>If there’s one thing I love, it’s books that make me think about my feelings. I also love bunnies and pale pink scarves, or, better yet – bunnies wearing pale pink scarves. Hmmm … what else do I love? Oh yeah – being a sarcastic bastard.
Truth be told, I loathe books that prompt me to put myself in “what if” situations, especially when they’re ones centered on a 13-year-old who must endure the psychological scars of a recent rape on top of the normal tribulations of a freshman year of high school or a farmer’s daughter who’s exploring her own self as a lesbian. Upon reading them, I instantly feel like I share an emotional bond with them. This is driven by my sympathy authors of these books have no doubt looked to conjure up in their readers. I swear if I read a few chapters from them in the morning, I spend my evenings pissed off at the world for being such a shitty place.
This is my take on the Literature for Young Adults class I’m taking this semester – a course geared toward future teachers but is occasionally taken by English majors to fulfill their literature course requirements. I am the latter. I sit through and complete assignments for several journalism classes as well as partake in an American Literature course every week, all which make me view my future as a writer and reader as bright and analytical, respectively. Somewhere in the midst of all these useful courses, I get to experience the agony of taking YA Lit. To me it’s like rolling uphill in a wheelchair after racing in an Indy car.
What the fuck happened to books like The Great Gatsby and On the Road? I want to hear more about characters like Nick Carraway gaining better perspectives of the world around them, dreaming about certain places after learning the evils of another. No, I’m not using figures of speech here or referring to allegories, metaphors or symbolism (Now that I’ve said that, there’s clearly no way to argue that maybe the characters of the dreaded young adult books are really “dreaming about certain places after learning the evils of another,” but just not in a literal sense like in The Great Gatsby. They’re not, so shut up.). What’s most important is not my opinion on these books, though, but those of the kids in junior high who they’re written for. Frankly, now that I’m starting to learn about the underlying motives in these books as a senior in college, I fear what effect they might actually have on them.
When I was in junior high, I sure as shit never read any of the books my Young Adult Literature professor and her talk-all-the-bloody-time-in-class-because-they-seem-to-think-people-give-a-shit following of soon-to-be school teachers who act like they’ve been teaching kids since the John Scopes trial deem “classics” of the genre. Did I turn out to be a rapist because I never read about the psyche of a girl my age who fell victim to one? Am I presently homophobic because I didn’t read any stories about teenage lesbians? Have I ever struggled with reading? No, no and no. Fact is I came out just fine without putting myself through the agony of reading these “heartfelt” novels and therefore do not see the benefit of them at any age.
If being a middle or high school English teacher were in my future, which it just may be, I would voice this correlation between young adults and the books they read: young, vulnerable readers tend to emulate the emotions aroused by the books they read. My favorite literature was any that was based on sports, either a specific game or particular player. They filled my head with an ambitious attitude and were hugely inspiring and motivating. Go figure – I participated in sports year round in high school and grew up to be a devoted hockey, football and baseball fan. I have never done drugs (except alcohol to a huge extent) and am pretty good at being persistent and overcoming adversity – all attributes learned in sports. On the other hand, if a kid’s reading these tear-jerking, rise-up-and-overcome-against-all-odds types of books that put them in a solemn mindset the whole time they’re doing so, guess what … they’re going to end up depressed, downtrodden and virtually lifeless from a social standpoint. Hell, they’re probably going to bitch about the “bad points” of mainstream society. Present-day American culture has the remnants of kids who partook in reading these things. They’re known as the “Emo” culture and, last I checked, they aren’t typically all that stable.
That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say tonight. Can you tell I just got done reading a book written for young adults? Now where’s that Vicodin …