Why Do I Read? A Discussion On Why YA Is So Important For Young Adults

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I’m a bit of a loner.

I don’t run with any cliques or groups, and I’m not that big of a texter. I find it loads of work to actively seek people out and have conversations with them through the interwebs, and the ones who try to seek me out realize that after a couple days or weeks of conversation. I definitely have friends! I’m surrounded by them, and peers, and good acquaintances. But I don’t run with a crowd, and I never really have. I’ve always been proud of being a “lone wolf,” but that isn’t really a good example of my social life. I’m more like a butterfly, flitting from one flower (or group) to another. There’s no exclusivity, and I mesh with pretty much everyone. Yet, despite being surrounded by great friends and listeners, I still think I’m a loner at times.

It’s not being alone that’s the matter, but being lonely.

Because people can never really know what you’re thinking, can they? It’s that feeling when you’re trying to explain something, but you can’t find the word for it. Or there are no words that can explain it. And no matter how many times people say, “Same!” Or “Dude for real man!” (I’m guilty of this too), you know that what they experience doesn’t bear a similarity to what you do. It’s not like we can stick a tube or something between each other’s brains and immediately know what the other person is talking about. Anyways, that’s the conclusion I get when I ruminate.

But when I read, I don’t feel lonely anymore.

More than half of the time, it’s because of the escape a story offers. The hope, the wonderment, the differing views on one situation, the rainbow of feelings that you can get from black ink on paper. It’s that feeling of living vicariously through a character, no matter if the conflict of the story is trying to raise a rebellion against a government or figuring out how to cope with their friends leaving the neighborhood. It’s that feeling of, “Hey, I totally get what this character is going through! And I’m glad I’m not alone.” Because sometimes books put into words things that people might not want to share, or don’t have the ability to.

Sometime Most times you’ll hear of me complaining about a contemporary book being “unrealistic,” because when I read contemporaries, I want to be able to read a situation that I could imagine happening in real life. One that could possibly help me in the future, or could help me deal with my own present, or could make me think of my past in a different way. So when I’m reading about some girl going on a vacation the summer before her senior year without worrying about colleges or exams or the future, and instead staring at a boy’s eyes, I want scoop my eyeballs out. Those are great stories that are entertaining and a nice diversion. They are fluffy – but that’s it. Once you experience that fluffiness, you kind of get a sense of… nothingness. Or at last that’s what I feel. What am I left with? At last science fiction or fantasies take me on an adventure. Minimal character development coupled with maximum drama is no doubt wonderful for many readers out there. Heck, sometimes I’m in the mood for them too. But ultimately, my main interest is on those books where I can connect to the characters and go like, “Dude, I’ve been there.”

This is why diversity is so damn important.

And at this point, it’s not even just about LGBTQ or POC characters, but also ones that don’t fit in with the status quo. We all expect Asians to be smart, blondes to be beautifully dumb, and school band members to be geeky. It’s littered in popular culture. But that could be further from the truth. I have Asian friends who are less than motivated to do well in academics, a gorgeous blonde friend who’s the valedictorian of her graduating class, and know of a drum major in band who became prom king. Who’s the geek now? The last contemporary books I’ve read took place during the summer between junior and senior year, or after senior year, and they passed by like a blur. Not only because the major characters were all white, but they had the same mentalities: not caring about the future, ignorance about the people and situations around them, and an odd fixation on cute boys. Don’t get me wrong, I love cute boys and girls and animals, but after reading about the merits of one’s glorious physical qualities for pages on end, I can’t help but want to punch something. Preferably one of these “chiseled jaw” dude’s jaw. News flash! There’s much more going on in our brains then sex and parties and traveling and best friends who they will hang on to for dear life because even I know that friendships in high school may not survive in the next decade.

(Ha, call me cynical at seventeen.)

Anyways, those summer reads were just so monotonous. Not just because they all felt the same, but because the situations were so similar. But in fact, there are so many situations out there and so many different things that can happen that I can’t help but explore new books to see what ideas an author might have. To me, it’s worth it to read 10 “meh” books if I could find that one jewel in the midst of them. Plus, “meh” books are awesome too. The number one reason why I read is to escape reality, right? Any book will do. But the gems are the ones that can resonate with me – because I am a very lost soul.

