I’ve been sifting through a number of really heavy thoughts lately. My life’s changed a lot in the last year, and my priorities and goals professionally and personally have shifted pretty dramatically. I guess you could say that I’ve found everything moving a little too fast and that there’s been way too much pressure to stay on top of everything.
It’s really challenging to keep up on reading, and it’s even more challenging to make sure I’m writing thoughtful reviews on every book that comes into my house. I realize my privilege in receiving books for review, especially when they’re books so many people are clamoring for.
Part of what makes blogging and reading and reviewing challenging for me is that I am one half perfectionist and I’m one half incredibly laid back. So, it’s tough to rectify the first part — my perfectionism — with the second part. I want my blog posts and my reviews to be perfect, but I also don’t want them to come off as too try-hardy. I struggle regularly with this personality quirk, and it’s something that’s led me to do a lot of thinking and a lot of reading about finding a sense of balance. Because right now, balance is something I so sorely need in my life.
Fortunately, over the last week, I’ve read a couple of things that have hit home the truth of the matter in a way I didn’t think about before. Probably because it’s so, so scary and so life changing for me. Thinking about this has been hard, but actually putting this out there, publicly, on the blog I love writing so much, is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
I’m giving up reading and reviewing YA books.
I was really grateful to stumble across this article because it really nailed what I’ve been struggling with lately. Reading all of these YA books at breakneck speed and racing through my piles of review books has led me to forgetting the real joy in reading. In sitting back and having a book challenge my perspectives and in sitting back and having a book force me to confront the gross things in my life. I can’t recall the last YA book I read that begged me to look at the world differently or pushed me to really think about characters or their struggles. Moreover, I don’t remember the last YA book I read that actually STUCK with me. YA books are like candy. As soon as I finish one, I move on to the next one and forget completely about what the last one was about (vampires, right?).
So while I lingered over what Maura Kelly said in that piece, I was alerted to another piece that only further solidified my decision. Stein does an excellent job in this article, and for once, I feel like he gets to the heart of my own problem with YA lit: there isn’t depth to the language and certainly, there’s not depth to the characters. Racing through all of these books leaves me feeling empty and sad because I cannot connect to these teenagers. They’re all so shallow. So one-dimensional. And the writing itself always leaves something to be desired because it’s stilted, hollow, and lacks inspiration.
In short, I’m not learning anything from reading YA.
It’s time for me to walk away and not turn back because I have better books waiting for me. The kind that are slow burns. The kind with real depth of character, with thoughtful and intelligent use of language. The kind of books that get to the heart of matters and make me evaluate my own life and my own beliefs. I want a book that makes me cry because it so perfectly captures what it feels like to go through something Important and Life Changing. Because I struggle so much with my own perfectionism/laid back attitude, I need to read books that help me better refine those two characteristics so that I do not struggle with writing a review. Because I only want to review the books that demand a review. By taking a step back from what I’m doing now and slowing down, focusing hard on just the things that are good for me, maybe I will quit feeling like I’m never doing this right. Our time here is limited, right? And since everything on the internet is so fast-moving, so ephemeral and flash in the pan, I should only be writing about the things that truly Matter.
It’s a good thing no YA book has ever made me think about or relate to what it’s like to grow up with an absent father, or what it means to survive when you feel you have nothing left to live for, or heck, what it’s like to grow up embracing your imperfections in a world where everyone expects you to do or be a certain and acceptable way. None of the books in YA have ever shed light into how I could think about my own challenges or how I could look at a problem in a new way. Or how I could relate to someone who maybe had a similar experience as I did.
I’m only going to find that in quality Literature.
It only took three years of blogging to figure this out, but better late than never, right?
Happy April Fool’s Day to all of the fools out there thinking that YA lit is nothing but the bottom of the barrel in the book world. You make it a more enjoyable place for those of us who love it and want nothing more than to talk about how it relates to us all because adolescence is a universal human experience.