Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The case for children's/YA lit

Every now and then I wander up to the fourth floor of SVSU's library, where the children's/YA books are kept. I do this whenever I'm especially stressed out. (Ahem--like when Cardinal Sins is due to press within a week...)

Anyway, not only is that part of the library so quiet I can hear myself breathe, but for some reason or another, looking through the books I read when I was younger never fails to make me feel entirely at peace with myself.

Nothing irritates me more than people who disregard children's/YA lit just because they no longer fall within the age range of its targeted audience. I'm an avid reader as an adult because I fell in love with reading when I was a kid. So even now, I go back and read books targeted toward elementary/middle school-aged readers.

My all-time favorite YA author is Han Nolan, who won a National Book Award in 1997 for her novel _Dancing on the Edge_. I read that book when I was twelve years old and loved it. The protagonist was so well-developed that I actually found myself sharing her mindset. For that reason, I was as caught off-guard as she was by the things that happened to her. Psychological mindfuck, for the win--something that can only be pulled off by one hell of a good writer.

In 2006, Nolan released a new YA novel: _The Summer of Kings_. I found it in the library at my high school and, remembering how much I had loved _Dancing on the Edge_, picked it up and read it. I was surprised by how much I still loved Nolan's writing. By that time, I was 18 and reading books targeted toward adults.

Since then, I've gone back and read a few more of Nolan's books. _Send Me Down a Miracle_ and _If I Should Die Before I Wake_ are just as good as the ones I mentioned above. I think she appeals to me just as much now as she did when I was younger because she doesn't underestimate her audience. She's very political, but equally subtle: something I admire a lot in any writer who explores that territory. The fact that she does so successfully while writing for young teenagers is pretty astounding.

I probably wouldn't be reading Han Nolan as an adult had I not first read her when I was in middle school. Knowing that has made me go looking for books I never got around to reading as a kid, and I've come across some pretty interesting stuff.

You might too. Go read some YA lit (or some other genre you wouldn't normally pick up off the shelf). You just might surprise yourself. :-)

Addendum, 03/25/2010:

I just found out that Han Nolan will be releasing a new book this fall!

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