Maybe that’s because at its heart, YA aims to be pleasurable. It’s intended for people who are coming of age reading about characters who are doing the same. As such, these books have a way of cocooning their protagonists, navigating them—and by extension, the reader—to safety, and sometimes real happiness. There’s a moment in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, a book about two misfits falling in love, that captures it best. Eleanor reflects on the mix tape Park gave her: “There was something about the music on that tape,” Rowell writes. “It felt different. Like, it set her lungs and her stomach on edge. There was something exciting about it, and something nervous. It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world, wasn’t what she’d thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.”
I was very competitive with my siblings about reading and wanted to read everything my sister (who is 8 years older than me) read rather than “age-appropriate” books. Therefore I skipped over things like “5 Children and It” and “Treasure Island”, etc. So recently I’ve started reading them and discovered “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett who is a very interesting woman and it’s a wonderful read. The way she describes the excitement and therapeutic value of getting things to grow is just spot on and struck a strong chord with me at the moment.