I’ll be the first person to admit that I’ve never particularly cared for young adult books. In fact, when I was at an age to be reading that genre? I was doing everything possible to avoid the category altogether. At the time, I can recall thinking to myself that there were far better books out there which I wanted to be devouring. Therefore, I’d impress my school librarian with my “amazingly intellectual demeanor” and coax her into giving me books intended for adults (and, no, I’m not talking E.L. James. More like Henry James).
By the time I’d entered college, I’d felt secure in my opinions regarding the genre because it seemed as though books like ‘The Giver’ were being replaced with series like ‘Hunger Games’. Dystopian and popular girl turned vampire seemed to be all the rage; half heartedly, I’d tried to pick up a few books in the category and then fail miserably to complete them. The writing seemed one dimensional, the characters stale, and my interest kept drifting over to my beloved historical fiction tomes and biographies on the Milford’s.
Now, however, I find myself in a precarious position. I’m a middle school teacher working with the age group of kids that are most likely to pick up a young adult book. Now, my job as a literature instructor, is to guarantee that they leave my classroom at the end of the school year with an appreciation for the written word. While it’s perfectly appropriate and expected to focus on more serious minded texts in the classroom, I understand better than anyone the power of independent reading at home. Yet in the age of clicking, swiping, and ‘x-ing’ out of, how can I generate interest in pleasure reading?
Simple enough, in theory. I need to have a classroom library full of contemporary young adult books encompassing all of the young adult genres. But that’s not enough. As my husband will tell me, if you want to sell a product, you have to truly know it. And kids? They can tell when you’re breezing your way through a suggestion if you haven’t actually read it. It’s part of my job description to be as aware of what’s trending in the young adult world as possible. This requires some serious setting aside of time to read the young adult books that matter.
Spoiler Alert: I’ve never met a reading challenge I haven’t accepted with alacrity. Here’s to a year of growing with my students and reading outside of my typical box.