Tuesday, September 17, 2013
YA- Y NOT?
Warning: Contains ME! Confessing in all my glory and humility. I don't recall having explained to you, readers, why I have such an affinity for YA literature. And I think it is time, if I am going to continue to recommend and discuss books with you. My childhood ended when I was 11 years old and my mother died. I am not stating this for sympathy, merely to set our story. I took on the task of preparing my little sister and I for school in the mornings, allowing my dad, who went to work at ungodly hours (i.e. any time before the sun comes up) to have some peace of mind about leaving us alone. (This was in age long ago -20 years- when people understood that giving children responsibilities isn't some horrific form of torture, or ruining the end of childhood, (I am looking at you parents who won't let your precious Duddykins have jobs as a teenager, thus ensuring whiny college student syndrome) but a natural progression into adulthood. Being entrusted with this kind of responsibility as a teenager turned into a sacred bond between my sister, dad and I. He TRUSTED us. And in turn we tried to be worthy of that trust. Both of us, me especially, kept to ourselves and did not engage in the reckless, explorative activities of our peers. My weekdays and weekends were filled with drama club, poetry club, 3 part time jobs, and my nights were filled with hours of television and writing. (I confess, I wrote more often than that, filling notebooks with fan fiction as teachers attempted to pass knowledge onto myself and my classmates. One teacher even got furious enough to take away my notebook for the remainder of the class. -I had more paper) I still got decent grades, A's & B's, only C's with Mr Burke, my horrible but good natured math teacher of years 9, 10, 11. (They failed to realize I didn't work well with that teacher, rather they just assumed I wasn't very good at math. Ahh, public schools.) Hours of Buffy, Roswell, X-Files. I was an insomniac sci-fi junkie. My close friends lived in other parts of the world. I was a part of the burgeoning internet generation, a giant in the world of Buffy Fan fiction. People KNEW me. (I even met a fan who ended up at the same college as me! Imagine that!) And as such, my dad didn't know enough to question me, or (thought I was smart enough to let me) went to visit an internet friend in DC while we were on a family vacation. (A few metro train rides away from where we were staying.) I did not get kidnapped or raped. I met a very nice girl with dreadlocks who went to a hippie art school. This was the epitome of my sixteen year old adventuring. (Here is a photo of me at 16, visiting my aunt in Minnesota. On the Right is a friend I met through a Hanson chat room.) But before I lose you down memory lane I will attempt to get back to the story. Emotionally, during those years, I shut down. I ran on autopilot. I lived in my stories so I could be a rock in the real world. I could be relied upon to take care of things. I could not connect to my peers who lived in a world where they dated, partied in the quarry, even drank and smoked pot! I felt so other from them and the characters on my shows and in the books I read. Even the Baby Sitter's Club girls got around more than me! (This all changed in college. I ran the gambit of trying things, although mostly reasonable things. (Tattoos! Kissing boys! Falling in love for the first time.) Nothing so wild as my television shows depicted. I am sorry to tell you I have no stories of cocaine filled nights in NYC. But something was still missing. No matter how much I had come out of my shell I was still locked away, partially. It has taken close to a decade, the love of a good man, friends who do not judge, and a little YA heroine you might have heard of, by the name of Katniss Everdeen, to understand and break down the barriers I had put up over 20 years ago. YA fiction lets me live my high school years in ways I was afraid to, in ways I coveted. I vicariously make stupid mistakes with these peers. From Harry Potter, to Tris, to Lyra, to Katniss, I get to try again, find new paths, to find comfort. Many of these characters feel alone and have lost a parent, sometimes two, and as a result I feel closer to them, than my peers, who used to stare, owllike at me, as if they could glean why I was chosen by the universe to lose a parent, and if it was contagious. And that, my readers, is why I choose to live, half grown, in a world of possibilities, with the pain of first love and loss close to my heart. I don't know any other way.