Monday, July 25, 2016

Y (A) I Need a Break from Young Adult Books



One of my favorite genres has always been young adult, even before the now-immensely popular category earned its own bookshelves and could only be vetted out among the children’s section and adult fiction.

As an actual young adult, I felt the need to be seen reading literary novels as I rode the commuter train, but the book on my night table would tell a different story – one of high school romances and carefree summers.

I was the mother of three when The Twilight Series hit, and I truly tried to resist, but ultimately gave in and lost. For weeks my kids survived on Nick Jr. and cereal as I read the entire series and sought out other bleary-eyed mothers in the drop off line at school to discuss Bella and Edward.

As an early e-reader owner I found solace in covertly reading Pretty Little Liars on my device while simultaneously toting around a hard copy of my book club’s latest historical fiction pick.

But, lately the thrill is gone due to the young adults in my life. In a couple of weeks my oldest daughter will be a high school junior, the middle daughter a freshman and the youngest in sixth grade. Aside from the drama my girls already provide and not having a need for any more in my life, YA books now present a dilemma I had not anticipated. They are planting seeds of worry.

Now, I’m not na├»ve. I know they have lives separate from me and do plenty of things I don’t know about and I’m sure they are feeding me the lies they think I want to hear on a daily basis. I’ve also made them well aware that they may think they are coming up with new and creative ways to get away with stuff, but I am no stranger to pushing the parental limits.

Back in the day I made sneaking out an art form. My friends tried to outdo my spectacular fibs and maneuvers, but I could not be beat. My claim to fame remains to this day: shortly after my sixteenth birthday my family moved to a big house. I told my parents (probably with crocodile tears) I was scared being so far away from them and feared not being able to get out if there was a fire. I suggested purchasing a rope ladder that can be kept under the bed and thrown out the window in case of a fire or another emergency; the commercials were currently running on TV. See where this is going? Well, they didn’t and I snuck out the same night we bought it at the hardware store. Oddly enough, I used it more to sneak friends in than I did to escape. I’m happy to report I never had to use it in a real emergency.

Maybe the identification with the deviance was why I liked YA books so much – until it became real. Now when I read a YA book I find myself wondering if my girls are doing the outlandish things the characters in the book are doing. Will S run away with her best friend’s brother tomorrow when she told me they’re going to a movie, ‘in a group’? Is K secretly going to cult meetings when I drop her off at guitar lessons? (I never actually see her go in the door, hmm). Is E’s sudden interest in coding not just a nice nerdy hobby but an attempt to hack into the school’s computer and change her grades?

If I don’t take a break our dinner conversations are going to get weird. Instead of asking about their school day or tennis practice I’ll be asking if they have gambling problems or participating in satanic rituals.

“Sweetie, are you making fake IDs in the basement when you say you’re watching Netflix?”
“Honey, pass the salt and have you been buying crack from your science teacher?”
“I’m glad you did well on your test and by the way are you and your friends facetiming with Russian drug lords?”

All mothers’ minds worry and go right to worst-case scenario mode, I know this is normal. Reading about teens drinking, having sex, skipping school and running away just doesn’t help me keep the worry in the normal range. So for now I’ll leave the YAs and catch up on other genres.

Of course the new Harry Potter book is an obvious exception. I’m sure I’ll see some of you at midnight this weekend.