Y'all may remember Smarty Pants Cate B, who gave us the inside scoop on being a covert YA reader in the desert. She's back to share some thoughts on why we all love YA so much. Take it away, Cate!
I think because YA-hood was so present in my mind, I started thinking about all of the 18-22 year old Marines around me. You forget because of the situation we all are in, but they're babies! I have so much respect for them because I seriously doubt I would be able to handle what they are faced with at that age. I'm pretty sure I spent the majority of those years drunk and contemplating how my life was over because my stoner boyfriend left me for a freshman in HS. I mean, it sort of puts their everyday levels of jackassery in perspective. Regardless, I sort of digressed in to thinking about the concept of young adulthood, and wanted to share my thoughts with you.
I often think of young adulthood as this perfect storm of incredible highs, firsts, and cringe-worthy disasters that I look back on with what I can only describe as "almost magic." I mean, its when the majority of formative events occur. You are not you before that, and you are not the same after. Sometimes, I think of the blind confidence and utter disregard for failure I displayed during that time, and I can't help but want to get some of that back. I see the 12 year old cheerleader getting ready for high school, and think, "MAN, you have no idea whats about to happen to you."
Adolescence means to know everything and nothing at all. It is to be wonderfully naive, and not worry about bills, babies, and life plans. It means October air and football, drivers licenses, horribly emo music and "deep thoughts", formal dances, hidden alcohol, and endlessly trying to fit a circle in to a square. It means running head first in to a speeding train and not even considering that it will steamroll you. It means envy, scandal, social climbing, pregnancy scares, rumors, survival, crippling isolation and ridicule, and endlessly overcompensating for perceived shortcomings. It means discovering love purely by accident, and learning of heartbreak in the same manner. It's when you finally see what your parents mean. It's a time of butterflies and exploding bombs, crying in the bathroom, and having a new best friend and worst enemy every 5 minutes. It's endless summers with the windows down, loud music, house parties, and losing innocence. Really, it's just life before you learn to be afraid.
I remember thinking of my life at age 16, and seeing no reason that it wouldn't work out EXACTLY how I planned. How could I fail? I was a cheerleader, athlete, and top of the class, so naturally I would go to college, be a "somebody" there, get in to the program of my choice, come out, marry THE man, and have THE job. Holy Crap, how I wish it was that easy. (Sidebar: NONE of that happened, but I did end up with a pretty awesomely ginger hubby!)
I guess YA-hood also schools you in the fine art of life knocking you on your ass and "Plan Bs." It builds your mojo, completely strips it to ground zero, and forces you to rebuild yourself from the bottom up. It's the hard and necessary lessons that you can only learn on your own, and it's nothing less than beautiful. It's every bump and bruise that makes you better (though it certainly feels like your life is ending every time you encounter one), that makes you fight to become the person you are supposed to be.
I hypothesize that the above reasons are why we, the fans of this website, are all so obsessed with YA books. The adventures you partake in during adolescence are nothing less than epic and earth-shattering to your personal world. This is also exactly why YA books have the best stories, and can range from heart warmingly cute to absolutely devastating. They are all certainly wild rides, and touch the heartstrings of one's own story. Truthfully, I wish I was as skilled as the authors featured on the website. I am still astounded by how my own YA-hood reads like a story in my head, and although it is incredibly normal, it still paramount to my own life. I love uncovering little bits of me in every book I read (and yes, sometimes it is just how I WISH my teenage years would have gone.)
So to the authors, THANK YOU!
To FYA, THANK YOU!
And to the Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen that are spending their YA years being complete and total selfless and amazing badasses, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I hope someone tells your story, too.
And lastly, to the "average" teens embarking upon or mucking through your journeys right now.... Take a deep breath. You will be high, low, left, and right. You will change. You will be great and you will be horrible. You will stand on the shoulders of giants and you will be lower than an ant. Take it in. Let it happen. Do your best and, above all, love yourself. We'll see you on the other side.