I don’t think of myself as someone who blossomed in high school. In fact, I would say they were some of the loneliest times in my life. I was in this small, religious high school, (Author Carol Berg and I went to the same, tiny high school in Fort Worth, TX, many years apart) and though people were nice enough, I often had great difficulty crossing over into a sense of social life in part because everyone lived so fucking far away from us! We drove half an hour one-way to get to school, more if there was traffic. Everyone in school did. We drifted in from the highways to be locked up into the institution, and all connection ended when the reality of traversing such great distances to peoples’ houses on bicycles and borrowed autos was too great to foster lasting connections. Local friends were around the neighborhood, but they went to the high school one block away from our house, and had their own world in which my siblings and I were only passing through. I spent a lot of time reading, did not understand the internet, yet, and watched a lot of Animaniacs in the afternoon, when my mother was asleep (and no friends were permitted in the house while my mom was sleeping) before her night shift began at the hospital, and my father wasn’t home yet, and…
Returning to that time in life in my imagination, revisiting my younger self, is not something I desire because high school was a misery endured like long marching band practice in the hot sun where even if I was unhappy, I was making music and I was part of something that pretended to be a social unit of some sort and sometimes people clapped for us for real instead of just being polite.
Return then, in your mind, if you want.
I do, occasionally dabble in YA Lit as a reader, but I don’t understand people who choose to make it their permanent intellectual residence. In this, I refer only to readers, not writers. As a reader, I prefer to reach broad and wide and seek out diversity. The mind, like the body, responds well to a diet that goes beyond just one kind of food.
I understand neither the attack of ya, nor its defense.
I know only that I don’t revisit high school much, and when I do, it had better be the best book I’ve ever read about it lately. High school, and even undergraduate college, is a horrible place where lots of seemingly innocuous, casual decisions turn into the chains that bind us to the career and opportunities ahead, and we don’t really know anyone well enough to know if we can truly trust them, yet, because we’ve only known them a short time, though it may feel like a lifetime. To live in that space in my imagination for long stretches of time, and to consume this and only this, would be as stifling, to me, as only reading works of epic fantasy, or only reading biographies of politicians and books of current events.
Soon, we will all be living in skyscrapers staffed with robots because there won’t be enough young people around after years of first world population decline, and there are more useful things for the economy than serving carrots to the dead. At this time, I would hope to be a little prepared to entertain myself and understand what is happening to my intellect and soul at such a time, and to approach the unknown future requires reading widely and learning widely.
Read YA, absolutely, but don’t read any one thing too much. It is okay to criticize people, a little, who have fallen into the past and only the past and nothing else.