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You + YA = YES

literati_rain66 Sunday, June 5, 2011
If you're an author or a book blogger or any one following a book lover on Twitter, I'm sure you saw the EXPLOSION of tweets last night concerning the Wall Street Journal's article on darkness in YA literature. If you were living in a cave in a remote part of Neverland, you may not have seen it and you should check it out here.

On to my thoughts.

Originally, I wasn't going to do a blog post. I went to bed last night shaking my head, too annoyed to do much more than fire off a few tweets and retweet about a hundred others. But now, after reading even more tweets, I feel the need to blog. Honestly, my reasons for reading YA cannot be summed up in 140 characters. Here's why.

I didn't have a terrible childhood, not really. It was tough, it was confusing, it was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions and feeling like a freak. Pretty normal. (now here's where we get to the nitty gritty, and where I sincerely hope my family never finds my blog) My mother is a hoarder. She doesn't clean. Maybe this means nothing to you. But for me, it seriously impacted my emotional life. I couldn't bring friends over to my house. I was ashamed of the filth, of the stacks and stacks of things that had been sitting there, untouched, my entire life. I said she didn't clean, and I'm 100% sure you cannot imagine exactly what that meant. I hated being at home. Everyone hated being at home. I used to use a washcloth and try to scrub the shower while I was taking a shower so that the stains wouldn't be so bad.

It made me feel... dirty. And what's more? Everyone knew. And they all talked. Now, I love my mom. She's my mom. But our kitchen should have been looked at by the health department. People didn't eat the food we'd bring to pot-lucks or parties. I felt shunned. Sure, people were nice enough. But there was always that look people gave each other. "Don't eat that pie... Shannon's mom brought it."

My siblings and I would try to clean, but we weren't allowed to throw anything out. So we'd try in vain, mostly just moving things around and stirring up dust and mold and then we'd get sick. We wanted a livable house. It wasn't something that we could do though. So we all found escapes. Mine was reading.

I could go to my room, open a book, and temporarily leave my house and be in a whole other world. It was bliss.

Recently I read White Cat by Holly Black. Dark YA? You BET. Good YA? GREAT YA. HECK YES. It was the first book I'd ever read that had anything close to what I grew up with. My house was chaotic and messy. (not in a good way) Cassel's house was chaotic and messy. My heart flew from my chest when I read about him moving stacks of things to sit down. He may not be real, but I felt so connected to him. I had an ally.

Now see, you may be thinking, "But she wasn't suicidal, or a drinker or a smoker, she has no right to say YA changed her life." And to that I say, dude. You don't have to have a touching story for YA to change your life. My story is one I don't tell. I'm still ashamed. My parents' house has only gotten worse since the kids have left.

I have many other reasons why YA changed my life. I was sick, I was a scapegoat, I was the forgotten fourth child. I was publicly humiliated by my mother. Called fat, called stupid. I was (am) dyslexic. I was shunned (for lack of a better term) by the church I thought had accepted me. (I committed a crime in having guys as close friends. Clearly, that meant I was a slut and not good enough to date one of their favorite guys in the youth group.) (Too bad for them, I ended up marrying him and multiple families left the church because of it.) I was a cutter. I was depressed. My self-esteem was beyond dismal. When I hit puberty, no one was there for me. No one explained anything at all. I was just... forgotten. I survived it because I read books about girls going through puberty. I used dictionaries, non-fiction and fiction to educate myself about myself. Books saved me in SO many ways.

The point is- My life wasn't great. It wasn't the worst, I know that. There are people with much more touching, much more traumatic tales than I. But if not for YA, I know for a fact that my life would not be as it is now. It would be so much worse.

I often thank authors for their honesty in my reviews. Nobody was honest with me when I was growing up, so I appreciate authors telling it how it is. Dark, it may be. But I'd rather know about the darkness than to walk blindly into it and stumble.

I think by now I'm rambling, so I'll bring this to an end. YA books are exactly what teens and young adults NEED. They need truth. They need honesty. They need to know that they are not alone, and that whatever they are going through, they can survive it and be stronger for it. They need to have a place to escape to when their life is getting to be too much for them. They need understanding and love.

Who, I ask, could take that way?


Sandy said...

Fantastic post Shannon, thank-you for sharing a part of you with us I know it couldn't have been easy.

TK Richardson said...

"They need to know that they are not alone, and that whatever they are going through, they can survive it and be stronger for it."

I agree! Your post was brutally honest and I commend you for that. Teens need to know that there are people who truly care and understand.

literati_rain66 said...

Thanks to the both of you. :)

My dream as an adult and parent is to be one of the adults that kids know they can talk to, without fear of judgement or ridicule. I think that should be everyone's dream.

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