Teen Perspective: Three Reasons to Read
[Today's post is by Lauren, an 8th grader. Thanks for sharing your perspective with our readers, Lauren!]
It’s not really a big deal when someone says to me, “I don’t really read books that often.” Alright, so it might be a small deal. But when I hear a fellow classmate say, “Books,” (pause for obnoxious laughter), “who reads those!” I feel like grumbling. Grumbling is not particularly attractive, mind you, therefore I try not to do it.
When people insult the thing I spend most of my free time doing, my grumbling feels slightly justified. How can someone disregard the slight whoosh when strolling through the automatic doors of the totally not dusty and old but actually super amazing library? The overwhelming sense of being surrounded by so many lives full of emotion and tragedy and inside jokes? How can someone not be in awe of how these incredible people called writers have managed to harness meaningless words and turn them into your best friends?
In case you are one of those people who are unfamiliar with these feelings, I’ll give three reasons why reading is cool and two books worth checking out.
1. If you read the right books, you pick up all the tips and tricks of how to get your crush to fall madly in love with you (and turn you into a vampire, if that’s your thing). That applies to guys and girls. Actually, you mostly learn all the tips on things not to do when attempting romance, but same difference, right?
It’s difficult to pinpoint two novels that simply understand how teenage romance works. That’s a lie. It’s easy because I can just pick out my two favorite books and voila! Romance, wit, accessibility, and bittersweet endings all rolled into one.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley makes me want to explode. A friend of mine said, “The dialogue is so real it feels as if I’m eavesdropping.” Exactly. The book is perfect for girls and guys with its hilarious story of one girl’s quest to find out the identity of her favorite graffiti artist before the night ends. Tagging along are her two best friends and three guys. Everyone has their own agenda for the night, but none know where it will end up. First thing you learn: don’t throw eggs at someone you like. It’s unbecoming and they tend to stop liking you back.
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes is also a great pick. It’s told from a guy’s point of view and lets you experience a week with our narrator Karl Shoemaker, who is in a therapy group with kids he grew up with who have had hard lives. This novel didn’t teach me about love; it taught me about people and friendship. It’s about being able to rely on each other and yourself. I learned that love is never just all-consuming passion; sometime love means just holding someone’s hand and being content in that moment. This is a book definitely worth reading.
2. Reading books literally makes you smarter. Sure that might not matter to some, but when you come across the crazy teacher who gives even crazier test and he’s talking about his good old ranch life and well, you’ve never lived on a ranch so why in the world would you be able to relate with this an-A-ain’t-easy-in-my-class kook talk…books come in handy. Read one book with the tiniest tidbit about horses, prairie grass, or the wholesome ranch life and you immediately have your teacher thinking, “Hey! This kid gets it.”
So although I’ve never read a book about a ranch (unless you count Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, which was set on a Southern plantation), I still have a couple of great recommendations for books that will make you smarter.
Depending on what grade you’re in and if you choose to take a Humanities class in high school, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King is for you. Not only is it an incredible novel that touches on a variety of important issues today like equality, LGBT issues, love (or not), friendship, and family life, it managed to teach me a lot about classic philosophy. Our main character, Astrid, is going through a pretty rough time trying to figure out who she is, and she begins consulting Socrates, whom she nicknames Frank. The novel left me feeling a sense of pride in myself and Astrid, and I can’t wait to take Humanities with my new knowledge about Zeno, Socrates, and Plato. (Wondering who those guys are? Read the book.)
Positively by Courtney Sheinmel is another one that touches on subjects we may be blasé about when chuckling with friends but are actually serious and life-changing. It’s all about one girl’s life-long struggle with being HIV-positive. When her mother dies and she has to live with her father and step-mother, she feels cut-off and misunderstood. How can anyone even attempt to understand what it’s like to live with the fear of becoming sick and dying because of her condition? They laugh, they whisper, but they don’t know — until Emmy’s dad decides to send her to Camp Positive, where she comes to realize that there are people who know what it’s like. Positively brings attention to a world issue that most people dismiss with disgust when in reality, no one means to get AIDS and that doesn’t make them any less human.
3. Besides just being tip-filled and impressive, books are a convenient means for escape. Where do you want to go? Or rather, what do you want to leave behind? When I’m at my very lowest moments it probably means I haven’t read a book in a while. I’ve been yelling at my mom all week, avoiding taking the dog to go to the bathroom, and slacking off in all of my classes. But I find that when I sit down with a book and focus on nothing else, I resurface relaxed. No grades, no text messages, and no Facebook statuses: reading is the very best procrastination tool, my friends, and I highly suggest you utilize it. Your parents might even thank you!
For drastic times when you need immediate escape, here are a couple books to read:
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. You want an engrossing read: quick, easy, and entertaining enough to sustain your attention long enough to forget about that looming English essay. This cliché romance about two teenagers from opposite sides of town proves itself to be more than just another poor bad boy vs. rich good girl drama.
Another option is to read a novel in verse. I know what you’re thinking, poetry is for girls. Wrong. Poetry is perfect for teenagers. It’s not overly developed, making it simple for one to imagine themselves into the situation. Also, it’s abstract, almost mimicking our thought process. If you’re into angst try Ellen Hopkins; her first book, Crank, is about one girl’s downward spiral after taking drugs.
Falling in love, getting on the teacher’s good side, and escaping your nagging parents are all things we strive to do in life. Books can help. Stop by your library today to pick up any one of these wonderful novels mentioned above. And don’t worry about hiding your face with a ski mask or bringing a gas mask so as not to choke on the layers of dust. Librarians are great secret-keepers and are quite tidy. Most of the time.
– Lauren B., 8th grade, West Middle School, currently reading Tithe by Holly Black