Do you ever genuinely picture yourself in the books you read? Whether as a bystander, a co-star, or even the protagonist? Have you ever really wondered or wished for what life might be like if you could truly step inside a story? …maybe I was just a weird kid.
I love YA fiction for many reasons but a downside has been developing and it makes me only the teeniest bit sad. The thing is, I began reading YA fiction books around the ages of 13-14 and it was awesome. The stories were insane and amazing and I loved it and…and a tiny part inside of me way deep down hoped that when I turned 16 or 17 like the protagonists in those books I too would go on a grand adventure… And then suddenly I was reading YA fiction books but I was the same age as the protagonists. These characters were role models for a girl and now they were peers to a teen. I still had not done anything remotely remarkable with my life but I figured maybe one day, maybe soon, maybe when I’m least expecting it… And now I am older than the heroes in the YA fiction books I read. I am an adult witnessing the lives of youngsters far surpassing anything I have ever done with my own life.
Why can’t I save the world? Why can’t I embark on a magical adventure? Why can’t I time travel, fight pirates, go to Hogwarts, or possess a superpower? Why can’t I fall in love, take down an evil empire, discover who I am, and rescue the future all in one fell swoop of a trilogy?? When I was younger there was hope that such a pivotal moment would come, as I grew older I just knew it was coming at any minute if only I could get my mind to quit dwelling on it, and then somehow I got “old” and it feels as if all chances have passed without once glancing my way. I remain but a chorus member awaiting my big break. (Yes, I was indeed a very imaginative and idealistic human). But honestly, if I were to be sucked into almost any book on my shelf I know- I know I would be woefully unprepared…might make for a good comedy though. At least until I died by page 4 (probably by something stupid like tripping into a volcano, falling on my own sword because my noodle arms can’t hold it up, contracting the plague, or accidentally getting in the way of an arrow).
Such is life.
My reading tastes have expanded into general/adult fiction as well as the relatively new (and very hit-or-miss) genre of NA fiction and they prove that
sometimes many times adventures pop up when you’ve left teenage-hood and have entered a next stage in life (actually adventures seem to strike you when you’ve grown complacent, no matter your age, because life loves surprises…even if we don’t. What a jerk), but even so I still reach towards YA fiction and it remains the bulk of my personal library. I think until I finally figure my own self out, I will always have something in common with the protagonists in YA fiction. And even if I do figure out my place in this world I will still love YA fiction and all the memories attached to those books. Besides, a good book is a good book. (Prime example: the Harry Potter series)
The thing is that when I really think about it I’m not entirely convinced I would want to be any of those protagonists. I don’t want to live in a world where kids are sacrificed in a televised game, I don’t want to live in a world where all people are labeled “ugly” until they undergo the pretty surgery, I don’t want to be shot, attacked, betrayed, starved, tortured, lost, pooping in the woods, or crawling forward with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Also, I refer you back to my earlier testament of my far too likely inadequacy to survive in such chaotic worlds.
So, I think that as long as those characters are willing to bring me along on their quests I’m okay letting them save the world for now. I think sometimes being a nobody is a blessing. I think that I’ll just go for the ride of their adventure and depart at the end of the story taking with me our shared memories and the lessons I’ve gleaned from their trials and mistakes. I’ll do something with my life one day, I am sure of that, but it doesn’t have to be today. Instead I will fight patiently and continue reading to arm myself with tools for the future and also for the sheer pleasure it brings me.
(When that dragon egg hatches in my backyard and an evil wizard rises up to take over the coolest magic school ever boy oh boy you best believe we book nerds will rise up to the challenge while all you non-readers run around shrieking in blind panic and confusion)
So yes, every once in a while I feel disappointed that I haven’t saved the world like so many characters before me, but mostly I think that’s okay. They saved the world so that I wouldn’t have to and if I do have to then at least I’ll be better prepared.
Books are a gift that few embrace and less appreciate.
Francis Bacon was right when he said “Knowledge is power” (even if the knowledge is tucked between the pages and disguised under the dressings of whimsical fantasy. If you look close enough, you’ll find it).