Young Adult novels cured my seven-year reading slump

Growing up, I was the girl who carried a book with her everywhere she went. I spent hours in Borders (RIP), browsing books until I finally picked what world I wanted to be sucked into next— only to finish that book just hours later.

However, reading was a passion of mine that dwindled as the realities of adulthood set in. I no longer had the time to read fiction or, quite frankly, anything not related to my Journalism degree. Even after I graduated, I was too burnt out to read for fun after a day of absorbing news articles and making deadlines. Before I knew it, I hadn’t read a book for myself in seven years.

What’s more, is my reading and writing journey are practically intertwined. My love for reading nourished my creativity, and I spent as much of my teenage years writing as I did reading. I eventually lost my writing spark as well when I stopped reading. And I essentially traded in my dreams of being a published author for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist instead. 

In June 2019, however, I decided to dip my toe back into creative writing. Thankfully Instagram’s algorithm also showed me a peek into “Bookstagram,” and I was inundated with beautifully shot photos of young adult books with impressive cover art and compelling synopses. It brought back memories of some of my favorite YA novels as a teenager, such as “Wicked Lovely,” “Twilight,” “Vampire Academy” and “The House of Night Series.” I was hesitant though because I thought I was too old to read YA. 

On the other hand, I also firmly believed in the downright false perception that most YA novels were either problematic or didn’t have much substance to them (the discourse around “Twilight” had been enough for me to discount the whole genre). I chose to follow the Instagram account because the photos were pretty. However, I didn’t expect anything more than admiring the account’s aesthetic to come from following the page. 

Despite many of the books featured on the account being geared towards a younger audience, I started to become invested in the YA novels that were being showcased; particularly “Storm and Fury” by Jennifer L. Armentrout. So, I subsequently decided to take a chance on the other books I remembered had caught my eye.

So over the summer, last year, I was pulled into the magical world of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber and the twisted lands of faerie Holly Black created in the “Folk of Air” series. I even finished those books in one to two sittings, a feat I only thought possible in my youth. From there, my reading list only grew. I subscribed to a monthly book box and told friends and family to get me books for holiday gifts. 

For me, the benefit of reading YA novels was the fast-paced nature of the story. The plots were engaging and told the story succinctly in a little over 300 pages, which made reading feel like less of a commitment. If I carved out 30 minutes of unplugged reading time before bed, I could read 50 pages a night. And despite not every book I read being a favorite of mine, simply reading the books, even the ones outside of my comfort zone helped rekindle the joy of turning the page.

What impressed me the most about how much the genre had changed was the increased diversity. Although the publishing industry still has a long way to go, I was reading a variety of complex female characters, POC main characters written by POC authors, and books I wish I had known about when I was growing up. 

My biggest discovery was LGBTQ+ novels. Audrey Coulthurst’s “Of Fire and Stars” was the first F|F book I had ever read, and it made me feel truly seen in ways I had never experienced in a novel before. When marginalized communities talk about representation mattering in the media: listen. Diversity in stories is really life-changing for readers amongst minority demographics. 

I now consider myself an avid reader again. My girlfriend and I have three bookcases in our apartment, and I’ve become more ingrained within the sapphic bookish community on Instagram. I still love and fervently read YA books, but I’ve also branched out into reading more adult novels. 

Truthfully, as we get older, we can lose track of the things that brought us joy when we were younger. Sure, there are some things we grow out of, but embracing a hobby you used to love is something to be proud of. There’s so much complicated and often burdensome emphasis on what it means to be an adult. So, it’s easy to sacrifice pieces of who we are to become who we think we should be. It’s empowering to take those pieces back, reminding ourselves of what used to ground us— even if it’s just by getting lost in a book.

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By Aliya Hall

Aliya Hall is a freelance journalist and writer located in Portland, Oregan. Her favorite things to write about are the LGBTQ+ community and author profiles. She is in the editing process of her first adult F|F science fantasy novel and runs Sapphic Stories Bookclub, which aims to uplift and support sapphic and queer books as well as LGBTQ+ authors.