I don’t know how many times I’ve taken a “Do you have depression?” test. I’ve researched ways to find out if you’re asexual, and a couple of tests on if I’m bisexual, and wondered if I have OCD or ADHD and I still have no clue if I’m any of these things. One day I’ll be stressing and internally dying about my grades and the next, I’m ready to throw away my homework. I’ll watch a video in psychology and will be paranoid that I might have a certain disease or disorder. I frequent the phrase, “Hate my life,” all the while shoving down motivational quotes down my throat. One day I want to go to school at a prestigious college, and the next I want to fly to Thailand to become an exotic dancer. The point of this wacko paragraph is that I have no idea who I am right now. As an adolescent, I’m constantly faced with having to choose my future by society and yet, I just want to enjoy life? I’m not even sure I want to do even that anymore (hence that question mark). People are telling me what to do, from my parents to my classmates to my teachers, and any sense of identity has disappeared the moment I entered school. Forced to deal with classmates that I love dearly, but always questioning whether we’d be good friends if we didn’t have the same classes or not, every day I feel like a person in the middle of a desert; one that knows where each path leads, only to be tricked because surprise! It was just a mirage.

But you know what’s not a mirage? Books. They’re my tranquil zone; the only place I’d be happy to get lost to. They’re my de-stresser, my friend, my listeners, and my teachers. They sometimes get me annoyed, maybe even mad, but most times they offer an escape that either takes me to another world or offers another look at the reality I live in, and the scenarios that can occur. They teach lessons, or create adventures, or make characters that I just want to befriend, or make me feel cuddly and warm inside, or give me a reality check, or know exactly what I’m feeling.

The teenage brain is a hella weird thing, as is so popularly said. Sometimes I just want to skip 10 years of my life because high school is not the time of my life. What a lot of young adult books have to offer are not explanations of the teenage brain, (because we so dearly love to be psychoanalyzed), but what they would do in situations that could happen. Reactions that are oh-so-similar to what I, or my friend Anna, or my cousin would do. And that’s the beauty of it – the possibilities are endless.

So I guess this post got a bit ranty and I digressed quite a bit because I’m a talker and at the same time I’m a bit too shy to really talk about these things to friends that I regularly talk to (hence this blog), but there it is. I read all sorts of books to escape from reality. Like, the whole spectrum. But the reason I read YA? To find understanding in a place I can’t find in real life. To see the different scenarios that can be played out, or to discover new ways to look at old concepts. Not just to learn, but to live. Because let me tell you, reading the lives of all these characters of books is just living vicariously through them. And let me tell you, that’s a thousand and more lives lived for me.

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24 thoughts on “Why Do I Read? A Discussion On Why YA Is So Important For Young Adults

  1. Tasya says:

    I see your point Aila! Whenever I read contemporary I always feel like why do they take everything so easily? They don’t seem worried about college or anything. When they do “worried”, it wasn’t the focus of the story. They do find theirselves, but we never know what happened next. Like they find their passion is for painting, family doesn’t let them, finally they understand, but most of the times the book ended without knowing do the characters take painting for college or what? It sends confusing message for people like me especially, the ones that are currently confused about what should we take for uni. Reading about people that finally figure it out gives a bit of hope that I too, would figure it out sometimes, but most of the time it’s like “what’s next for me” because they also don’t give much closure. And then the stereotypes in the books are also misleading. I’m Asian and let me tell you, I’m not smart. My math is really terrible that I already gave up at this point. Reading about mental illness also makes me wonder if I suffer from one and I also has taken dozens of test but I don’t know if it’s real or not. Mostly I’m just lost and don’t know what to do, which is why I find YA as an escape. The characters are around our age, and maybe they have different problems and ways but mostly I can relate with their problems and every YA books seems to have the same theme of self-discovery.

