I had a boyfriend, when I was in my early 20's, who drove me crazy. He was one of those guys who swept me off my feet with declarations of undying love and extravagant gestures who became indifferent once he had my undivided attention. When I would express my frustration by breaking up he would suddenly become my dream guy all over again-- and the roller-coaster would continue.
Reading YA fiction reminds a lot of that relationship.
I'm not altogether sure why I am so attracted to YA fiction. As a *cough* older woman my tastes should have evolved by now. But when I see a shiny new book with an attractive cover (and YA has some fabulous covers) I turn into a schoolgirl all over again. I tell myself that this time will be different-- and yet I am most often disappointed.
Like the girl who bounced back to an old boyfriend too many times, I am forever on the rebound with YA fiction and I have come to a conclusion: it's all my fault.
Here's the thing: YA fiction is what it is. It should not change to please me-- who am I but one reader among millions? And when YA is good, or my definition of good, it's fantastic. Two of my favorite books from last year fell under the YA category.
Whether I'm in an unhealthy relationship, literary or otherwise, I often step away and try to gain perspective-- but inevitably return because I only remember the good times. If there's anything YA fiction does well is to appeal to the emotional triggers that allow us to abandon our logical side. The ups and downs don't seem that bad in the beginning-- we must suffer for love, right? And I do have the capacity to learn. I know to avoid books that including phrases like "the new boy she is crushing on" in the description-- I'm not that blind to my own preferences.
Sometimes I feel as if I am still caught between a literary childhood and adulthood. I'm not shy about trying to read adult fiction-- I don't blush when I read a sex scene; but I'm not terribly impressed by them either. (Read this article for some examples of just how bad fictional sex can be.) Most of the time I feel like the sex and violence are thrown in for effect and have little to do with moving the story-- and then I wistfully look back to YA fiction to satisfy my craving for a fantasy that doesn't try so hard to prove it's grown up, only to be let down by stories that don't appeal to my adult need for logic and consistency.
I can't seem to rationalize my dysfunctional relationship with paranormal fiction, whether it's the adult or the YA variety, but I can't seem to tear myself away either. Maybe I'm addicted to the chase. And when I do catch my ideal fantasy-- it is heavenly. But there's always the knowledge that my satisfaction is destined to be short lived. And then the hunt begins again....
Maybe I'll never get off that darned roller-coaster. Who knows... Maybe I don't want to.