Saturday, March 26, 2011

YA Fiction Rules the World

It's rare that I find a book that I really connect with. Books that change me not as a reader, or a writer, but as a person.

I was going to write a review of FAT KID RULES THE WORLD to try and get back into the flow of writing book reviews, but I can't. Because I have just finished reading it, and it has successfully blown my mind. There's nothing left. Nothing.

When I find a book that truly touches my soul, I know for a few reasons. 1) Usually I've been reading the book non-stop or nearly non-stop. 2) I cry. Always. End of story. 3) I'm always left with a profound sense of.... something.

Whenever I find a book like FAT KID RULES THE WORLD I almost always devour it in one sitting, and afterwards I'm overcome with this amazing silence. I always hold the book to my chest, usually look it over in my hands, flip through some pages, and set it down. Then I sit back, heave a sigh, and just stare.

My mind is filled with silence. Yet at the same time, I'm thinking in overdrive. About life, and people and relationships and purpose and everything I could possibly think of. It's not happiness that I feel. It's a bittersweet feeling, but it's a good one. I'm heartbroken that the story is over, and I adore the conclusion. I feel like something's been taken from me. That I've lost an important part of myself, but gained another new side. It feels like I've hacked off an arm, but it's okay because I've just grown a tail.

It's not often I feel this way. It has to be a certain kind of book to fill me with such a bittersweet feeling. The last time I felt this I believe it was because I had just finished Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I devoured that book, set it down, and was overcome with this amazing happiness and grief and I just started crying for no real reason.

It's not just books that do this to me. The season five finale of Supernatural left me in a similar state (WHO CAN REALLY BLAME ME?)

Curt MacCrae from FAT KID RULES THE WORLD is the first character I've ever felt I've befriended. I've read a lot of books, but near the climax of this novel, I started crying. K.L. Going made me feel like I was there with Troy and Curt, and never in my life has a book ever struck me like that.

THIS is why I read. THIS is why I write. I don't do it just for entertainment, or escapism, or as a job or as a love affair even though they're all parts of what I love about stories. I read and I write because I'm forever searching for that elusive, bittersweet feeling when I put down a book and am overcome with a profound silence that I know is changing me even though I can't begin to imagine how yet.

I write because I'm searching to create this feeling. To share it. To connect with someone I may never see, or speak to, or know. I write because somewhere in my future a kid will be holding a copy of my book, just as I'm holding FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, and say "Thank you."

I read because I'm ever searching for that feeling. Like a drug addict searching for pills in the couch cushions. It makes me feel alive, and more importantly, it makes me feel connected to everyone around me.

So no, this isn't a book review of FAT KID RULES THE WORLD. But read it anyway. And maybe it will connect with you and maybe it won't. Maybe you'll connect with the lonely voice of Holden Caufield or the stubbornness of Katniss Everdeen. That's what's great about writing; it's all personal. It's all about you.

And for every single person who ever looked down their nose at YA fiction, who said it wasn't "real" writing, who looked at someone with a YA book in their hand and said, "aren't you a little old to be reading that?" I'd like to take a number from Curt's book and say, fuck off. If you look down on YA fiction, it's because you're too closed minded to see just how amazing it can be.



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