Young adult novels can put fun back into reading


Forget about literary devices. Forget about analysis. Forget about reading quizzes. Required class readings have taken the enjoyment out of reading and summer is the perfect time to take back the fun.

For so many of my friends and peers, reading books is a punishment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember when reading was fun? Or when you were still excited for library time? For most, that’s back in elementary and middle school when we could still read what we wanted. We read about everything from a wizard’s life growing up surrounded by Muggles, to the poor orphan adventurers that lived in a boxcar, to the adolescent criminal mastermind attempting to steal from elves. We read books that appealed to our adventurous and imaginative natures and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing that now.

Even a voracious reader like myself can sometimes get burnt out by boring and overly-depressing books. But this past semester I found a solution to book burn-out that has helped me, and I think can help you. Read a young adult fiction book.

Last spring, I took ENGL 545, Literature for Adolescents, as a once a week class that met Monday nights from 7:05 to 9:55. This was a required class and the latest class I’d ever taken. I was skeptical about the attendance of the class, particularly my own, but that late Monday night class turned out to be one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken here. And the reason was simple: I loved the teacher and I loved the reading list.

Anne Phillips, associate professor of English, has an incredible amount of knowledge about young adult and children’s literature. Phillips was one of the first genuinely caring and concerned teachers I’ve ever had at the collegiate level. She handled the content in an approachable, smart and fun way. I think she inspired the whole class to think a little differently about young adult literature. YA lit isn’t just sappy teenage drama and thoughtless content that might come to mind when you think of adolescents. We read books that dealt with heavy, real world issues like depression, war, identity crisis and loss.

Reading YA books is refreshing because the books are an easier read, but they still address real concerns in an intelligent fashion. I described three different book series above, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner and the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. These series were popular when I was in elementary and middle school. I remember hurrying to the library to try and check out the next Artemis Fowl before one of my peers did. I remember shutting myself in my house for the weekend with new Harry Potter books to read day and night until I finished.

Recently I’ve seen that same fervor over The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. All these books were written for young adult audiences.

You can find a plethora of young adult books at the public library, at The Dusty Bookshelf and online. To guarantee a good choice, look for books that have won YA awards like the Alex Award, the Margaret A. Edwards award or the Michael L. Printz award.

Reading is a way to experience different time periods and cultures, build thinking skills and vocabulary and improve focus and concentration. These are just a few of the positive side effects that come from simply reading a book.

Another positive aspect of reading, especially for college students tight on money, is that it’s cheap. For the price of a movie ticket you can buy a used paperback or two from The Dusty Bookshelf, or for the price of your time, you can walk to the Manhattan Public Library and check out any book for free.