So you may have heard about that new Hunger Games movie or know a little something a boy named Harry, but honestly, why should you be reading young adult literature (YA Lit)? Isn’t it just for kids?
Actually, no, YA Lit is awesome because it can teach some great lessons that you will actually enjoy learning. YA authors are the best- kind, funny and insightful (I have about 15 great three minute interviews with the coolest of these authors on my VocabGal blog) and the books themselves are a much faster and more entertaining read than most business manuals.
1.You can learn how TO and how NOT TO lead. My friend, an AP Government teacher, refused to read Harry Potter for years until her high school seniors finally convinced her the books were about politics. After starting the series on audiobook (reader Jim Dale gives a truly spectacular performance that makes the books better than you could imagine), she would start volunteering to drive places so she could continue listening. Needless to say, the lessons we learn from the weak and powerful leaders throughout J.K. Rowlings’ novels can teach us a great deal about the importance of compassion, the need to listen and the necessity of making tough, ethical choices.
2. You can learn to be more compassionate towards your customers. I have to admit it, I’m not always sympathetic toward my students who seem to keep making poor choices. However, after reading Ellen Hopkins’ novel, Crank, I can totally see how ‘normal’ people end up doing drugs and not being able to stop. Her subsequent novels tackle tough subjects like abuse, neglect, and homelessness but are so powerful, realistic and compelling that you speed right through them! Plus, they are told in free verse poetry (it reads like prose), so despite the heft of over 400 pages, you can finish each book in a few hours. Essentially, we need to understand the plight of the customers we serve to better address their needs-YA Lit can give us that vicarious experience without leaving us too dejected to continue to make a difference.
Other great YA reads that inspire understanding:
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green–an insightful & upbeat novel about teens with cancer
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt-I can’t explain this one besides saying it was my favorite book of 2011-just read it!
Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri-fiction about the real-life cowboys & citizens on the urban streets of Philly (fun fact-my brother Steve & author “G” are friends because their wives are colleagues!)
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver-a typical mean girl has to relive the last day of her seemingly perfect life to gain some perspective
Scrawl by Mark Shulman- told from the bully’s perspective who has issues of his own
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher-my students’ favorite-a kid gets audio tapes from a girl who committed suicide two weeks before -and she explains on the tapes that he got them because he’s one of the 13 reasons she did it.
3. You can gain a new perspective on the government. The Hunger Games is the first in the huge new wave of dystopian YA lit. If you haven’t read it, you MUST grab a copy of Suzanne Collins bestseller (my dad just got his copy to take overseas!). The book has more suspense than any other book I’ve read, and the omnipotent “capital” is a mix of DC politics, LA fashion and NYC eccentricity all rolled into one. Essentially America is divided into 13 “districts,” and the way that each district contributes to and regards the capital’s rule is a fascinating study on how people react to government control. Overall, we can learn a lot about the positives and negatives of our own governmental systems through examining the imagined (yet realistic) extremes of what our government could become.
Other great dystopian YA Lit:
The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth-you have to pick your faction-Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless or Erudite (my VocabGal heart just LOVES this series!)
The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie -the government decides your occupation & your spouse choice
The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver -love is a disease you must be cured of and science is the only religion
The Giver by Lois Lowry (a classic I can’t help but include) – it seems like a perfect society, but…
Overall, I study the classics with my students, but we also study YA lit beause it is great writing that has much to tell us. To paraphrase YA author Andrea Cremer, “young adult literature isn’t a genre, it’s just a point of view.” I truly believe this as the YA authors I meet and interview for my Vocab Gal blog are smart writers whose books have great lessons to impart in enjoyable and poignant ways. Again, check out some of these great author interviews on my website, or read my more universal reasons why everyone loves YA lit on the other blog I write for-GirlsintheStacks.