Wednesday, November 2, 2011

THANKFUL FOR... Harry Potter

All this week I'm going to be discussing the books I'm most grateful for. Doing a post like this one is all you have to do to qualify for the 19-YA-Book Giveaway I launched yesterday. Just tell people about a book you're thankful for, include a link to the contest and the graphic right there to the right, and you're qualified.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

It's probably cliche to say that Harry Potter is one of the books I'm most grateful for. Nearly every writer I know has read and loved these books (and, to be honest, I'm a little wary of those that don't).

Still: it's true.

Let me set the scene for you. I was in college. I was an English major--and had taken the lofty classes and ready the snobby books to prove it. While I loved stories and loved reading, I don't think I'd really read a book for fun in years. In high school, I worked myself to the bone between part-time jobs and AP classes so I could afford college--I used the jobs to buy my first computer and used the schooling and a healthy dose of luck to get a scholarship. In college, I still had this insatiable need to prove myself. I was rather like Lisa Simpson.

So: I took the highest level classes, wrote the longest essays, and read every book on the syllabus.

And somewhere in there, I forgot about how I loved stories. I was so busy finding the symbolism in Frankenstein and parsing the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare and translating the Old English of Beowulf that I forgot about the pure joy of story.

The number one thing that I've gotten flack for on my website is my often-proclaimed loved of YA books and how, in my opinion, YA books are better than adult literature. People seem to think that means I hate adult literature, or that my love of YA somehow degrades or insults their love of adult lit. The thing is, I don't hate adult lit. I spent five years of my academic life researching adult lit and getting two degrees in it. I like adult lit.

But I love YA lit.

So here I was in college, surrounded by Moby Dick and Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, and I went to a bookstore with my roommate, also an English major. We were browsing the shelves--on the adult lit side, of course--and she leaned over and whispered, almost like it was a secret, "I sometimes like to read the books over there."

Over there was the YA section.

My first instinct: turn up my nose and scoff. Over there? Yeah, right. We were adults now, we read adult books. We were scholars! Academics! Why waste our time over there?

But I glanced at the titles on those shelves.

It was like being greeted by an old friend.

You know how a dog always loves you, no matter what? How a dog is always excited to see you, tail wagging, ready to jump in your lap, and it doesn't care what you look like or if you'd been mean to it before, it just wants to love you? YA books are like that. Adult books are like the housecat who does what it wants and often ignores you, but YA books are the happy dog with a tail wagging just waiting to be picked up.

From that point on, I started reading YA books for fun. I fell back in love with story.

And the first books I read, the first ones that reminded me of the joy of story, were Harry Potter.

PS: I love Harry Potter so much that I'll be a guest speaker at Ascendio 2012, a Harry Potter conference taking place in July, in Orlando, home of Harry Potter World! Hope to see you there!

Oh, and, meet my dog...named Sirius.

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