Sunday, June 25, 2017

My current dilemma: Edging away from Y.A.

As many of you may know, I have been an avid reader since I was very young. I was that one kid who preferred to read the bedtime stories to my younger siblings, rather than have my parents read it to us. I loved storytelling, and I loved immersing myself in wondrous worlds that I could weave to life within my head by simply perusing a page.

Being a reader for so long means a lot of things: It means developing a unique world view; it means going through awful reading-slumps; it means choosing to indulge in novels at the expense of slightly alienating myself from those around me; and at last, it means growing out of and growing into a plethora of genres.

I remember picking up my first Young Adult novel in middle school. There was a kid in my English class who sat at my table, and every few weeks, he would bring along with him a new book to read, and subsequently share it with the rest of us who sat with him. It was there that I was introduced into the incredible world that is Young Adult Fiction, or simply, "YA." I recall first reading The Hunger Games (and yes, this was before it was a movie and a hype), then Thirteen Reasons Why, then the Divergent series (I just realized how all three of those have now been made into motion pictures), and so on. I was hooked. Ridiculously hooked. I clung to YA fiction like oxygen. My eighth grade year, I discovered the one and only John Green. Starting with The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns (this, too, was before they were turned into films and swallowed by pop culture). John Green, quite frankly, became my idol. I praised his writing, I read his novels religiously, over and over and over. I couldn't get enough of his cynical, witty main characters that were not much older than I.

And, I think that's ultimately why I loved YA fiction so intensely. All the characters were marginally close to my own age (thus, young adults), and were going through similar tumultuous changes in thought and environment. I appreciated that tremendously. These were kids who were often "different" from everyone else. They were the social outcasts, the troubled teens that no one understood. Their stories resonated with me on a deeply personal level. These YA novels were not simply a treat I read for the adventure of it; they were a consolation to my very lonely and confused teenage heart.

I remained largely submerged in YA fiction throughout high school as well. I read YA romances, YA historical fiction, YA fantasy, you name it. As before, this genre was my safe haven.

Another big reason behind my ardor for YA was its fluidity,  the ease with which it could be read. I devoured YA novels like candy. I had no trouble getting through at least two or even three a week. It did not require much effort to understand the novels or the language. The novels were, indeed, designed for kids my age: rather simple diction, minimal literary merit.

It wasn't until just a few months ago, during the last half of my senior year of high school, that I began to question my loyalty to YA. Suddenly, I was not feeling so sure about the genre anymore. Novels and series that once captivated me in an instant abruptly began to disinterest me. I began leaving many of the books I started unfinished, lying around my bedroom, begging to be opened again. But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. Was this the beginning of the end of an era?

Yes, indeed, it was.

The feelings that were difficult for me to decipher back then come much clearer to me now. I know now that my sudden detachment from YA was not, in fact, something that was wrong with me, but rather my transition into a new chapter of my reading life: one in which I said goodbye to the Young Adult genre, and waved hello to another.

During that time of transition away from YA, I felt like something was missing. I felt like YA could no longer satisfy me. It could no longer fulfill my crave for literature. I wanted something more.

But what?

Although it took me some time to finally put my finger on it, I ultimately discovered and understood what it was that I, personally, was now looking for in the books I read. I was looking to go deeper. I was looking for novels that I could dissect to bits, novels that were not solely about adventure and romance, but novels that touched upon highly serious topics, topics that were perhaps even too extreme to fall between the borders of Young Adult Fiction. And, I found what I was looking for in Literary Fiction.

Now, I am not going to go into a whole spiel about literary fiction, because I'm sure that could be saved for another post within itself. However, I will touch upon it a little. I, personally, have found literary fiction to be incredibly interesting. I love the beauty of the language, the versatility of topics and themes, and the literary merit. I think when some people think of literary fiction, or simply literary merit, they often tend to associate it with pretentiousness and even arrogance. I hope to make it a point that I am in no way deriding Young Adult fiction, and in no way proposing Literary Fiction to be superior. All this is entirely based upon my own bias, and my transition from YA to Literary Fiction was something that I don't think I could honestly help. As a life-long reader, going through changes in reading interests is completely natural, and this shift in tastes was bound to happen for me sooner or later. YA fiction will always be a part of me. I am never going to cease reading it entirely, simply not as often. YA fiction taught me to love myself, to be fierce and passionate and wildly unafraid. It taught me to seize every opportunity that tumbles my way, to work diligently and persevere. Young Adult fiction was the genre that pulled me through my adolescence, and largely helped define the person who I am today.

Now comes the time for a new journey, as I venture into a new road, previously untraveled.
Eventually, someday in the future, I will most likely grow out of Literary Fiction, and become enamored with another genre. And the cycle will continue.

This is, of course, just the life of a book aficionado.