Reading for the Fun of It
May 11-17 is “Reading is Fun Week,” run by Reading Is Fundamental , an organization that works to get books into the hands of children so that they can discover the joys of reading. As a youth services librarian, I often tell parents that their child will be a better reader if they read more, and a key to this is to make sure they are reading for fun. This doesn’t just apply to elementary school kids, though. Young adults and adults should be reading for fun, too. Now this got me wondering…do teens read for fun? Come to think of it…do I read for fun?
One thing I do not remember doing much of when I was in high school was reading for the fun of it. In fact, it took a while for me to remember reading anything other than what was assigned to me in school. I really had to think about it for a while before remembering that I actually read a lot of books for fun when I was a teen. I read R.L. Stine and fantasy books, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and I started to get more into adult fiction because there just weren’t as many Young Adult books and authors back in those days. Today, publishers and authors have tapped into the Young Adult market in a way I wish they had when I was in high school.
Many of the titles that come out for young adults these days seem to be too heavy for me, though. What I mean by “heavy” is that so many of the books are dark, or have deep themes, or can require a lot of thinking to really understand. Dystopian novels often showcase the possibilities of what could be if society takes a dark turn, post-apocalyptic novels get people thinking about how they would handle life after a similar event, and there are scores of true life books dealing with issues from rape to anorexia to bullying. I’m not saying that these books shouldn’t be written or read- on the contrary, they are incredibly important and I am pleased to see that they are voraciously read by all ages. What I’m saying is they aren’t the first things that come to mind when I’m looking for something light hearted that will make me laugh.
This brings me back to the fact that I really had to think hard to remember what I read as a teen when I just wanted something fun to read. The books I easily remember reading were the dark, thought provoking class assignments. I think, maybe, that even though we need the light-hearted stuff, it doesn’t stick in our minds as well as the books we have to think about, which isn’t fair to the books that I read and liked so much because they were exactly the opposite! Could it be that the lighter the book, the easier it is for it to float right out of our consciousness?
I am aware that what I consider fun may not be fun for others, and vice versa. When I really sit down and think about it, fun is quite subjective. What follows are some of my favorite fun YA reads- some of which I had to go browse my Goodreads list to remember!
My Most Excellent Year: A novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park (which I’ve mentioned before but love so much I’m using it again) by Steve Kluger- Told in essays, memos and emails this book has a little bit of everything in it- baseball, musicals, political activism and sneaking backstage to meet Mary Poppins included. While many of the plot details are serious subjects, such as Alé wanting to do musical theatre against her parents’ wishes, Augie coming out to himself since everyone around him already knows, and T.C. trying to reach the deaf boy who keeps discreetly telling him the next pitch, they are dealt with in such a positive manner that the whole book has an overall great vibe. And since it takes place in Boston, my favorite city in the world, I only love it more.
Who Done It? edited by Jon Scieszka contains short alibis from many suspects- that is, YA authors- including John Green, Libba Bray, David Levithan and Lauren Oliver. They’ve all been invited to a gathering thrown by their enemy- that is, editor- Herman P. Mildew…and he just happens to be dead on arrival. So who did it? It certainly seems like everyone there had a reason to commit murder, and some of those alibis are a little on the flimsy side. For fans of mystery this should be a hit, but as a non-mystery fan I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It introduced me to several authors I’d not read before and it was definitely funny, as well as strangely informative about pickles.
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a fun romance set in a New England beach town that is overrun with a movie production because the teen male lead wants to meet the girl he’s been talking to online. It starts with an accidental email exchange between movie star Graham Larkin and small town ice cream store clerk Ellie O’Neil, briefly turns into a case of mistaken identity, and even amidst secrets on both sides and Hollywood disillusionment ends quite satisfactorily. While the premise of a famous celebrity accidentally emailing and then falling for you is unlikely, it’s not impossible, and I couldn’t help but pull for them through the whole novel.
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare is actually kind of dark, now that I think about it– but it’s so much fun to read. It has action, romance, and I admit that I cried and cried at the end of the trilogy, which I thought ended in the best possible way and in a way I totally didn’t anticipate. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. What I liked so much about Infernal Devices was that it’s a combination of steampunk, historical fiction, action, romance, and science fiction. Starting with 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winning title Clockwork Angel, this series has little elements of so many different genres that I never got bored with it and I liked it even more than the one that follows it chronologically.
Now I want to hear what you consider a fun read. Did you have to wrack your brain for it, or did it just come to you? Fill the comments up with titles that just made you feel good or made you laugh!
-Carla Land, currently reading Strobe Edge volume 2 by Io Sakisaka