Tonight as I was writing up my bio for this blog, I got to thinking about why I like YA so much. I read a post a while back on Absolute Write, and I can't remember the exact phrasing, but somebody basically said, "I don't read to agree with a character's decisions/morals, I read to feel something." And that, to me, is the essence of why YA is so magical. It has that immediacy that pulls you straight into the story, drags you under and jams you inside somebody else's head.
The fact that you're in a teenager's head means all the feelings are intensified. Sadly, stuff gets mundane as you get older. Life gets less interesting because not as much is new. When you're a teenager you can spend a whole night driving around with your friends, doing nothing but listening to music and talking. Nowadays if I got into a car and just drove around my town for three hours, no matter how lovely my friends were, I'd lose my mind. But when you're young, there's always something waiting, something more, something fabulous and exciting or terrifying and horrible, and even as bad as things get, nothing is ever going to feel that vivid again. In YA lit, that feeling transcends all genres, whether the character is suffering through high school or piloting a space ship through distant galaxies.
I used to be a bit of a snob and only read Books of Great Literary Merit. Then several years ago, I discovered YA and I'm not gonna lie, it was kind of like crack. It brought me back to the way I felt when I read as a kid, when books immersed me in other worlds and didn't just dazzle me with their artful prose and clever devices. Don't get me wrong, I still love me some artful prose (I am seriously enamored with David Mitchell, for example). But YA pulls me instantly out of reality in a way that grown-up books don't.
As a category, YA is still relatively new, which means it can go anywhere. As crazy-frustratingly trend-driven as it can be at times, it's so exciting to be part of something that feels like it's writing its own rules. I'm so glad I discovered it and let go of my snobbery, and I can't wait to write more of it.