When Michelle, Erica, Komal and I started brainstorming for what would become A Dash of YA, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about: my evolution from a reader of all genres to a passionate reader of primarily YA novels. While I still love other genres, ranging from chick lit to women's fiction, to sci-fi/fantasy, to paranormal romance, every one of the nearly 100 books I've read this year are young adult.
This happened over the course of a few years, thanks to authors like Richelle Mead, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer (say what you will, but Twilight has gotten a LOT of teens AND adults to read), Lauren Oliver, and Suzanne Collins. Each of these ladies have dome something remarkable: they wrote books that took me somewhere else, even just for a day or so, and in one way or another, pushed the boundaries of YA literature forward, whether by an inch or by a mile. J.K. Rowling took a simple story, about a boy wizard, and created characters we will ALWAYS love and remember. Lauren Oliver wrote about a girl whose death changes her life, and later, about a world in which daring to love is the scariest thing one girl has ever done. Stephanie Meyer brought paranormal romance back to YA novels. Richelle Mead spun YA fantasy on its head and kept vampire lore fresh and new. They each paved the way for some of the most successful YA authors today, and made it possible for the boundaries of YA to stretch and broaden.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I used to be a book snob. I read the adult genres I mentioned, but I had "outgrown" YA literature. When I was a teenager, I read Sweet Valley High/University/Senior Year with abandon, but shortly after I graduated high school, I moved away from YA and on to other authors like Anne Bishop (dark fantasy), Jodi Picoult (women's fiction) and J.R. Ward (paranormal romance.) For several years, I didn't consider YA "worth my time," until I stumbled across Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, thanks to Suz at A Soul Unsung. Then there was the Harry Potter series, thanks to an amazing friend of mine, followed by Twilight (one of the few books I ever bought based on hype alone), and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. But the author who propelled me into reading YA and NOT feeling ashamed was Suzanne Collins.
Suzanne is the author of The Hunger Games, a trilogy that scared me, moved me, and CHANGED me. The books made me really think: about how good my life was compared to her characters, about love and what I would to do protect my family and friends, about bravery, and about what - I - would fight for, if it came down to it. I didn't just read The Hunger Games. I lived it. I hunted with Katniss, feared for MY life when she feared for hers. I cried with her and other characters. I loved as deeply as she did, felt as thorny as she often was. I watched her world crumble along with her, but I felt the devastation she did. The Hunger Games propelled me into the middle of Panem and left me there to find my own way, to fight, and to survive.
With The Hunger Games, I read something I had never read before, and will likely never read again. The Hunger Games inspired new authors to offer their own dystopian view of our world, because Suzanne Collins wrote the story that was in her heart: a bloody, frightening social commentary about one girl, one ordinary girl, who makes a difference. Who takes a chance and says "no" to those that want to control her.
What if we were ALL that brave, that gutsy? What if we ALL said "no," when we wanted to? What if we all dared to raise our voices, to speak louder, to speak TRUER words? How often have each of us said "I'm fine," when we aren't, "it's okay," when it isn't, "sure," when we want to say "no?" Why do we accept that "it is what it is," when sometimes...if we're brave enough, we too, can push the boundaries and change things?
Because of Suzanne Collins, I try to live every day a bit differently. I try my darndest to be brave, even when it's terrifying. She wrote a story unlike anything ever written. She said "no." She made sure her characters would make an impression, and they definitely did, on me. She's one reason why I read YA novels and always will.
*Why YA is an original feature created by Molli to