Today, I hit a major milestone on my blog: My one thousandth review. It's a bit like the social media equivalent of becoming a million-mile flyer (look for THAT milestone sometime next year!) or celebrating a Golden Anniversary (ha!). But what does it really mean?
The milestone itself is a bit of a misnomer. I've
read a lot more than a thousand YA books. Not counting all the books I
read as a kid and the hundred or so odd children's books I read as a
grown-up before I started posting reviews, there are dozens of books I
started but couldn't finish since then (yep, if you think my reviews can be caustic at times,
you should have seen what I would have said about the stuff I didn't
even try to review!).
I'm not exactly going to suddenly stop writing (I've got a nice pile
of books to read for my next flight and I'll be posting those reviews in
a few days). Rather, it's a nice moment to sit back and reflect on why I'm doing what I'm doing.
Among other things, I've learned that there are plenty of good books out there. I would swear that YA books are better than they were when I was in the correct demographic. They are more sophisticated, they deal with more intense subject matter, and they expect the reader to be brighter. They are, in sum, far more worthy of my time. I enjoy them.
I re-started reading YA because it spoke to me as an adult. It reminded me of hard moments in my own life that I had worked through. It made me reflective about the choices I had made and helped me come to terms with whether I had made the right decisions or not. The characters could be annoying or naive, but that was appropriate for who they were. And in the foibles, I was reminded of how I too had once been that young and done such stupid things. And, far more surprising, how I really was still so "stupid," even if I wasn't so young. All this, because YA doesn't just address the difficulties of growing up, it deals with the process of finding one's place in the world and learning how that place is situated in relations with others. And no one ever really settles that issue. Sure, plenty of grown-ups stop caring and worrying about it consciously, but I see the same anxieties in the adults as I walk into a conference room (do I look OK? will they like me? ) that adolescents feel in their high school cafeteria. Only the settings change.
I named this blog "not acting my age" in order to call out the societal prejudice that becoming a responsible adult involves tossing aside certain things (like reading YA books). And as a frequent business traveler, most of my reading is done sitting in planes with old guys who wouldn't be caught dead reading a book with a pink cover. In truth, I do tend to hide my book covers, but it seems a bit sad that these grown-ups are so undeveloped, so adolescent that they cannot find a place in their lives for a little pink in their life! It's been a while since I fretted to the point of complete distraction about whether the "love of my life" felt the same way about me, but even grownups know what it is like to have unrequited relationships.
All that said, I'm not the world's greatest reviewer. I once was a aspiring writer myself and I recognize the hard work that goes into writing a novel. I know that my short comments rarely give justice to the work of the book's creator. Many times, I'm not at my best when I write an entry. I try my best to distill the essential elements of the book's plot and congratulate myself if I can pull that off. Trying to come up with something original to say about a book (when you've read dozens like it) is often asking too much. I'm sure that makes my reviews repetitive and boring. I rarely feel that I have much insight to offer on a book. Sometimes, I wonder why I'm even posting the review. But I keep doing it (and I thank you for continuing to read them).
I'm not a children's librarian, not a school teacher, and I don't even have children of my own. In that way, I'm a true fan of YA literature. I'd like to think that that gives me a unique perspective on the books. I'm not primarily trying to figure out if kids will enjoy the book (although I occasionally will hazard a guess). I'm trying to figure out if I enjoy it. Hopefully, even if you are a librarian, teacher, or parents, you're doing a little of the same.