As part of our ongoing Why YA? series, Leah Miller, author of The Summer I Became a Nerd, shares two titles that moved her and why everyone should read them.
Harry Potter is, as we all know, a beautifully written story. It will be with me for the rest of my life (not to mention my kids' lives, if I have anything to say about it). Sometimes, I'm not sure how I ever lived without it. I know that might sound a bit dramatic, but it's the truth. Rowling wove a story for us that could never be equaled. All sorts of topics are touched upon in the series; prejudice, love, hate, loyalty, and relationships between friends, family, and enemies, among tons of others. The way her brain works is spelled out on the page in plots, sub-plots, and even ghost plots (all my Pottermore people say, “Holla'!”). I doubt I'll ever be as in love with a story as I am with Harry Potter and his many adventures.
Rowling's writing is, well, it's what I aspire to write. Her turns of phrases to suit the situation, her characters who rip your heart out and lay them on a silver platter, the twists and turns, the gasps you make after just one sentence.
Harry Potter is one of those series I acknowledge as the reason I started writing in the first place. In my opinion, anything that makes one aspire to be better, to follow one's dreams, is valid. Also, the fact that she has interwoven so much of herself into the books is wonderful. Who would Hermione be without Rowling's own know-it-all spirit? As a writer, I pull from my own experiences and ideas about the world. I can only hope that one day I'll be able to do it as subtly and ingeniously as Rowling.
Harry Potter also holds a place in my heart due a special connection with someone very important to me that was made because of it. I talked my father into reading the Harry Potter series back in 2001. I always knew he loved me and believed I could do anything, but up until that point, I never really knew he trusted my opinion.
Of course, he loved it. Here was this almost sixty-year-old man asking me for the next book only two days after I gave him the first. We even watched the first movie together in the theater. After Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Daddy leaned over to me and whispered, “Remember that, Leah.” At the time, I brushed him off, sort of. “Yeah, Dad, watch the movie.” Unfortunately, he never got to finish the series. He died in 2002 from a stupid disease called pancreatic cancer. Which leads me to another book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
I don't know about other people, but that book affected me in a very personal way. It made me analyze how I handled the news about my father. It made me remember what is was like to watch him die when I had only just turned twenty, still practically a teenager. TFIOS forced me to think about a part of my life that I considered a black spot, something I very rarely want to think about. I would hazard a guess and say we all have spots like that. But TFIOS also made me think about life and death, in general. And thinking is a good thing no matter what genre is causing you to do it (noticing a trend here?). I learned a lot about myself while reading that book that I don't think I could have learned from reading anything else.
The fact that Harry Potter and The Fault in Our Stars are forever connected in my mind might seem a little odd, but that's the thing about YA. Sometimes it can be heart wrenching. Sometimes it can be fun and make you laugh until you cry. Sometimes it can be both. Sometimes it can be all that and then teach you something about yourself you never knew was there. That's what Harry Potter and TFIOS were for me. And I like to think Daddy would have felt the same way despite him being an almost sixty-year-old man.
Nothing I could ever say to J.K. Rowling could ever encompass my love for her series, but to John Green I'd like to say, “Thank you, Mr. Green, for giving the world that book.” I'm not as poetic as Mr. Green, so I'll just say that, for me, The Fault in Our Stars was “heavenly in its hurtfulness”.
P.S. I hope John Green doesn't take offense that I was able to put my feelings into words for his book, but was unable to do so with Harry Potter, but as Hank Green says, “No matter what I read, I think, 'This is not Harry Potter.'”
P.P.S. I know at some point in this post I was supposed to say why these books appeal to teens. To that I say, “They appeal to teens because they're really, really good.”