Young Adult — Books
When the Harry Potter phenomenon swept across the land I did not partake. Not only did I think it was silly that so many adults wanted to read a series of books written for children, but books about a school for wizards? Um, no. No, thank you. Now, I'm no snob when it comes to my reading material. My shelves are littered with the likes of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Patricia Cornwell and Dennis Lehane. I have a smattering of really bad horror novels by random authors you've never heard of, and I even own a handful of Star Trek novels that hold a special place in my heart. I read comic books, trashy magazines, and still own my collection of Archie books from childhood. There's no rhyme or reason why my line was drawn there, at young adult fiction, but there it remained for many years.
Flash forward to Portland 2008. I made a deal with a friend that if she watch my favorite TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then I would read her favorite book... Twilight. SIGH. Even as I was making that deal I was remembering the months before when Entertainment Weekly had the newly cast Twilight lovers, Edward and Bella, on their cover and I stood there with that magazine in my hand and made fun of it for a good ten minutes. But a deal was a deal. I went to the bookstore and sheepishly made my way to the Children's Young Adult section and picked up a copy of Twilight. When I approached the cash stand I was mortified when I saw that my cashier was a cute boy with a cute smile and ... oh god I'm so embarrassed. I considered turning around right then and picking it up at a later date but then I thought, fuck it. Who cares? The cute boy cashier smiled and said nothing as he rung me up but I just couldn't let it lie so I said, "I'm joining the ranks of the crazy teen vampire lovers, I'm must be insane." He laughed and said, "You're not alone. My girlfriend loves these books." And so it began.
I tore through the first Twilight book in about a week. I was hooked. It just so happened that the movie was coming out the week after I had finished the book. I loved the fun of comparing the book to the movie and seeing all the small differences and changes they made to accommodate for time. I decided to wait on reading the second book until just before the second movie, I had to wait a year. And the same with the third. And the same with the fourth. Having those unread Twilight books sitting on my shelf waiting for months and years to be read gave me a sense of utter excitement. I was sad when I read the last one and knew without a doubt that it was all over now. So when I caught wind of another young adult trilogy that was exploding with popularity I was more than happy to see what the fuss was about. Enter - The Hunger Games.
I didn't know much about The Hunger Games before I read it but the fact that the story takes place in a post apocalyptic world was practically enough motivation right there. While reading the book I was surprised at how morbid and horrific it was. Surely this book isn't actually meant for teens. It's violent but not particularly gory, but if a book could be rated R "for themes", this one would qualify. The worst of it is perhaps in the details of the story, like the social curiosity of kids fighting each other to the death, and the popularity contest among the reaped children that could very well boil down to starving or dying in the arena if you are not liked best. But we follow an extremely strong female character who is vulnerable and scared yet determined to win. While there are elements of love and dedication throughout the story it's not bogged down with love interests and lessons of the heart. Instead we have a story about loyalty, honor, survival and rebellion. I devoured all three books in about 10 days and cried like a baby when I finished the third. I don't think I've ever been this excited to see a movie in my entire life.
So what is it about these young adult novels that send adults into a fit of teenage-like frenzy? Part of it, I think, is that the authors take themselves less seriously, they don't write these books to win awards and I think that leads to a less confined, better crafted story. The characters and worlds are more colorful and vivid and fun. These books are are well-written and fast-paced and there to entertain you, to take you on an adventure. And there's just something so special about following characters of this certain age. They're still finding out about themselves and making impulsive choices, they're more open and vulnerable and trusting and they tend to have more redeeming qualities about them than adults. They're less concerned with how their lives should be and more interested in how to live them. And maybe that's why we love them so much. Because among the jobs and the bills and the kids and the petty fights and house repairs, we occasionally need a reminder that our lives can be magical, too.
Love, love, love your last paragraph. You put it perfectly. I too, loved The Hunger Games. Total guilty pleasure!
Ahem. Faaaaabulous post, as always, but I need to clarify a few points. 1) Twilight is NOT my favorite book, either ever, or even of the series. I made you promise to read it because it was super fun to read and I felt about Buffy the way you did about Twilight- and probably worse because I'd felt that way for a long, long time - and through other friendships. Plus it was, I felt, almost identical subject matter - teenage girl, vampires, etc. Little did I know I would love Buffy so or that you would end up a bigger Twilight guru than I. It was one of the oddest ways to bond ever, but it turned out to be meaningful to me since I am the most stubborn person in the world and conceding ground like that to another person was sillybout hard and taught me a good lesson about being Judgey McJudgerson. 2) I totally also introduced you to The Hunger Games. Yes, I am the best friend EVER. Because I too like the kiddie books - I just usually wish they were smuttier. Jesus. I really am all me, me, me. Sorry 'bout that. ;)
Okay... thanks for clarifying those things. But to add my own clarification I actually found out about The Hunger Games through an Entertainment Weekly review of Mockingjay. I then told you about it and you said you knew all about them and that you'd ordered the trilogy through Powells and then I borrowed them from you.
I just finished book 2.
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