I wish, as I am sure so many people do, that I had more time to read. After all, it is the first piece of advice given to aspiring writers… “read!” When the work of the day is done, from the ministrations of my little family to the writing and efforts to get the writing read, I reach for middle grade and YA fiction. Every time. I know, as a writer for this age group, some of that inclination is for research and assessing the ‘competition’ but I read for the 10-15 year old set long before I put pen to paper. Not only that, I used to be embarrassed about it.
I wish I could get through an entire blog series as a middle grade writer without mentioning JK Rowling, but it’s too hard. That’s like writing about fantasy without Tolkien or horror with King. The first toe I dipped in the pond of kid-lit was The Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosophers Stone in the UK). I was reluctant as could be… ”I do not like stories with cute little names for things, like ‘Quidditch’ and ‘Muggles’,” but out of respect for the recommender – who was 65 at the time—I gave it a try. To this day, I break out in an enormous grin if I see an adult on the train reading a Potter and I wonder, enviously, if it is their first time. What I wouldn’t give to get back my first time!
Being transported back to your early teen years, to all that wonder and possibility, without the horror of actually having to live through the hormones, the acne and angst, is a delight. Those years are so long-past there is no painful yearning, just the pleasure of exploration and newness. I have a passion for fantasy but when I dip into YA I am just as thrilled to cry over Fault in our Stars or The Hate U Give and guess at the outcome in The Lies You Never Told Me. The worlds in many of these stories is no less horrifying, and often a great deal more so (Hunger Games, 5th Wave) than our own, but it still feels like escape. The heroes don’t have to hold down jobs, pay mortgages or make marriages work. They can thrill from head to toe over the possibility of a first kiss and don’t have to get bogged down in sexual politics. My first kiss was a dud; I wait with anticipation for that first kiss between Sophie and Fitz (Keeper of the lost Cities).
If you pour through your book lists, churn over the quality of the prose with your book groups and quiver in anticipation over the turn of phrase or the spiritual reawakening of middle age, I commend you. As for me, every evening I am happy to clip 35 years off my life and experience youth again here, or in an imaginary other place. I read like a kid, maybe one day I’ll live more like one.
Now I have to pay a bill, and walk the dog….