Life, Love, and the Young Adult Novel

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October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ryan Goodlett from Kentucky.

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Do you ever look back at your life and remember it in segments defined by the relationship you were in at that time? For me, it would be like “the Hayden* phase” or “the Elliott phase” and then “pre-Weston” and now currently “the Weston phase.” (Although I’m one billion times sure I’m gonna marry this one… we’re going on 10 months strong). This is my longest relationship, and I’ve never felt better. I strut through those cold high school hallways like it’s my red carpet, seeing everything through new eyes. I like to think I am very independent. I’m fine on my own or trying to fix the broken, and I won’t be with someone just because I think it’s “the thing to do.” But I didn’t realize that trying to fix the broken can be very painful; after all, broken things have sharp edges.

I met Weston in the midst of my endeavor to repair, and was already covered in cuts, waist-deep in someone else’s pain. I mean, I’ve read so many books about teenage love, where one character goes to the ends of the Earth for another, but the other character will just never be satisfied, but I could not recognize this in my own life.

Most recently, I witnessed this scenario unfold while curled up with John Green’s Paper Towns, an exhilarating mystery/romance novel which features Quentin Jacobson and Margo Roth Spiegelman of Orlando, Florida. As I tapped into Quentin’s thoughts and feelings about Margo, and learned of all the crazy things she did, I found myself feeling so very sorry for Quentin because it was so obvious that Margo Roth Spiegelman was not quite on the same planet (or at least had a very different view of the planet) as him. Such a simple yet intricate storyline, I could compare this story metaphorically to not only my own, but to the stories of many others I knew. Young love, the loss of love and the search for love are all captured beautifully in this novel, giving readers plenty of reason to both laugh and cry.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerSo let’s get back to my own personal red carpet… now that I’ve got this beautiful relationship going on, and even though Weston’s gone at college, I strut down that thing like I am the queen bee of Martha Layne Collins High School. I listen to my friends talk about how their boyfriends never want to hang out with them and how they just want to be treated like a princess… and I tilt my head to make sure they can’t see my tiara glittering. My ears were recently treated to a lovely little anecdote from my best friend Hunter… within the course of one week: her first boyfriend ever cheated on her and when she broke up with him, he got back together with his ex girlfriend… who was not the girl he cheated on Hunter with. And of course I bought her a Blizzard, rented The Great Gatsby, offered to TP his house, let her cry on my shoulder and sent a little thank-you note to my sweet Jesus for my sweet Weston… but this situation really got me thinking. Being the quirky, creative, deep-thinking girls that we are, Hunter and I started our own tw0-member book club Freshman year. Some of my favorite memories are of us reading books out loud together and discussing them in lengthy, sometimes revelation-provoking and life-changing conversations.

One of the first books we read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky. As I looked at poor Hunter on the night of her awful boyfriend’s hideous exposure, crumpled in my arms with her salt-stained, mascara painted face, I couldn’t help but think back to this novel. Filled with controversial topics and lavish descriptions of drugs and sexual experiences, but emphasizing relationships and loyalty, this book embodies life as not only a high schooler, but as a human being in general. A famous quote from this novel says: “we accept the love we think we deserve.” These words spoke to me in a very deep way when I first read them, and on that night they gave me the courage to remind Hunter that I loved her and that she deserved much, much better.

Both Paper Towns and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are young adult books that are very near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share with you what they mean to me personally and how they relate to my life because if there is anything I am passionate about, it is a well-written story. Life (especially life as a teenager) is rough at times, and novels offer the greatest of sanctuaries from reality. As I met and came to love the characters of Quentin, Ben, Radar and Lacey from Paper Towns and Charlie, Patrick, Sam and Mary Elizabeth from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I became inspired by the idea that we are not alone in our experiences, but that there is a grand other world of life and love in literature waiting just behind the cover of a young adult novel.

– Ryan Goodlett is a 16 year old Junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky. She is a cheerleader and lacrosse player and she also enjoys theatre, leading worship with her guitar, and writing creatively.

*All names have been changed.

3 thoughts on “Life, Love, and the Young Adult Novel”

  1. Ryan, I am not surprised to see your writing being honored here! Give “Hunter” a huge hug from me and keep on reading and writing.

  2. Wow Ryan! This is amazing! You are such a great writer and inspiring young woman. Very proud of you. :)

  3. Ryan,
    Wow…. Very impressive! You are such a wonderful writer and I’m proud of you! Keep writing and reading! You keep enjoying the red carpet and encouraging your friends to accept no less than being treated with complete respect and honor. It sounds like Weston is pretty special too! 😉

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