From a very early age, our educational experiences revolve around reading. We learn about our planet, our nation’s history, and get caught up in mesmerizing pieces of fiction. We are taught to embrace classic literature and find parallels between a time gone by and our modern world. But we would be mistaken if we were to believe that only George Orwell, Upton Sinclair, and John Steinbeck could present us with some literary food for thought. We may be out of our teens, but we still have a whole life to learn about, which is where these young adult books come in.
FACING DARKNESS WITH LIGHT from A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
15-year-old Vicky’s life seems dominated by illness and death. After the death of a family friend, she spends the summer with her family on Seven Bay Island, and Vicky enjoys working with dolphins while caring for her terminally ill grandfather. There, she reunites with a love interest who attempted suicide after his mother’s death. During a visit to the hospital with her grandfather, a young patient Vicky knows dies in her arms, throwing her into a catatonic state. The only thing that can bring Vicky back from despair is her connection with dolphins, and her grandfather’s encouragement to focus on positives in life.
It’s quite easy for us to list all the horrible things going on in the world and all the little annoyances that make everyday life less wonderful. On the other hand, it is much more difficult for us to recall what is going right in our lives sometimes, especially when the bad is prolonged and seemingly never-ending. This is perhaps why gratitude lists are so popular and many people see the benefit in giving thanks for health, livelihood, and love. Even in our worst moments, there are still things worth living for and experiencing.
EVERYONE HAS A PURPOSE from The Giver by Lois Lowry
In a society where pain, suffering, and unpleasantness are replaced with “sameness,” young Jonas must adapt to his new role as the next “receiver of memory.” While every citizen is assigned to their own places in this dystopian world, Jonas’ job is completely unique — he is able to experience vivid color and negative feelings and then teaches other citizens, while he spares them from a harsh reality. When Jonas discovers the truth behind his father’s job as someone who cares for newborns before being placed with families, he escapes with the infant who is marked for death for not thriving in the same way as the other babies.
Yes, it’s true, if you want to buy things and get out of debt, you will need a job. But your purpose in life is so much more than the title on your name tag. You have talents and values that make you a vital part of the universe.
LOVE IS WORTH EVERY STRUGGLE from The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
What could be better than a vampire meeting someone whose blood makes them irresistible? When Bella Swan falls in love with the mysterious Edward Cullen, she finds out not only is he old-fashioned. but he is actually over 100 years old and a vampire who lives only on the blood of animals. Throughout the four-book series, Edward and Bella question how much their relationship puts themselves and their families in danger, and they nearly sacrifice their lives for one another.
Love requires sacrifice (hopefully, not in the life-ending, blood-spurting sense that Bella and Edward often experience). It demands patience, quality time, and honesty, and is not always the easiest thing to endure. There may distant phases and questions of uncertainty but this, like any other emotion humans go through, is normal. Love takes work, but when it’s found, it’s worth all that comes with it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STANDING FIRM from The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
To save her sister from a likely death, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place in an annual competition, where one winner is crowned and the rest end up dead. When she refuses to kill her ally, Peeta, she sets off a revolution, which pits outraged citizens against the privileged capital, and their cruel government. In a world where many people are treated as disposable, their deaths and struggle for survival broadcast in a grotesque reality-show style, Katniss vows to put a stop to it… even if it means killing the corrupt President behind it all.
While violence should never be endorsed, the focus in this case is the importance of keeping and advocating for your values, and always doing what’s right. In an age in which we feel our rights may be infringed upon at any given moment and the debate about government control rages on, we must be unwavering. We must continue to value our differences and what makes us human, and we must fight for each other and not against one another.
WE MAY ONLY SEE THE PLEASANT PARTS OF PEOPLE’S LIVES from Paper Towns by John Green
Q and Margo live in a lovely subdivision in the sunshine state, Florida. Margo is mysterious — but despite being popular and worshipped by most, she is bent on getting revenge on classmates she feels wronged her throughout her high school years. When she goes missing after a night of pranks, Q goes on a quest to find her… but perhaps only to be the hero Margo does not seem to need.
We see this on social media every day, but we would do well to remind ourselves: we see only about a fraction of people’s daily lives. We share the perfectly angled, filtered selfies, the sweet posts about a seemingly perfect relationship, and the brand new toys we treat ourselves to. We seldom reveal to the world the nights when we are lonely and frustrated and fueling ourselves solely on Top Ramen and cheap alcohol. We need to learn to accept ourselves and every one around us for the people we are — flaws and all.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE DEFINED BY ONE THING from The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
To combat the problems of a troubled world, one society separates its citizens into factions defined by positive attributes: bravery, peacefulness, intelligence, selflessness, and honesty. Upon entering adulthood, young people must take a test to determine which faction they truly belong. They can choose to stay with their families in the group they grew up in, or leave to join a different faction. When Tris discovers that she does not belong to any one faction, she takes a brave leap into the world of a Dauntless (brave) initiate, while she keeps the details of her test away from the prying eyes of her superiors.
Diversity is what makes us human. No two people will ever live in the same exact manner no matter which time, circumstance, or area they are raised in. Human beings don’t fit into a box. In our differences, we find beauty, meaning, and purpose. But we should also embrace the differences within ourselves, including our changing views and passions, and our skills that we use to help us evolve. If it is important to stand up for what you believe in, it is equally important to stand up for yourself and make no apologies for who you are.