Too Much of a Good Thing

I’ve been away from the blog for a while. Not because I have nothing to say. Simply because I haven’t been reading YA. 

This past year has been strange. Some of the strange has been good. Some has been bad. All of it has been different. And in my mind different has meant that things have been hard. And things being hard have meant that it’s bad. I have to remember that different isn’t hard; it’s just new.

A new thing that has happened this spring is that I’ve taken a leave from teaching. And in an effort to learn that different isn’t hard; it’s just new, I’m reading my adult fiction. Books that have been piling up in my home. Books I’ve bought on vacation. Books I’ve purchased for summer reading. Books I’ve purchased because I’ve heard about them on podcasts. Books I took when I was cleaning out my aunt’s house. Books that I just wanted to read. And now I have time to read them.

But first, I had to learn how to enjoy a book again.

I’ve always been a reader–see my last post and there’s photographic evidence of that. I’ve never had trouble finding my way into a story. One of the things I love about reading is that I can get completely lost in that world. This, of course, is not an experience unique to me. It’s just unique to Readers. It’s one of the things that keeps Readers reading.

And I lost that experience. 

I honestly don’t know why I lost that experience. Could it be the pandemic? Yes. I think it would be too simple to just blame COVID. After all, we blame COVID for everything. But some good things have come out of the pandemic. For the last month, my husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed a number of live author chats via Powell’s Books in Portland. We celebrated the launch of Broken with Jenny Lawson. We eavesdropped on a chat between Karen Russell and Jeff VanderMeer. We watched Sue Monk Kidd and Paula McLain discuss their works (and perhaps gush about each other in the best possible way). We’re scheduled to be there for a book chat between Stacey Abrams (her political thriller is coming out in May) and Katie Couric. And you might be saying “So what?” 

We live in Central NJ. About 3000 miles (or 43 hours of drivetime–according to the mighty Google) away from Powell’s. There’s no way we could have ever attended a book event at Powell’s–unless we happened to be in Portland during an author event. There’s no way–prepandemic–we could have attended four author events at Powell’s in the span of three weeks. But there is a pandemic. And Powell’s is Zooming (and if I said zooming in February 2020, you would have thought I was speeding from NJ to Oregon–even our language has changed from the pandemic) their author events. Most of them are for FREE. Those with paid admission only means that you buy a signed copy of the book and then get the link for the event. And seriously, if I’m attending an author event, I’m buying the book from the bookstore because A)bookstores are good. And B)I support authors. And C)we need more bookstores and less Jeff Bezos.

So back to the topic at hand–virtual author events are new; not hard–just different. They’re actually new AND good. 

These author events were one way back into my reading life. 

I also think there are other factors affecting my reading life. Namely, a steady diet of one thing is just not good. And I think a steady diet of YA just burned me out a bit on reading. I am not the intended audience for YA. I have not been the intended audience for this genre in many, many decades–this might be the fourth decade that I have not been the intended audience. And while a lot of YA does transcend age, a lot doesn’t.

I think the connection of reading YA for work also turned reading into work. I love teaching. But in the end, it’s work. There’s a lot about teaching that is hard and uncomfortable. There’s a lot about the job that requires me to need to find “work-life balance,” and reading YA that will in turn go back into the classroom blurs that balance a bit.

I never realized how much I missed my reading life until I found myself back in my reading life. I’ve spent the past six weeks working on me. I’ve learned to meditate–which I thought would be me sitting crosslegged on the floor saying “Om,” and really was just about learning to breathe. And in learning to breathe, I realized I’ve spent a lot of the last year (or longer) holding my breath. It is slightly funny and slightly disturbing when my watch tells me that a minute of deep breathing can help, and now I get what that means. I’ve started gentle yoga as a restorative practice. I’ve gone back to the pool for work outs. Being fully vaccinated, I’m back to acupuncture to handle not just my migraines but my allergies and my stress. All of these practices meant that one day I picked up a book–I think it was The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson–and was completely and totally sucked into the story. 

I was back, baby!

It wasn’t until I was able to get lost in a story again that I realized that it’s been so long since I was able to get lost. Basically, I had to find myself to lose myself.

And so Dear Reader, what does that mean for you? I think it means I’m trying to find balance. I know this. Too much adult fiction or cozy mysteries, or “chick lit,” or whatever else I’m reading means that I run the risk of losing myself again. So I am trying to focus on one YA a week. Like my other reading, there’s no rhyme or reason to what attracts my fancy. It might be Sammy Keyes or it might be the next Jewell Parker Rhodes. It might be a sports book. Or it could be a lighthearted friends’ romp. Star Fish by Lisa Fipps is on my radar, so that might be coming up next. But I’m also sitting here looking at books two and three in the Lara Jean trilogy by Jenny Han, and I have an absolutely beautiful copy of Anna and the French Kiss in the bag of my most recent book purchases. 

One thing I do know is that my reading life did turn itself upside down. And that’s okay. It’s not hard; it’s just new. 

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