If you're anything like me, though, you've never really put much stock in the "grade levels"assigned to books. The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy were considered a 6th grade reading level, and yet, they reside on the book lists of college courses around the country (if not the world). Therein lies the subject of this post: Young Adult (or Adolescent) Literature.
Young Adult literature is typically defined as literature written specifically for the audience of readers aged 12-18, with themes that are pertinent to that age group. It also happens to be my favorite type of literature to read. At 23 years old, I find that the 'adult' part of Young Adult holds as much sway over me now as it did when I was 13. I've become used to the weird looks I get when I answer that age-old question, "What are you reading?" My response is usually followed by, "Isn't that book for little kids?"
You'd be surprised, though, the depth in these books that you didn't notice when you were younger, and the extent to which "adolescent" themes still apply to us old people. Plus, they're usually quick reads that are wicked engaging. I got back into YA lit when I took a course in it the summer after sophomore year of high school at Western MD college (before it was McDaniel), and since then, I haven't been able to stop reading it. It usually gets a bad rap among adults, though, as worthless kid stuff (see above re: reactions). So I'm going to start giving brief reviews of the YA books that I read throughout the year, hoping that I'll convert a few Gentlemanly readers.
In the meantime, go ahead, grab that favorite book from your early teen years and give it another read. I bet that you find hidden depths in it that you couldn't notice when you were younger, because you didn't yet have the life experience, but that resonate with you now.
Don't have a favorite? Here's a starting point: The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton, 1967) is
considered the first true YA novel, and the genre has exploded in the past 40 years. Give it a try. Or check out Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War (not to be confused with the more juvenile The Chocolate Touch). Guys, there's Chris Crusher, and girls, Judy Blume, though I find most YA lit crosses gender lines easily. Into sci-fi? I finally got around to reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card a few months ago, and it really is as good as everyone says. My heart almost stopped when I read the big reveal. Fantasy buff? Try Stardust or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I could go on, but I won't.
I'm currently reading Eragon, the first book in the Inheritance trilogy by Christopher Paolini, so that will be my first official review, coming soon. But...
... I know the comment has to be coming, so I'm going to get this out of the way first thing: the Twilight series. Yes, I've read them. Yes, I saw the movie. Yes, I want to get the DVD. And yes, I think it's creepy that a bunch of middle-aged women are now obsessed with Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner (he's SIXTEEN, for crying out loud!).
That being said, I'll be the first to admit that the books are pretty bad. The writing style is juvenile, grammatically they leave much to be desired, and their message to young women is borderline deplorable. (Gee, I wish I could meet a guy who fixates on me to the point that he creeps into my bedroom to watch me sleep without permission and kidnaps me when I want to visit my guy friends!) If you read Twilight looking to get anything intellectually stimulating out of it, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I'm not going to lie, though - as far as brain candy goes, it's an EXTREMELY entertaining story. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next, and so I was willing to overlook its many many (MANY) transgressions.
If you're looking for a romantic beach read of the supernatural variety, give Twilight a go, but for your sake and mine, don't think too much.
And if you don't immediately get the title of this post, go here: Read a Book by D'Mite