There's been some debate recently about the worth in adults reading books written for children or teens.
I've enjoyed many a YA book in my day, so when I first read the headline, I simply dismissed it as hogwash. And then my friend Anne rebutted it quite poignantly, and I proceeded to cheer enthusiastically.
One of the commenters on Anne's post quoted Madeleine L'Engle, and I wondered why I'd never thought about it this way before: “I am every age I’ve ever been.” I love that quote. I feel its truth when I read books about characters younger than me. (Update: Further research attributes this quote to Anne Lamott. I wrote more about this in 2018.)
Ms. L'Engle also said this: "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children." That one makes me smile a bit.
Stories are powerful, and just because I'm (technically) an adult doesn't mean I can't be moved by a story written for a younger audience. They might make me feel like I can be strong & brave, unique and more than I realize, or even... a writer.
And while I appreciate wordy, well-written prose as much as the next book-lover, sometimes the story is powerful enough to eclipse words that might not be strung together as eloquently as a classic or as maturely as a book written for a highly educated, middle-aged reader.
Simple phrases can still convey a meaningful story. I might roll my eyes at the characters' immaturity at times, but that doesn't mean I haven't been there before, that I can relate, or I can't put myself back in my 16-year old shoes and imagine what that might feel like.
Last weekend I read the book Happy to Be Alive, Because, and even though its protagonist is 17 and I'm 33, I was captivated by the story, the raw emotion, and the idyllic setting (you can't go wrong with a quaint beach town in my eyes).
Was it realistic? Probably not. But I don't care. I was browsing around on the author, Chelsea Jacobs' blog and was struck by a post where she shared how she was advised to write something she would want to read. That spoke to me.
She also shared a quote (by James Van Pelt) that gives a little insight into the way writing fiction removes us from the real world ever so gently: "Writing fiction feels like an adventurous act, nudging aside reality a word at a time." So does reading fiction.
In the book, Avery records reasons she's happy to be alive, in a journal left to her by her mom. It's an exercise reminiscent of Ann Voskamp's call to record gifts, and it's a powerful thread that weaves a depth into this tale of friendship, first love, and growing up.
I'm not inherently a melancholy person-- to me, it wouldn't be too hard to fill a journal with the reasons I'm happy to be alive. But I loved following Avery's journey to learn to be able to honestly complete that sentence, and to start to really feel and believe it.
As I consider this phrase for my own life-- where I'm at right now-- after reading this book, it's pretty simple. Simple, but deeply heartfelt.
I'm happy to be alive, because I have a story tell, a message. I'm still figuring out exactly what that looks like, but one thing is clear to me: I was created to create and to connect with others.
Even a YA beach read can inspire us to think... what's one way you'd finish the line I'm happy to be alive, because... ?
Thank you to Litfuse for the review copy-- all opinions are my own. Affiliate links included in this post-- thank you for your support!
Top photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt