I fantasize about going back to high school with the knowledge I have now.
I was a teenager when I first started working at the library, a long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away. At that time, most of the grown-ups browsing in the Young Adult section were in search of something for their kids to read. Fast forward several decades, and that’s all changed.
These days, with the huge success of series such as Twilight and the Hunger Games, adults are reading teen fiction in unprecedented numbers. While YA novels are written with adolescent protagonists, the story lines and concepts hold a great deal of appeal for all ages. Look at John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – the humour and pathos we experience with Hazel and Gus transcends their chronological age. There’s an added appeal for me as a reader in that reading YA fiction is like boarding a time machine and going into the past. I can revel in re-living how I felt and thought at that point in my life, with the added attraction of knowing that I never have to attend high school again.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a book I would have loved when I was a teen, and that my inner adolescent still enjoys. The slowly unfolding relationship between Eleanor and Park that defies their parents and their peers is a romantic’s dream. The book is set in the 1980’s, so it gives a great hit of nostalgia for the music and fashions back in the day.
The Wildlings series by Charles de Lint is great retroactive wish fulfilment for me. I remember yearning for the ability to morph into a totally different shape, and the teens in this series can do just that – change shapes from human to animal, and back again. But all is not sunshine and roses. The evil adults in the community are bent upon controlling the Wildings, and the teens are equally determined to remain free.
I’m a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books, and her two YA series Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising gives the same thrills and chills, with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, as well as teen crushes and worries about how to fit in at school. If your version of high school includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the series for you.
There were a lot of great YA books published in 2015, but this one is one of my personal favourites. We are all made of molecules is the story of two teens who move in totally different social circles at their high school. Stewart is a brainy, unpopular nerd, and Ashley scores high on popularity but low on grades. The two are forced to figure out how to interact with each other at home and at school when their parents move in together.
A good story is a good story, regardless of the age of the characters. Remember, Shakespeare’s Juliet was only 13 years old. So the next time you’re searching for a good book, have a look at young adult fiction and unleash your teen spirit.