There’s a whole commotion going around on Twitter about a WSJ article saying YA books are too dark nowadays, which has led people to tweeting the hashtag #YASaves, which touches me closes to my heart. Not only Young Adult, but books in general. All sorts of books. Because sometimes, reality is so messed up, the only way to get through the day, the hour, the minute, is to hang on to fiction to dear life. Sometimes, people in your life are so caught up on their own, that the only friends your have are those characters printed on paper, the only people who truly *get* you, who know what you’re going through, what you’ve been through, the only ones who will hold your hand through the darkness. Sometimes, when everything seems lost, and you don’t even know how things could possibly be okay anymore, there’s the heroine in that book, who overcomes just the same thing you’re trying to, and, as she does, it feels like she’s whispering in your ear, “You can do it, too. You’re strong. Just like I am.”
A MOTHER’S MOTHER She comes home from school and throws the bookbag on the corner of the room. It’s all a mess, she knows, but she hasn’t had time to pick it up. She needs to hurry back down and fix her little brother and sister something to eat. She puts a sandwich together because it’s easier, and walks to wash the dishes before she can make herself eat. “Can I please have another one?” a little voice asks and she walks to the fridge, just to realize it’s nearly empty again. She takes a deep breath, fighting the tears. The nearest grocery store is not that far away, but it’s hard for her to walk back carrying all the bags by herself. The fridge isn’t empty by the lack of money, that’s not the issue. It’s just… “Pleeease, can I have some cereal?” The other little voice interrupts and she gives the rest of the box, trying to plan ahead and see if she can squeeze in groceries between dance classes and soccer practice. Eating is kind of a priority. With the dishes, she washes out the bottles. The bottles which are slowly taking her mother, her single mother, away, which are putting the whole weight and responsibility of carrying a household on her back, at sixteen. She goes through the day in a blur, fighting the tears, going through the motions, doing what she needs to do to survive, to keep her siblings taken care of. It’s only at night, when she’s alone, that she breaks down, that she allows the tears to flow. Then, she grabs a book, and hangs on for dear life. And, for a while, just a while, she doesn’t have to live her life, or think about it. Everything’s okay. And she doesn’t have to hurt anymore.”
THE FATHER FROM HELL “The screams are so loud not even the blasting music can make them go away. He wishes he could make them disappear once and for all, but he knows that’s never going to happen. His mom tried, he knew, but, in the end, she always went back to him. Him. His father. His own damned father. If he could call that man that. He looked at his own arm to see the bruises. Some were brand new, others were starting to fade. He hated that man with all his power, and he wished he had the guts to do something about it, but he didn’t. He knew he didn’t stand a chance if he tried, especially when his mother wasn’t strong enough to take his side. He knew his father was loved and respected and no one would have believed if he told what was going on at home. Maybe, someday, he would be able to do something. Maybe he’d find the courage he needed so much. Meanwhile, he reads a book, about a brave boy who stands up for the man who hurts him and tries to destroy his life, and wishes he could absorb his power. He thinks he’s maybe starting to gather a little strength from the letters on those pages. And, he knows, at least, he’s not alone.”
HAPPILY EVER AFTER “She looks at the little body on the bed and her little heart breaks even more. “When is sissy waking up, mommy?” she asks to her mother, surprised to see eyes full of tears. Sissy IS going to wake up, right? Sleeping beauty, hello? She’s just waiting for the prince to go and kiss her. But mommy doesn’t say anything, and her own eyes start to moist. She’s lost track of the time, that sissy’s been lying on that bed, but she’s been there every day. Mommy and daddy seem more and more tired every day, so, she helps them by doing what she does best: she reads sissy her favorite stories every day. She’s still learning to read, and it takes a while to put all the letters together, but she’s read her favorite stories so many times, that she knows them all by heart. She loves the stories, because they take her to an enchanted world, where there are fairies and elves and princesses and good always beats evil, and, more importantly, where everyone lives happily ever after. So, as she read the stories every day, she was just more and more sure and she and sissy would, too.”
Sometimes, reality is too much to bear. Sometimes, the world sucks in a way we cannot stand. Sometimes, the world is too damned dark, and the only way to escape it, is to bury ourselves in fiction. The only way to maintain sanity, is to distance ourselves from OUR lives, and live someone else’s for a while. BOOKS SAVE LIVES. They have saved mine.
Have they saved yours?
Spread the word.