Of course, I read a lot as a kid. Standards like Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, War and Peace... and many of those books shaped the reader/writer I am today (especially the last one... go on, click on the link... do it...)
I'd put 2 of the 3 books above below traditional YA (because War and Peace is probably Middle Grade). As I was planning this post, I started thinking, "But what DID I read in high school?"
Answer: Not Much.
I don't remember there being a huge YA section. And let's face it, even if there was a large section of books... I'm not sure whether I'd be checking the stuff out.
Still, I DID read some books. I'd like to share them with you now.
I know, right? What. On. Earth. Led. Me. To. This. Book? I don't even remember the plot, although when I saw the cover just now it made me laugh. Loudly. Because, c'mon younger Bryan! What were you thinking? *sigh*
Okay, so let's move on
I think it's time for a little Choose Your Own Adventure. Oh yeah. Secret of the Ninja-style
Anybody who has ever read my writing knows one thing: I'm like a ninja... with words.
And if they DON'T see that? Well, then they get the idea from how many ninja metaphors I use. Like, it's a skill.
So, I loved me some Choose Your Own Adventure books. These are some of the first books where I truly felt myself become lost in the world the author had created. My mom would come downstairs and find me shiftless on the couch saying, "I can't believe that two-headed dragon betrayed me..." And then I'd cry.
Oh, hell no. I didn't cry. I just backed up and choose a DIFFERENT adventure until I got to the one that had me standing on the ruined corpses of all my enemies!
Okay. Let's move on.
One thing that's been constant in my life since 5th grade is a love of basketball. I'm not much of a fan of any more and I don't follow 'my' team... but I still like to play some. This same love of basketball recently led me to pick up Matt de la Pena's book BALL DON'T LIE (exceptional, btw...) But before there was a love of YA, there was HOOPS by Walter Dean Myers.
Talk about a book that rocked my world.
When I started considering the move to writing YA, this book came to mind. I remember being transfixed by characters like "Fly" Williams, Lonnie Jackson, and some dude I remember that everybody called "Jesus" because he was white and had a beard... What's not to love?
I think what I loved about HOOPS the most was it truly spoke to me as a teenager who really loved something. I couldn't really relate with the sex, drugs or alcohol references, but I could totally see myself in the games that Myers put on paper.
And I think that's what YA is really about, isn't it? The ability to take some things that are maybe a bit absurd (like vampires or werewolves or... whatever!) and somehow translate that topic into something that meets teenagers (and adults) where they are.
Of course, now I need to go call my agent and tell him I've got the best idea for a book ever.
"You see, it's about a ninja basketball player in a post-apocalyptic USA that's been taken over by Russians! And best of all? Wait for it... Wait for it... you get to choose what happens at the end of the book, Michael! I know, right!?!?!"