Monday, July 19, 2010

The Teen Enigma

As a high schooler, I've read many things that I truly had no desire to read. From textbooks to newspaper articles to ancient non-fictions, assigned readings have always been a bore to me. Everyone seems to believe it's such a mystery as to why the majority of teens don't read. Although more and more teen readers are sprouting up everyday, mostly girls to my understanding, the vast majority of teens are not avid readers. I happen to go to an all-boys high school, so I'm taking this perfect opportunity to share a little of my insight. A lot of teens, especially boys, don't grow up reading. They simply aren't hooked when they're young. As they grow up, they're assigned horrendous books full of boring grown-ups and unrelatable scenarios. It feels like we grow up predestined to hate reading. I did. I loathed it. A year ago, I could hardly stand to look at a book. Let me tell you my little story.

About a year ago I was having a hard time with my personal life. I guess one could mark it off as "teenage angst" but I was really unhappy with myself (for a ton of reasons that were just SO important that I've forgotten them a year later). My mother and I were in Barnes and Noble to get a book for her book club. If I remember correctly, I was forced to tag along. I was wandering around the store when I found myself in the YA section. Scanning the vast array of book covers, I stumbled upon a book called Thirteen Reasons Why. If you haven't heard of the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, is a gripping YA Novel telling the story of a girl who killed herself. My wanna-be-emo self bought the book out of mere curiosity. I ended up reading the amazing book in one sitting. My captivation of reading and passion for Young Adult Literature took off from there. If I told my year-ago self that I would be writing a novel at this point, I simply wouldn't believe it. 

I consider myself lucky that I discovered my love for reading. Yet there are still many teens that hate the idea of opening a book for joy. Teens associate reading with mind-numbing tests, boring characters, and bad history lessons. My school has assigned summer reading books. Assigned books for us students to read over the summer and then be tested on when we return. They're supposed to relate to lessons we'll be learning in class once school resumes. Reading over precious summer vacation is one of the reasons some teens hate reading. This is especially true if the books are not what the student wants to read. I've personally been assigned two historical novels that I have very little desire to read. I'd much rather crack open something like Linger by Maggie Stiefvater or the highly anticipated Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. These historical novels may be riveting to one reader, yet dreadfully boring to another. In a perfect world, teens should be able to choose what they get to read. More realistically, teens should receive a variety of book choices in the education system. Our minds have infinite potential, we just need a little push in the right direction. We're powerful beings, us teenagers. We have a whole section of literature geared toward us for crying out loud! Yet still, a vast amount of young adults disregard books as a whole. It irks me to see it everyday. Hopefully, in the future things may change and the next generation will be full of book lovers!


  1. Wow. I wish more teens were like you. I love you :)

    Your views on why teens don't read is exactly right, and it hurts to see it. I wish more would stumble into the bookstore and accidentally pick up a great book like you did. (Actually Thirteen Reasons Why is sitting right next to me and is high on my list to read!) The boring books we all read in high school aren't really necessary, in my opinion. I read about thirty times the amount of them in college when I majored in English (nasty, right?) and understood why I was reading them then, but I don't think high school is when you should be worrying about them. It does just as you say...burns kids out and then they never want to read again. Which is so sad.

    Sometimes I consider very seriously going into teaching high school English just to attempt to fix this. It's important.

    Wow, sorry for leaving you a book here! I like your thoughts and your voice though. Hope you don't mind if I park and follow! :)

    Meadow (@AGypsyLove)

  2. Aww, haha thank you!

    I agree. I think teenagers mature a lot in between high-school and college. The more mature, the easier it is for us to understand. You're absolutely right, High School just isn't the time for us to read things like the Iliad and Dante's Inferno. They're great stories if you can appreciate them. It's nothing against teens, but we really just can't.

    Wow, that's a really admirable consideration.I wish more people thought like that.

    Haha don't worry, I absolutely LOVE long comments like yours. I'm lways overjoyed to get feedback! Thank you again! Oh, and you really ought to get to Thirteen Reasons Why. You won't regret it! :)

  3. Hey! I hopped over here from the NaNo forums - saw your post and noticed you have a blog. Haha, you bring up so many great points about reading and literature in American high schools. I read voraciously. I almost always have a book sitting by my bed (I usually read to wind down after a long day). Yet, there's a copy of Wuthering Heights sitting on my shelf that I've been trying to finish since I bought it for AP English my senior year. That was ten years ago. :p You're right, why not teach kids stories that they will find relevant? I wasn't into YA back then, so I never gave it much thought. I think the first YA book I ever read was Speak - my mom (a HS teacher) brought it home from school when I was 18 and told me to read it. I finished it in one day. So good!

    My mom had the fortune of being able to teach some gritty, teen-centric novels to her students. It's because she teaches Special Ed - she ends up with novels that the higher-level English teachers say are unsuitable for their students, or portray perspectives that they can't relate to. As much as I love the classics, I think I would have benefited from exposure to contemporary titles... back then I didn't know it was okay to read something if the author was still alive.

    Hey, good luck next month. :) We'll be going into the novel-writing trenches together. Should be fun!