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      TASYA I CONNECT TO YOU ON A SPIRITUAL LEVELLL. I’m Chinese, and math is my WORST subject. Everyone expects me to get perfect scores on math tests, when in fact it’s far from it. I just hate to think that while I’m worrying about my next grade, some characters in books will be worrying about the next time they see a cute guy or something. Like, priorities much? And it’s just the fact that we need – absolutely NEED – to stop stereotyping characters, to stop putting them in the same group, to stop making them so DAMN ALIKE. Because in actuality, people are as different as two planets on the other side of the solar system. And if YA books aren’t there to help us recognize that, I don’t know what is.

  2. Sara @ freadomlibrary says:

    I hate to say that I totally get it because we’re not the same people but I do. The loneliness that you don’t know where it came from, the depression that I do have though not diagnosed, the feeling of floating like a butterfly and never really having a place where you feel at home…except in books. This is why I read too. Thanks so much for sharing ❤️

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Haha no Sara, I totally get where you’re coming from. 😀 And exactly – it’s like everyone knows what they’re doing except for us, and adults always say “Ohh, you’ll find it in time” but do I WANT to wait? No – I want to know right here and now the person I am! Sometimes books will help me realize though.

      • Sara @ freadomlibrary says:

        Books are amazing, they help escape and become someone else and even help you realize and notice qualities in yourself that you didn’t know you had, great discussion Aila! ❤️

  3. Louise / geniereads says:

    “It’s not being alone that’s the matter, but being lonely.”

    This line is so beautiful, I just had to quote it. I’m a loner too, I have friends but there are days when I just don’t want to talk and socialize with them or with people in general. I escape reality with books, when I’m reading I don’t really care about the real world anymore, when I’m in between the pages. I read a lot of contemporary books, and I agree with you. I’m starting to get fed up with them because somehow I feel like the themes and concepts are the same and only the characters, settings, and ither details are different. That’s why when I come across a wonderful and memorable read, it sticks to me and I remember them. But even if I get fed up with predictable books, I still keep on reading contemporaries because with them I feel at ease, I feel safe. Your post is truly wonderful, I found myself nodding in agreement while reading it! 💙

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Thanks so much Louise! I’m so glad this post resonated with you, because it seems like I’m not the only one.

      But I get you – sometimes I’ll forgo a trip or adventure in favor of an adventure in books. And it’s not my fault, or my friends, but just the fact that I need solitude. I need something that can understand where I’m coming from, and not on a superficial or shallow level. Something with more emotion and depth. Gosh though, contemporary books are becoming like one in a million! I’m so happy about all the diverse reads coming out, which will really make a great variety for more readers to empathize with.

  4. Denise says:

    Wow, Aila – this is such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for being so personal, and writing this! In some ways, I understand what you mean. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, but books are a constant, and they help keep me sane. I love them because I know they will always be there, and I can always find comfort in transporting myself to another world. When I need books, I tend to stay away from contemporaries set in high school for this exact reason – they can often be everything I don’t want to read at that time in my life ❤

    Denise | The Bibliolater

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      I love the last part you added, Denise! They also keep me sane, in a way (although they can ALSO keep me insane because of the feels, if ya know what I mean 😉 ) But yes, sometimes contemporaries can just be distracting and make me feel bad and overall give me a feeling of being unrealistic. So I’m trying to be more selective about them when I can!

  5. Maha @younicornreads says:

    i totally understand you. i’m still not seventeen, but i’ve already been at this stage. sometimes i want to study, sometimes i want to throw that work out of the window. and it is in that period when i was lonely that i discovered reading. it was my escape from reality to a whole new world, that understands me and that i understand. i’m sure someday you’ll find some amazing friends, and you’ll say: “THESE are who i want to be with for the rest of my life.” you shouldn’t give up on finding friends. and you may not see it, but i’m sure there is someone who cares or will care about you ❤

    thank you for this amazing post, it made me remember when i was lonely, and how my life had completely changed because of books. ❤

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Aw man, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Maha ❤ And you're so right, I just gotta keep looking for the friends that I'll want for the rest of my lives. I do believe I have one or two right now, but let's see what the future holds. 😉

      And yess, that escape to another world is something that I will never let go of. Ever. I'll treasure it to the bottom of my heart haha.

