Hello, friends. This week, a local journalist, Hollie Pratt Campbell, interviewed me. In the course of our conversation, Hollie said that while she now reads mostly adult books, it was Young Adult fiction that made her a reader; that really stirred her love of books, as a younger reader.
I was thinking about why that’s the case, and I suspect it’s to do with the importance of story in young people’s lit. Young readers don’t read primarily for gorgeous prose, elaborate narrative structure, or postmodern wit. (Which is not to say that they don’t appreciate all those things; they can be sophisticated readers.) But before all else, they want a fully developed story with complex characters and a conflict that gets resolved.
There’s a purity to writing for kids that’s incredibly satisfying, precisely because of these elements. As an adult, I too enjoy the quest. I want to solve the problem; I long to overcome the challenge. When life is messy and ambiguous, it’s a relief to pull things together neatly in a plot.
The plot, however, is just the hook. What remains for me are the characters and their specific struggles. If I think about the books that made me a reader, I think of the Murry family, in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet – loving, often separated, intrepid. Emily Starr, the idealistic, lonely, aspiring writer created by L. M Montgomery. Even the Naughtiest Girl, a spoiled brat who’s determined to be expelled from her boarding school, yet comes to belong there (it’s a series by Enid Blyton).
What do you read for – plot, characters, something else? And what are the books that made you a reader?