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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

05.08.2003

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DigsMagazine.com.

reads like 
teen spirit 
an ode to young adult fiction 
by Yee-Fan Sun
| 1 2 3

Take a look next to my bed, and youíll always find a stack of books, each with a bookmark tucked partway through the volume, all at varying stages of being read or re-read. At any given moment, thereíll be a Contemporary Great (serious stuff, brainy stuff, the sort that all the critics are currently waxing rhapsodic over), a  Classic Great (same as above, only old), generally an Overrated Classic (one of those books I bought ages ago, because everyone told me how phenomenal it was, only four years later and I still canít force myself to read it all the way through, though I valiantly continue to torture myself to the finish because Iím bewildered by how all those smart people could be so wrong), maybe some non-fiction as well.  Right now, for instance, thereís Don DeLilloís White Noise (overrated), buried beneath J.D. Salingerís Catcher in the Rye (classic) and Yann Martelís Life of Pi (contemporary), all sitting atop a fat, weighty textbook on evolutionary biology (this last, my attempt to get a clue about what it is that that my grad student boy actually does with his non-hanging-out-with-me time). These are my Real Books, the ones Iíll tell my friends Iím reading should dinner party conversations veer towards the literary.

But sharing that night-table space with all that certified, snob-approved Literature, thereíll always be a thin, pocket-sized paperback book hiding near the back, its spine gently broken, the corners worn down, cover faded, the pages beginning to wiggle loose. Thereíll generally be a teenage girl illustrated on the cover, or sometimes a boy, looking serious, and thoughtful, and earnest. These books will probably never be discussed in a college English lecture, or over-analyzed in a term paper; many are so long-forgotten that theyíre out of print and impossible to find at most bookstores. But truth be told, theyíre the books I love best, the ones I find myself turning to when Iím a little blue and looking for comfort in a good, familiar read. Theyíre my young adult books, those slim little paperbacks youíd find tucked away at the back of the bookstore, on the edge of the childrenís section, if you ever ventured that far from where the literature meant for grown-ups like yourself generally lives, that is.

Many of these books are the very same volumes Iíve owned since I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old, probably purchased at the Coop in Harvard Square, where my parents would bring my brothers and me on weekends when we were lucky enough to be granted an escape from the dull suburbs. I have always been a bookworm, but never more so than in those angst-filled adolescent years, when books were my method of choice from escaping from the world, and my parents would have to ration out my book purchases for me during long, boring summers, because Iíd run through books faster than they could bring me back to the store to buy more.
(Library books, sadly, have never been a favorite option of mine: Iíve never liked their musty smell, the thin layer of grease and dust that comes from having been thumbed by too many grimy paws.)  So maybe part of the appeal comes from the nostalgia factor: these books have been with me a long time. I know their stories as well as my own history; Iíve loved their characters for so long they feel like family.
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