I, of course, have to start with the obvious. Reading 4 books a week last semester taught me firstly, that it is indeed, possible. In fact, it's possible to read over 200 books in a year, which people who have ever served on an awards committee such as the one for the Printz Award, which honors the best book written for young adults in a given year, can attest to. If you don't believe me or would like to learn more about the committee and reading frenzy process, this interview with a previous Printz committee chair is an insightful resource.
I am going to preface the remainder of this post by saying that I am going to digress boatloads so I can talk briefly about some of the most memorable books to me.
I was in a discussion-style course dedicated to library materials for young adults (YA). YA titles are generally over 50,000 words (unless it's heavy dialogue, it will hover around 200 pages) and rarely exceed 150,000 words. That is to say, we did not always read novels in verse, which, by the way, are amazing. A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is one of my favorites. It's about a boy named Will who, after his brother is murdered, wants to seek revenge. When he gets onto the 8th floor elevator of his building with a gun, the elevator stops on each floor down and the ghost of someone he has lost to gun violence gets on. Are the stories of the dead able to change Will's mind? All I can say is that for a fast read (shouldn't take more than 2 hours), it has a not so simple dilemma and message. A Long Way Down is a Newbery Honor book, Printz Honor Book, and best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards.
Another of my favorites is Bull by David Elliott. It's a retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in verse, with a twist. I couldn't put it down, seriously, I had a very hard time looking up. Elliott is a beast, pun intended. The book opens with “Whaddup, bitches?” No, it's not that kind of book, it's not always so brash, just enough, in a mellifluous way, which is sort of an oxymoron.
Ok, moving on to the next thing I learned. Do not judge a book by its genre. This is going to sound really bad coming from a future librarian, but I was the kind of reader that didn't like to veer from one genre. I'm a contemporary, realistic fiction type of person, or at least I was.
So that's why we have to get a masters, if nothing than to expand our horizons.
Each week we explored a topic. Sometimes it would be about non-traditional families and other weeks it would focus on fantasy or graphic novels.
I'll do my best not to deviate forever but my favorite fantasy books were The Hazel Wood (think the Brothers Grimm meets Alice in Wonderland) by Melissa Albert and The Raven Boys (the first book in the Raven Boys Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater which I have no clever comparison for.
Sometimes you have to push yourself to leave your comfort zone. I have a post somewhere with a photo of a small circle in which the words "Your comfort zone" is scribbled, followed by a larger circle that reads, "Where the magic happens." I had never read a graphic novel before but I quickly discovered that the ones I read were just as powerful as the books in traditional format. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is of course, a must (it's a graphic autobiography, which makes the story even more compelling).
Lastly, I learned to not throw shade at audiobooks. I was doing 2 internships, working, and had 2 classes, all in different places all over the city. So as you can imagine, I had a lot of travel time in between. And having to read 4 books a week, I gave in to audiobooks and you know what, I'm so glad I did! I was able to create time for "reading" where there previously wasn't. While I was making the bed, taking a shower, cooking, while brushing my teeth at night and taking off my makeup, while I was driving. All these pockets of time emerged that I would not have been able to utilize if it weren't for audiobooks.
Yes, but does your brain comprehend listening to a book the same way it does when physically reading it, Mahjabeen? Some experts say the difference is only "small potatoes." Here's one take by Markham Heid.
I'm sure I learned many other things from reading 4 books a week, but I'm going to stop here because I have a suspicious feeling I have written too much and 75% of you stopped reading after my first tangent. I'll end with a few of my other favorite YA titles that I read last semester:
If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (fiction)
Warcross by Marie Lu (fantasy)
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (fiction)
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez (fiction)
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (fiction)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee (adventure)
Americanized: Rebel without a Green Card by Sara Saedi (autobiography)
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