Have you ever felt invisible in the middle of your own life?
Have you ever walked into a crowded room and felt like no one noticed you?
Have you ever felt the conflicting emotions of hating the shallowness and superficial-ness of the “in crowd”, and yet at the same time wanting so badly to be a part of it?
Have you ever felt sad and depressed for no obvious reason?
Have you ever felt completely unappreciated, as if there’s not a soul on the planet who cares or acknowledges what you have to offer?
Have you ever longed for someone to think you’re pretty or cute or smart or funny?
Have you ever wished you had just one person to talk to, only to realize at every turn that there’s no one?
Have you ever just wanted to feel like you belonged somewhere, anywhere?
As a teacher, I see kids EVERY SINGLE day who feel like this. Sometimes there are real reasons for these feelings. Sometimes the feelings are completely irrational. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter whether the feelings are rational or not. They still FEEL them. And the result is the same.
To some degree, we never fully outgrow those feelings. At least it seems that way to me! Sure, as adults, we’re able to see the big picture, and can (most of the time) discern when our feelings are irrational, but I’ll be the first to admit that those feelings I described above still creep up on me from time to time.
As an author (and a reader!), this is why I LOVE Young Adult fiction. Because kids need reading material that can meet them where they are… fiction that mirrors their own lives, feelings, and experiences, and yet offers hope and encouragement that things really can work out okay and perseverance really can pay off. They need to see that other teens (and former teens!) have felt that same sense of loneliness, isolation, sadness, longing, and invisibility that they experience, and that those people have been able to come out of those situations stronger and more equipped to handle life and all that comes with it. They need a safe place to escape from reality for a while; somewhere where they can lose themselves in the excitement of fiction.
The fact that most adults still sometimes experience those same feelings just widens the appeal of quality, relevant Young Adult fiction. Good YA fiction reaches across the generations, to speak to the teenager in all of us, and remind us all that we really do have reason to be encouraged and hopeful.
I can always find exactly what I need. Encouragement. Compassion. Humor. Acceptance. A book is a safe place to let off steam and vent my frustrations, whether it’s a mystery suspense novel or a feel-good romance. Whatever emotional connection I need at that particular moment to balance out the rest of what’s going on in my head… it’s always there, inside the pages of a book. Which is why books are my constant friends, wise counselors, and patient teachers.
Amy Durham discovered a love of writing in the sixth grade. What began as poetry writing soon turned into stories scribbled into school notebooks. In the 8th grade, her English teacher told her she was good at it and encouraged her to continue. At that moment, the die was cast, and writing would forever be a part of her life.
Amy lives in Kentucky, where she is a middle school teacher. She and her husband of 16 years are raising three wild, intelligent, and creative boys, giving her plenty of fodder for the love and adventure she enjoys putting in her stories!