of books:

  • ​They are simple.

By this point, I have read over 30 different books from this genre. I have also read books from the more adult section. One of the biggest differences between the two is that young adult books are easy reads. Without fail, I can sit down, read my book for 3 hours straight and never get a headache. There are no complicated metaphors or sentences that you have to look up to understand. There is no need for sparknotes or intensive annotations. All you need is an open mind, some popcorn, maybe a cup of hot cider, and a blanket to get into the story. 

  • They bring you into a world nothing like our own.

When you have an imagination as big as mine, reading can be a transformative experience that changes the world around you. When I read about a crew lost at sea or a witch being hunted down by a clan of evil robot trees, I find that I can see each scene in vivid detail (sometimes I think I can hear or smell what the main character hears or smells). Keeping this in mind, I find when an author tells a fictional story along the lines of something that is actually happening in the world, the plot can sometimes hit too close to home and cause stress. That being said, I do believe there is a time and place for such stories and encourage you to expand your mind through hearing about others trouble. But, I also believe that being immersed in a world that is nothing like our own can be helpful and more fun. As a woman who has fought through severe depression and anxiety, reading about a fictional world where houses are made from candy can be a nice break from the sometimes dark world around me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some adult fiction books that deal with fairies and magical creatures, but, in my experience, these stories get wrapped up and overcomplicated with politics, sex, or violence very quickly. Overall, the world of a young adult fiction book can give you a break from the troubles of our sometimes non-wonderous world.

  • The books are filled with accessible feminist themes.

In recent years, the feminist movement has been promoting the use of strong female lead roles in books and movies. Due to this there has been a boom in female power centralized stories. That being said, there is no shortage of men taking the lead in adult fiction. Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret. You may be thinking that these young adult fiction books must be filled with men saving the damsel in distress because that is the story in almost every book about a princess. In that case, you are VERY wrong. The young adult fiction industry has been tellings stories of women who get up and fight for themselves for years, even before the feminist movement started picking up speed. The amount of books that I have read that have the “the man is coming to save her, but no she can save herself” or “the man is in distress and the warrior princess is coming to save him” plot line is innumerable. Additionally, most of these books tell stories about women learned to defend themselves and even have examples of women saying no to men who were trying to belittle them or sexual assault them. Plus, all these lessons are in easily understandable terms that girls of any age would understand. In my opinion, the young adult fiction genre has been doing a better job supporting the feminist movement for all ages than the adult fiction genre for years.

  • Why not?

Why not read a book meant for young people? Is it because you feel as though you will be judged? Called childish, dumb, or uneducated? Is it because you are scared that you will like it and have to admit to yourself that you have always loved unicorns? Whatever the reason is, I challenge you to think deeply about the question “why not?” Additionally, I encourage you to keep an open mind and let these books reignite those sparks of child-like wonder that many of you lost so long ago.

Now, here are a few of my personal favorites to get you started:

  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles are futuristic retellings of classic fairy tales. In CINDER, a teenage cyborg (half human, half machine) must deal with a wicked stepmother,start a rebellion against the evil Queen Levana, and decide how she feels about a handsome prince. As the series continues, Cinder forges alliances with Scarlet, a spaceship pilot who is determined to solve the mystery of a missing loved one — with the help of a magnetic street fighter named Wolf; Cress, a computer hacker who is imprisoned by Queen Levana; and Winter, a princess who's in love with a commoner, and who discovers that Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress may hold the key to saving her kingdom — and the world. (https://lunarchronicles.universeofmarissameyer.com/books/)

  • Renegades by Marissa Meyers

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone... except the villains they once overthrew. Nova the main character) has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both. (goodreads.com/book/show/28421168-renegades)

  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10194157-shadow-and-bone)