After a busy day of turkey eating and reconnecting with loved ones, I’m spending my Friday relaxing with some Black Friday reads picked up from a local bookstore. Curled up on a couch, listening to the November winds hit the windows, I flip through the second novel of The Mortal Engines series, eager to continue the story I’ve recently fallen in love with. However, before I begin this new literary adventure, I reflect on and writer to the books I’ve already read that have given my experiences I will always be thankful for.
Note: Light spoilers ahead!
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
I read you in fourth grade. I had never been a good reader. You were kept on one of the bookshelves of my favorite teacher’s classroom. I picked through your pages faster than I could have imagined, fascinated by a young girl’s story interwoven with a history I had just began learning about. The language was beautiful, the characters stunningly compelling. As I finished reading, I started to see the power that writing and stories could have on people. More than that, you began a love affair with reading that would continue to this day.
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
I had you checked out of the library for my school library far too long, waiting for the right moment to pick you up. Finally, I found myself pouring through your pages, uncovering the mystery of an island and its magical inhabitants. While I was attached to the two protagonists, Arilou and Hathin, I was entranced by the expansive nature of the novel and how it represented and explored a whole community’s tumultuous history rather than a single escapade. You illustrated that characters do not exist in isolation and that stories speak for more than individual.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A cousin gave you to me for my birthday. I expected adventure, fantasy, escapism, reading you with a flashlight under bedcovers. Instead, I uncovered a harsh allegory for wealth disparities, militarism, and the cruelties society inflicts on its members. I was horrified by depictions of violence juxtaposed with exorbitant wealth. I was haunted by the image of fallen child warriors, their eyes stolen for weaponized genetic experiments. You taught me how novels could speak to larger ideas about human behavior, how they could teach their readers lessons and show them the consequences of actions similar to their own. You taught me that some stories have no happy endings, and how important that is.
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
I heard about you, read the praise, saw the recommendations on the back cover. I had never been one for realistic fiction. Still, picking you up at the local library, I couldn’t help but fall into your chapters, your stellar characters, your striking imagery. I followed your protagonist, Starr Carter, as she struggled with issues that I knew teenagers struggled with in reality, issues that went beyond myopic teenage drama. You made me appreciate representation, diverse and complicated characters, and the way writers portray communities. I saw that young adult novels can be revolutionary, that they can teach readers how to fight for what is right.