Lighter

(A somewhat biased defense of young adult literature from a young adult who is desperate to convince herself that she did not waste her afternoon)

This afternoon, after a particularly intense day at school, I decided to treat myself by ignoring all my responsibilities, lying in bed and finishing the remaining 50% of the book I was reading in a single sitting. It was the loveliest experience of my day by far.

The book in question was a sappy young adult romance, the kind I usually refer to as trivial and stupid, despite my own claims that good art is anything and everything that makes us feel things. It featured all the things that every good gen-Z young adult romance must have in order to deserve its name: terminal illness, overprotective mother figures, and a first kiss that’s way too perfectly orchestrated for anybody who’s ever had a first kiss to deem it realistic. I picked it up over a week ago, despite my cynical views on the genre, because I needed something lighter to read after having gorged myself on some rather challenging classics.

I developed this habit a while ago: usually I alternate between the complex, challenging books that I deem “good literature”, and whatever gives me some rest in between. The interesting thing about it all is that, whenever I pick up these seemingly insignificant, “lighter” books, I read the way I remember reading when I was a little girl. Whenever I intend to stop, my eyes cannot help but run a little bit further along the page. I lose track of time and space. I can finish 50% of a book in a single sitting. It is almost as though reading “light” things can make me feel lighter. I miss that about being young. I miss that about the reader I once was.

In the past few years, I went from reading mostly for pleasure to reading mostly for specific projects. I also graduated officially from the world of children’s and young adult novels and stepped with glee and determination into the complicated world of adult fiction. To put it bluntly, reading became work; work that I adore and that I am lucky to do every day, but still work.

And just like my way of reading changed, so did the books that accompanied me. Nowadays, on the average week, you will find me struggling against complex texts that leave me with tons of knowledge and a great deal of satisfaction but that sure take their sweet time to hand them to me. And while there is a world of pleasure to be derived from this noble exercise, it’s not always what I need.

Sometimes it’s good, extremely unbelievably underrated-ly good, to read a text that is docile instead of hostile. To read a text that you don’t have to coax into serving you, but that opens up with you effortlessly. A text that has no barriers, no walls one must tear down. A text that flows, that rocks you like a boat and delivers you safely to shore. Something relatable, a dramedy pulled straight out of my everyday life.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence in any way that I tend to seek these texts without barriers at times when there are plenty of barriers within me. Whenever I need books to be a refuge, an escape, the one easy, good thing in the middle of all the heartache, I turn to my old friends, the sappy young adult novels. They are there to remind me that it’s okay to decompress, to laugh, to be a teenager with a teenager’s problems. They are there to encourage me to be a little more like them: to spiral less, to flow aimlessly, to imagine a handful of completely unlikely things that are just too good to be true. Hopefully, by the time I’m done, I am able to continue my work with a lot more strength and joy than I had before.

When I read these novels I feel lighter. And thus I can fly a little higher. So don’t you dare tell me that they are trivial. After all, the gift of making people feel more with less is at the very core of what writing means.

Some days you just need to read the kind of book that deals with unimportant things while making them seem like the most important things in the world. Or alternatively, the kind of book that sheds light on important things that most people are careless enough to deem unimportant. Either way, pretty brilliant work, right?

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