Breaking the Surface March 16


Why I Read YA by Amanda Zieba

If you were to see me, an adult woman, in an airport or lounging on my couch, reading a teen lit novel, you might roll your eyes and think I have been seduced by the latest teen media craze. But I don’t care what you think, I have my own reasons.

As a middle school reading teacher, I read YA novels for many reasons. First of all I read these books to remember what it was like to be 12 or 15 or 18. I read them to remember what it felt like to be young and awkward and unsure of myself. I read these books to remember what it is like to have countless adults dictating my every move, whether at home or at school. I read these books to remember to have patience and compassion for those who are 12 or 15 or 18, because it isn’t easy to be that age. I read these books because as someone who spends hundreds of hours with children this age, I have the power to make their daily existence better or worse. Specific books that have hammered homed this important lesson are Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu and Eight Keys by Suzanne LeFleur. In these stories, the middle school aged girl protagonists struggle both with school and their classmates. Unfortunately neither girl’s teacher is a source of comfort, encouragement or valuable advice. Reading these two books reminded me that kids see me as someone who should be able to help them… not just with comprehension strategies, but life strategies. Reading these books (and books like these) make me a more compassionate teacher and one who attempts to look past late work and messy handwriting, to the person behind the irksome habits. Whether a parent or someone looking to connect with a teen on a new level, reading a teen lit book is a great and worthy way to spend your time.

As a teacher I also read YA novels so I can recommend them to my students and be able to have intelligent and interesting book discussions with them. These conversations often lead to a personal relationship that would not otherwise have been forged. Characters Harry Potter, Theodore Boone and Maximum Ride as well as authors Wendy Mass, Kazu Kibuishi and Kat Falls have sparked lively discussions among even my most silent of students. I am incredibly grateful to these characters and authors for the enthusiasm they have added to my classroom.

Finally, as a lover of books, I read teen literature because it is just plain good. And if you don’t believe me, try one out for yourself. Authors such at Maggie Stiefvater and Markus Zusak, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Jennifer Donnelly, Cornelia Funke and Kate DiCamillo create complete plot structures and detailed character portraits with eloquence and grace that defies the awkwardness of their readers. Young adult authors write about reality and fantasy, the difficulties of puberty and the struggles of a nation at war, eating disorders and boarding school, evil queens and drama queens. No problem or issue is too big to tackle. These authors are as fearless as their readers and I commend them. I praise them in this article and in my continued support at the bookstore cash register.

So before you judge me and my book by its cover (or recent movie adaptation), give one a try. My personal favorites would include: The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater) if you are looking for something to believe in, Inkheart (Cornelia Funke) if you are looking for a little magic, A Northern Light (Jennifer Donnelly) if you are looking for a little mystery or The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) if you are looking for an unlikely hero. No matter what you are looking for or which you choose, I guarantee you will find a good book.


Breaking the SurfaceAmanda Zieba is a full time teacher, mother/wife at all times and a writer any moment she can squeeze in. She is the author of three children’s books (The Orphan Train Riders Series) and one YA science fiction novel (Breaking the Surface). You can find her online at her Facebook page.