  6. Lois says:

    Okay wow!! I can so relate to this on so many levels and I definitely understand your frustrations with contemporaries that are all about the hearts and flowers without a thought about university and other choices and the consequences that are laid out before them. This is also why I don’t read much NA books because when I was at university the last thing that was on my mind were parties, guys and sex and yet most of the NA books revolve around those issues when I was basically just trying to finish the degree. I hate the pressure young adults get to know or have a plan about their future. I mean, I’m 22 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life and people expect me to have it all figured out. Books are my safe haven. Like you, they offer me a place to de-stress and just take a step back and not worry about juggling everything at once. Books help me focus and I love it when I encounter a story or a character that I can relate to or one that provides a perspective I hadn’t yet considered.
    Books have literally been my comfort when reality proves to be too chaotic for me. Thank you for writing this post and I guarantee that a lot of readers feel the exact same way as you do. 😀

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Thank YOU for such a thoughtful comment Lois. AND IKR – that’s my problem with NA too. I thought the genre was about self-discovery, gaining independence, and all that stuff since the age range is for people in college, right? Imagine my surprise when every other book I pick up in that genre is about some hot jock falling in love with a nerdy girl – wait what? That’s why I so appreciate the gems that DO mention homework, and studying, and the future instead of focusing on the partying and sex. Because believe me, there are 24 hours in a day and I doubt that they spend all those 18 hours awake trying to get in someone’s pants.

      You’re so right though, the escape that books give me really helps in dealing with my emotions. Sometimes I can get too caught up in them, and I just need a breather. 🙂

  7. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    I loved this post so much Aila! It definitely gives me some insight into the teenage brain. While you’re still figuring things out, who you are, what you like, who you want to hang around with and your feelings, that’s all about what being a teenager – hell, that’s all about what life is about. I didn’t feel like I fit the teenage mould because when I was in high school, all I wanted was to get out and I focused on getting good grades so I could skip this time in my life. Let me give you the advice, that you WILL get to that point in your life where you are content – or comfortable in knowing who you are. You won’t let genres, or fiction, or other people or identities define you. That epiphany for me, reached me when I was around 24, and I loved that person I was. And it will come for you, I know. ❤

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Thanks so much Jeann ❤ I honestly can't wait until I reach that point of my life, and you saying those words have really bolstered those thoughts. Screw teenage molds 😛 For now, I'm basically doing what you're doing and focusing on good grades for a future that'll give me that level of comfort that you described.

  8. Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks says:

    This post was so beautiful, and I’m so glad you shared this with us, Aila (and I am forever in love with your name, I have to say it again) ❤ I can totally relate to everything you said, my teenage years, and even now (I'm 22) felt really confusing, and I didn't fit in and I felt like I couldn't be happy, or content, or find wherever I was going, and didn't feel comfortable at any times. Books are really always there like companions, helping us and giving us windows on someone else's lives, or taking us away in other worlds, and that's wonderful, and it makes us feel happy, and better, and like you can really relate, and fit in, even if it's in between the pages of a book. And there are caring people, people who will matter in your life, they might be here now already, or come on later on, and makes you see life and teenage years and even just things in general a whole other way, and you'll feel content, comfortable just like Jeann said above, with who you are and what you want to be. Books are a comfort in messy teenagers' lives, they are as well at my age, and having an escape is great, books are wonderful for that. But we are here just as well for you, at least I am ❤

    • Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

      Omigosh, thank you so much for that thoughtful and beautiful comment Marie ❤ (And that compliment with my name – I can't stop blushing hehe)

      But you are so right, I still have the close friends here and there (not many at all) that I can safely say I want to know in the future – and I have the ones that I know aren't worth my time. Thank you so much for being here for me Marie ❤ And again, those wonderful words that really warmed my hart. 🙂

      • Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks says:

        You’re so welcome! ❤ And this is probably weird, but I feel like writing a character with your name in my next draft of a book I attempt to write, next time I gather up the motivation to. It's such an inspiring name!
        You're so welcome, anytime you need it, I'm here! 🙂

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