I hate Y.A. novels; they bore me. That’s a disappointing fact of my reading life, because never have I had such an intense relationship with books as when I was a young girl. I raged inside them and lived a double emotional life (half real girl, half inhabitant of a distant world). To Sir, With Love and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Forever and Rebecca, Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones and Mrs. Mike, Gone With the Wind and Rich Man, Poor Man, and even Valley of the Dolls (an astonishing number of whose 8 million readers turned out to be teenagers) and Peyton Place, as well as any movie-star biography I could get my hands on (Judy Garland, Greta Garbo—in those days, you had to have been long dead or seriously faded to be worthy of such a biography) and a slew of far less famous books written exclusively for the teen-girl market and published in paperback, never to be heard of again—all of these books consumed me in a way that no other works of art or mass culture ever have. I chose books neither because of, nor in spite of, their artistic merit, only for their ability to pull me through the looking glass.
. . .
The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life—one that she slips into during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice past her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs—to be undisturbed while she works out the big questions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others—are met precisely by the act of reading.
WOW. I'm not sure how to respond.
These are not the reasons I immersed myself in books as a young adult. I read because I had an insatiable desire to learn, about anything and everything. I never saw books as a form of escapism, though I'm sure there are those who do. How about you? Why did you read as a young adult, and why do you read now? And if you have any thoughts about the excerpt above, please share!