Every new year is usually spent reflecting on the year, and reminiscing on the good or not so good times. This New Year was the first year I spent away from home and instead spent it with my best friend, Julia. We didn’t have a wild New Year Eve, we watched Grey’s Anatomy til four in the morning and talked about our futures. We got to be slugs the next day and sleep in. Later in the day we explored an abandoned building in downtown Cleveland and took some cool pics. The next morning we got breakfast at one our favorite brunch places in Oberlin, Ohio. As we were there drinking delicious coffee, I got to thinking about 2015 and how many books I didn’t read. I set my Goodreads goal for 100 and only managed to read 95. I’m not upset by being five books short of my goal, I’m proud of myself. Finding time to read in college is more challenging than reading in high school. It’s not about the numbers though, its about the lessons that I learned from reading. 2015 was not an easy year, it was a sad year. A year, that at the beginning, seemed like depression would never leave, but at the end, showed me happiness. I read too many sad books and cried too many sad tears. I read not enough happy books and didn’t cry enough happy tears. I let myself get upset that I was reading one book in a week instead of finishing it in a day, like I used to. I forgot why I started reading and why I continue to read.
As I was having brunch with Julia she asked, “why do you look so sad, you’re making me sad?”
“I’m just tired.” I responded, then I corrected myself. “I’m reflecting on the year and all of the books I read.” I replied honestly. I told her why I read.
I read young adult fiction books because it’s where I started and a little part of me is scared to let go of that genre. YA dystopian books all tend to have one running theme in common and reading too many of those blocked that theme. I got annoyed instead of inspired. But while telling Julia all of this I realized that when I’m craving a good dystopian, I’m really craving inspiration. These authors show us readers, mostly young readers, the injustice of their governments. They show us how screwed up their world is, which in return allows us to critically look at our own. The authors put the injustice of our own government in a new perspective. In a perspective that, we as readers, can fully understand and comprehend. In some books we see that racism is based on peoples color of blood and not race or gender. In others people are oppressed because of their money and rank status. These authors have put racism in a different perspective, allowing us to see the absurdity of our racism, which is built on a skin color. From the perspective of a character that we’re rooting for and relating to. And maybe just maybe, we can find the courage to do what they did. To question, challenge, and change. For me, when I read about female characters who are undeniably smart and incredibly bad ass, I feel inspired. Hopeful. For once, women aren’t oppressed, they’re put in to leadership positions. Dystopian books have given females power and they’re no longer waiting in their castles for the prince to save them. These books that’re set in fantasy worlds are teaching me way more about the real world than high school ever did. To people who don’t read this may sound a little far fetched and a tad unbelievable. But these are my own opinions and I am strictly referring to dystopian and fantasy novels.
Not to discredit YA romance and YA fiction, because I love those just the same. But dystopian is where I started and there’s a reason I crave them so much. Romance and fiction novels have taught me much as well. Every John Green novel I’ve read no matter how predictable it is, never fails to inspire me. He takes simple sentences and refraises them, in mostly pretentious ways, but still makes them beautiful. Laurie Halse Anderson takes depression, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia, and gives them a voice. She helps readers understand how painful our world now can be. How fighting these mental illnesses is just as hard as fighting an army. Sometimes I read a sappy romance shamelessly because I just want to read about two people falling in love, or for no reason at all. I read because I want to and that is reason enough.
I don’t want to stop reading young adult because I don’t want to grow up. Technically I am a young adult therefor I will still continue to read about my favorite 16 and 17 year olds kicking ass and saving the world. I want to keep living in fantasy lands while still laying in the comfort of my bedroom. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the books I’ve read in 2015.
“That’s how relationships work — when one person is blind, the other must see for them. When one person struggles, the other must remain strong.” Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
“Horrible things have happened to us, are still happening to us, will happen every day for the rest of our lives, probably. What defines us is not our ability to never let them break us — what defines us is not letting them own us.” Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
“But my anxiety splits into frayed strands that loop more tightly around my lungs with every passing second.” Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
“Because in the middle of the pain and the mess and the complications, life is also full of beauty.” Loop by Karen Akins
“Grief was sneaky, impossible to guard against all the time, the way it ebbed and flowed, a tide that receded, leaving behind bits of memories as polished as glass, and then rushed back in to steal your breath.” Resonance by Ericka O’Rourke
“…but one person’s pain does not invalidate another’s. If you break your arm, breaking your leg doesn’t make it hurt less or heal faster.” Resonance by Ericka O’Rourke
“It’s not only the demons who have the power to break you. It’s the small, unexpected kindness, the flame that throws the darkness into relief.” Resonance by Ericka O’Rourke
“People are contradictions. They hold within themselves a jumble of impulses and beliefs; circumstances polish some facets and chip away others. But amid the jumble lies their heart, diamond hard and incontrovertible. Like a kaleidoscope, the aspects of a person can shift and reform, but the center holds true.” Resonance by Ericka O’Rourke
“I think every now and then about Sean’s thumb pressed against my wrist and daydream about him touching me again. But mostly I think about the way he looks at me — with respect — and I think that’s probably worth more than anything.” The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
“I like the idea of feelings small. Sometimes life can seem bigger than you, you know? But knowing you’re less than a speck in the whole scheme of things takes the pressure off, sort of.” Joyride by Anna Banks
“Most lies aren’t meant to ruin; they’re meant to protect what we hold most dear, whether it’s a person or an idea or a way of life. But even the noblest lie eats away at the truth, until you’re left with the facade and what you were protecting crumbles to dust.” Dissonance by Ericka O’Rourke
“And I realize that I will never be alone again. I think of the places we’ve come from, the things we’ve had to do, the monsters we have all had to become. Maybe, in life, hell is all around, hiding in the shadows, whispering our fears in the middle of sleepless nights. But there is always a little bit of heaven, a little bit of sunlight, to melt the darkness away. Happiness can always be found. You just have to be strong enough, fearless enough, to open your eyes and really look.” The Death Code by Lindsay Cummings
“The imprint of that sadness, that regret, still colors me like a stain, but one that someday I might learn to live with, one that, if I’m lucky, will grow lighter with each passing year, each day that ends with my face turned upward to take in the pinpricks of starts, light-years away, the beauty of the known universe, the miracle of another day, another chance.” Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
“Maybe we all have darkness inside of us and some of us are better at dealing with it than others.” My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga
“There’s no way to guarantee it, especially when I know for sure that there is something wrong with me. Something broken. What people never understand is that depression isn’t about the outside; it’s about the inside. Something inside me is wrong. Sure, there are things in my life that make me feel alone, but nothing makes me feel more isolated and terrified than my own voice in my head.” My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga
“Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood.” My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga
“If I want more, I need to go and get it, demand it, take hold of it with all my might, and do the best I can with it.” On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
“A soldier stepped into the cold sunshine, an army captain in full-dress uniform: polished black boots, regulation-creased pants, blindingly white shirt, and black tie under a blue wool jacket decorated with captain’s bars, Ranger tab on his left shoulder, Purple Hear, Bronze Star, oak leaf clusters, and the fruit salad of ribbons and hardware that meant he had led troops into battle and tried his best to bring them all home.” The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
“It was three wet, humid days after she wrapper her cute little car around a tree three blocks outside her parents’ development, thus leaving this world for the next in a spectacular act of theatrical stupidity so distinctly Allie that in some crazy, perverse way it made me miss her even more than I already did.” How to Love by Katie Cotugno