Existential questions


I keep coming back to the same question – why do I have a book blog? Who will read it and will it be helpful to them? It’s much less ambiguous with my food blog, In My Box, which is about my CSA box and what I do with the produce I get every week. In My Box serves numerous purposes – as a place for me to keep records of recipes and kitchen adventures that I can look back on (we often cook with a laptop open to my blog on the kitchen table), as a place for people to learn about Bay Area CSAs and to get ideas and inspiration for what to make with their CSA produce, and as a collection of vegan, gluten-free recipes (a style of cooking that can be very intimidating!).

But there are so many amazing YA book blogs out there, written by people with much more time and patience than I have. And I don’t need a record of my books for myself the way I do with food – I have my own, very simple record. It’s a list, and each book gets either an asterisk, a 1/2 asterisk, or no asterisk. That’s my whole system! So why do I have a book blog? I know I have some things to say, maybe even some original thoughts to add to the worldwide YA conversation, it’s just a question of building momentum. I tried with my new format of book reviews, but they started to feel dull and not very juicy to me. So for a while I guess I’ll just be flailing around, trying various things. It might get pretty silly, it might get pretty dull, but hopefully eventually my voice will emerge. (Or I’ll scrap the blog entirely but hopefully it’ll be the former rather than the latter…)

This is perfect. Also depressing. Also hilarious!

Today’s xkcd (the best webcomic ever):

The alt text reads: I was going to be a scientist, but that seems silly now. Magical worlds exist. I’ve learned a huge truth about our place in the universe. I’m supposed to care about college? I mean, FUCK.

Click comic for full-size version.

Finding footing, hitting stride

bookheels

Does the world really need another blog full of book reviews? It actually might, but does the world really need a blog where every time I read a book I come here and diligently post what the book was about and what I liked and disliked about it?

I think that answer is a definitive “no.” Especially because my writing here seems to come out all strange and stilted. I love my tone when I write about food – it sounds like me at my best and most fluid. But for some reason I come over here and get all stiff. Perhaps it has something to do with food being a communal thing for me and reading being a very solitary pursuit. I’ve never been in book club, and it’s been ages since I even discussed a book in a classroom. Anyways, let’s pass on the awkward stream-of-consciousness book review for now. Maybe when I loosen up a bit I’ll have some fun perspective to share.

The purpose of this blog is to talk to about young adult books that “old adults” will enjoy. Most of the stuff I’m reading isn’t hot off the presses, so I have the opportunity to introduce people to older stuff they might not have heard about, and ideally what I write about each book will help them decide if it’s the type of book they might enjoy.

I’ve been meeting more and more people these days who are around my age (early 30s) and prefer to read YA books. Books written for a younger audience definitely share certain commonalities – it’s why some of us gravitate to them over other types – but they vary in genre and style almost as much as kids and teens vary themselves. One of my friends loves apocalypse books, manga, and fantasy, but just wouldn’t be interested in all the myriad Gossip Girl-type series being written these days. Another friend wants well-written, genuinely insightful books set in the real world and might enjoy Janes in Love or Breathe My Name, but I wouldn’t expect her to go for the Mortal Instruments series. And another friend likes to relax with books that are more directed at kids or middle-graders, like Tamora Pierce or Gail Carson Levine.

So here in the blog I’m going to try out a review system that focuses on helping you figure out if a book will be a good match – for your tastes or for your mood. And then there are the books that I feel are so great they deserve a try no matter what genre or age-range you usually stick to, and I’ll be sure to point those out as well.

(photo found through flickr creative commons)

On being an “old adult”

I started this blog to write about young adult and children’s literature from the perspective of someone who is neither a young adult or a child. But I feel compelled to say (strictly so my readers can decide whether or not to identify with me, of course, not from any anxiety about getting old. ahem.) that I am not, technically, that old.

Do you have a part of you that still feels like a teenager/college student/twenty-something? I remember when I was a teenager, and my older cousin (in her 40s) told me that a lot of the time she still felt inside like she was 18. And I was amazed. Grown-ups were grown-ups. You know, old, and grown up, and, well, old. But now that I am grown up and, you know, old, I totally understand what my cousin was talking about.

Interestingly, my inner young adult has gotten a little older – in college she felt like a high schooler, and then for a while in my 20s I would see college students and have to remind myself that the reason they looked so bizarrely young and unformed was because they were young, at least compared to me. Now I am 32, which is hopefully still well in the first half of a long and healthy life, but despite the fact that there’s a part of me inside that still feels full of the possibilities of her early 20s, I am definitely, solidly, thoroughly, no longer a young adult.

I was never one of those kids who couldn’t wait to grow up. I loved being whatever age I was, occasionally holding nostalgia for times gone by (through Freshman year of high school I maintained that 7th grade was the “best year ever”). And now that I’m in my 30s, it’s not that I’m resistant to growing up, I just, haven’t, quite. I am fortunate enough to not have a job that requires me to look professional, so I slouch around in jeans and hoodies and Pumas and dye my hair and carry pink plastic accessories with kitties on them. I get my work done and I pay my rent and care about the world and all that, but I love to come home and crawl in bed and read a book about trying to fit in at a new high school or investigating the mysterious construction site next to the junior high or trying to juggle a boyfriend, homework, and psychic powers.

One of the things I do for work is to work with teens. And I see over and over again that, in the same way I couldn’t conceive of a “grown-up” having any part of her that knew exactly what it was like to be a teen, adults have a very hard time grasping the clarity and wisdom with which young adults perceive the world around them, and the depth and intensity of their emotions in reponse to what they experience. The very best YA books understand that to be a teen is not to be naive, or self-absorbed, or stupid. To be a teen, or a child, is to experience things with such newness, and such brightness, that it shines a light on what we come to take for granted. It highlights all the things that over the years we may come to accept, or forget, or simply cease to notice. And in this way, YA literature is our literature, the story of our whole world.

And also it’s just really fun. And silly. And fantastical. And clever. And a great read!