Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Praise of YA Lit.

Not so long ago, my best friend Sarah McGuire used to hesitate whenever she'd confess her affection for young adult fiction. She knew that I didn't really read it (I've been known to be a book snob in the worst way) and I guess she thought I'd think it was silly.

Well, I don't think it's silly anymore. In fact, young adult (YA) literature is quickly finding a place in my bookish heart, for several reasons.

First of all, I do have a 15 year old writing student, as y'all probably know if you've talked to me lately. And while I try to introduce him to adult classics all the time (Frankenstein, Animal Farm, Things Fall Apart), sometimes we're forced to read the YA novels on his school book lists. Right now, I'm waiting for my copy of The House of the Scorpion to arrive at the Mount Pleasant library branch. It's not my typical pick -- it's got science fiction and cloning and all that jazz as part of the plot -- but I'm keeping an open mind.

I've also been mentoring my tutee's sister, who's just one year younger and happens to be an avid reader. She let me borrow her copy of John Green's novel, An Abundance of Katherines, and I rather liked it. I mean, I laughed out loud at it a few times. More importantly, I realized why all the kids are crazy about John Green: he's clever and funny! Anyways, she and I have been working on a series of short fiction this summer (my latest project is about a pair of maids who work in a ritzy hotel) and the practice is definitely pleasing my muse. Who knew I could be so inspired by a teenager? Or teenage books?

And right now, bookmarked on my bedroom floor, I have a copy of a book called Fangirl by an author named Rainbow Rowell, whom Sarah recommended. I went to the library yesterday in downtown Charleston, and, for the first time ever, I made a beeline for the YA room. I wanted to find out if they had a copy of The House of the Scorpion (they didn't, so I have to wait in line) and I wanted to grab a copy of Rowell's book, Eleanor and Park, which Sarah said I would like. Plus, Sarah invited me to a Sunday book club meeting where all the members will be discussing Rowell's work.

"Eleanor and Park is all checked out," said the friendly YA librarian. "Can I offer you Fangirl, the author's earlier work?"

I happily accepted. Perhaps I can add to the conversation on Sunday.

Anyhoo, after collecting my prize, I headed to an art showing of local photography and joined the artist and a few friends for a beer afterward. But -- oops! -- I forgot about my car, which I left in the library garage, which is locked at 8 pm! And it was 7:55 when I remembered. So I ran like HECK (barefoot because I was wearing heels) and got to the library at 8:02 pm. The cops were already standing at the door, telling me that the library was closed. I was out of breath and frantic.

"Can I get my car?" i gasped.

The lady cop took me upstairs with my dirty, bare feet and asked the library employees whether any of them would be kind enough to check my ticket out. Then, a friendly face in the crowd stepped forward. It was the YA librarian from earlier.

"Oh, I remember her. I can let her out with my employee card," she said, much to my immense gratitude.

So, in the end, I parked for free, got a new YA book to devour between now and Sunday and learned an important lesson.

All books are vehicles for good in this world.

My girl Rachel and me. 

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