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YA Books: Shaping the Future

People who say that fantasy books and YA novels do nothing to help our minds obviously do not understand the power books hold over the people who read them. They believe that, because the story worlds and the characters are fictional, they can’t influence readers in ways that real life events and people can. What they don’t understand is that the books themselves are not what stay with us. In twenty years, I will likely not remember the world of the book in which I am currently adventuring. I won’t remember the details of the story. I probably won’t even remember the quotes from that snarky character I’ve fallen in love with as the chapters have passed. YA books, fantasy books, sci-fi books, they don’t stand as truths. We don’t believe what has happened on the page, nor the magic we have experienced there, exists in the world around us. It is not in the stories that the real magic takes place, but rather in the life-long values they instill in the reader.
We may consciously remember Divergent’s Tris and Four in ten years, but what is important is that our hearts will remember that they taught us that you are more than just one thing. You can’t be defined by just one word or category. You have to be brave and selfless and kind and honest and intelligent to survive. All these factors must coexist within society, as well as in you, for true success to be achieved.
In ten years, we may remember trekking around the Shadow World with Jace and Clary and Alec and Isabelle in the Mortal Instruments. We may remember Jace’s snark, or how much we loved Alec and his glittery boyfriend. But what our hearts and heads will remember is so much more. It taught us about equality—even some of the Clave’s most badass warriors were gay. It taught us that people who are obnoxious or hard to get to know most likely have a reason for being that way, and that you shouldn’t judge what you don’t understand. It taught us that love can seriously suck, it can be ridiculous and totally hopeless at times, but that doesn’t mean you should ever give up on what you believe in. Most importantly, it taught us that sometimes, the real demons are the people we’ve come to trust, and, sometimes, the rules that seem so safe and set in stone much change to fit the circumstances as the circumstances themselves change, as the world around them does.
John Green with the Fault In Our Stars. Of course we will always remember Gus and Hazel’s epic love. But what we’ll remember most is that no time together is ever too short to make it worth an entire lifetime. “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” We’ll remember that forever. Also, we’ll know in the deepest parts of our hearts that life just sucks. And there’s not really anything you can do about it. But if all you do for the rest of your life is stand around saying “life sucks,” the only person at fault for your dull and uneventful life is you. Your life can only ever be what you make it to be. Take what you’ve got and use it till it’s gone. Do whatever you want with your life in the time you have, or forever regret it later.
Every single book we read affects us in some way, some more than others. They aren’t just stories on a page. If you really read them, they are a life changing force. They help us figure out where we stand in the world and how we can make our mark. They help us understand that life is hard and, no matter who you are, you are going to have huge obstacles, like death and illness, but also the smaller decisions, like love and what college you’re going to, or even what job you want to get. You’re even going to have the tiny battles with yourself about what shoes to wear to school, or whether you want to look like a demon hunter or an evervescent child of the Earth. When you read, your mind tucks away each character’s ideas, the way they think, the way they decide. The more you read, the more characters you collect, the more lives you’ve already lived before you hit 20. If you read just ten books in a year, assuming that each book has at least three developed characters (the protagonist, the antagonist, and then at least one secondary character), you will collect thirty new characters. You’ll learn from their mistakes, their triumphs. You’ll learn from their loves and losses. You’ll learn how to deal with strife and success. You’ll see that one person made this decision and failed, while another person made a different decision and succeeded. You’ll see how one character made no decision and how absolutely nothing got better for them, maybe even got worse. No matter what happens, your mind will collect these traits and subconsciously tuck them away for future reference.
I’m not insisting that we all make every decision consciously saying in our minds “What would Magnus Bane do?” or “What would Tobias Eaton not do?”. I am saying that our minds learn without us even knowing. With every single book you read, your mind is learning about how people think, how they feel, and it influences the way you do the same. It’s not so much that your selection of books and characters dictates the life you will lead. It’s more that the stories, the characters, the quotes your mind has long forgotten have inspired the way you look at the world in a way that people who haven’t lived those lives will never see.
It’s just like how the best movies have the best soundtracks. The soundtracks don’t dictate what happens in the film. The lyrics are not telling the story of the film. The undertones, though, and the music help inspire thoughts and feelings about the actions that you are seeing on the screen. In much the same way, books are the soundtracks to our lives. The words don’t dictate how we live our lives. We don’t spend our days fighting demons or riding dragons. Instead, we allow the themes and subtext in our favorite books to inspire us to make our decisions. We, in a way, become a walking example of all of our favorite characters merged into one person.
So, in that way, YA books shouldn’t be dismissed as “lesser works.” If anything, they should be the most talked about, the most revered. These stories influence so much of the younger population of the world, the leaders of the next generation, in how they view the world and other people. They literally influence our views on the basics like what is right or wrong. The books we read as children and young adults, the ones that transport us to other realms of possibility, hold the future of the planet in their pages. So, is it not a logical statement to say that, if anything, these authors should be respected and held in higher esteem for their impact on today’s children and tomorrow’s society? It is up to the reader to decide. Let’s hope the characters you’ve collected are not all shallow and villainous.



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ACkYeFirstThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jun. 11 at 8:17 pm:
Very well-written. I applaud your selection of young adult books to back up your argument - you selected those that are not only good examples of typical teen literature, but also well-known enough that those who haven't read them (I, for example, have only read "Divergent"!) can still understand your point. The argument itself is expressed clearly and poetically, and is a pleasure to read. Outstanding! 
 
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