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Why YA? Please Ignore Vera Deitz (Guest post by Jenny Torres Sanchez)

On May 22nd debut author Jenny Torres Sanchez releases her first book, The Downside of Being Charlie. Fridays in May we are introducing you to Jenny and her main character, Charlie. Today Jenny is sharing her Why YA? post with us all.  Want to share a YA book you love with us? You can.  Click here to find out how and to read the post that started it all.

I didn’t start reading YA until I was an adult.  There just didn’t seem to be much of it when I was a teen, and if there was, I didn’t really hear about it.  But I definitely could have used some YA when I was a teenager. 

See, most of the reading I did as a teen was just my required reading for school, and while I loved my English classes, most of the books we were reading weren’t necessarily books I saw myself in.  It was great literature, sure, that introduced us to amazing ideas, but I remember feeling disconnected and removed from it.  Maybe it was simply because often the language was a bit archaic, or the characters were obviously of some other time, or their struggles didn’t match my own.  And while yes, they portrayed the universal themes that make for great literature – it didn’t always feel very relevant.  As an insecure kind of teen that felt misunderstood and dismissed and socially inept and like somehow everybody else knew something I didn’t, I could have used some teen lit.  I could have used seeing characters like me, really like me, going through struggles that I could relate to.

Our teen years are such a weird time, a time when we’re becoming acquainted with the world, when we are beginning to understand that truly, truly sometimes life just isn’t fair.   And the world is a place that doesn’t make sense.  So I really think that when teens pick up books, they’re searching for something.  Maybe they’re looking for themselves, maybe they’re looking for hope, maybe they’re looking for answers or a way to understand the world and connect with it. And I’m quite sure this feeling never completely goes away, which is why, I think YA is a good read for anyone, not just teens.

I know, some people have the misconception that YA is somehow “less” than other literature simply because it’s for teens.  Obviously, I don’t agree with this and think it’s pretty shortsighted to dismiss YA simply because of its target audience. Teens are insightful, witty, intelligent individuals that enjoy complex characters and plots and don’t need or expect to be talked down to. The YA literature on the shelves today is well written, thought provoking, and full of memorable characters dealing with all kinds of issues and struggles. These characters and their stories stay with you and sneak back into your thoughts as you go about the everyday tasks of your everyday life.  To think these kinds of stories are only designated to those shelves NOT YA is really kind of silly, isn’t it?

Anyway (as if you needed proof) I offer A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz. I didn’t read this book as a teen but it definitely made quite an impact on me.  This is the story of best friends Vera and Charlie and how Vera copes after Charlie’s death.  It’s an honest and raw kind of story that at times, as you witness Vera’s self-destructive behavior and learn about the events leading up to Charlie’s death, even makes the reader feel uncomfortable. But King doesn’t shy away from it.  And I think it’s because while this is a story about teens, this isn’t just a story about teens, it’s a story about life.  It’s the kind of story that makes you stop and think and question why things happen the way they do.  As you read, you think about the nature of friendship, of regret and loss, of families and how pain can be passed down from generation to generation. This is a story that shines a blinding light into those dark crevices of life that we often want to ignore.  It makes you think about being powerless and vulnerable and how difficult it can be to come to terms with things we absolutely cannot change.  Charlie and Vera’s story (and the story of every other character in this book) makes you think … a lot…and that’s what good literature does.

So Why YA?  Well, to be clear, I love that there is a YA—stories especially for teens because teens need to see themselves in these stories and see their lives reflected in the pages and have a sense of connection.  But, I also think YA has so much to offer readers who are not teens.  Because we can all relate to the experience of being a teen and a time when we didn’t have all the answers, because in fact, none of us have all the answers even now.

So go read some YA, give it to a teen, read it for your teen self, for your adult self, and don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re ”too old” or “too smart” to enjoy a good story.

Please take a moment to read A. S. King’s brilliant acceptance speech discussing Please Ignore Vera Dietz when she won a Printz Honor for this title: To quote Vera Dietz: “I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.”

Before writing her debut novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she’s ever met. She’s grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories—many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children. You can visit her website at http://jennytorressanchez.com/ and find her on Twitter @jetchez.


  1. Excellent post Jenny! Teen years are so crazy and confusing that it's NICE to have a type of literature that shows that they're not alone. I just realized I've never read “Please ignore…” Must get on it! (Also, can't wait for your book!)

  2. Great post, Jenny! Like you, I didn't start reading YA for pleasure until I was an adult. Besides Lord of the Flies *slurp* all other “required reading” left me feeling short-changed somehow. (Not that I was stranded on an island throwing boulders and chubby boys or anything) but until then, nothing really resonated with me.

    Anyway, I've now got all my literary snob friends reading YA…and loving it!

  3. Yes, yes, yes! I am always using this book as an example of why it is absolutely absurd to dismiss YA simply because it's written for young people. I have discovered some of the most creative novels in the young adult category and am always dancing around the issue of them being YA when recommending them, because so many people will shut down the instant they here it's one of the “teen books.” Fabulous post!

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