This past summer, I took a job working with the facilities summer team here at Covenant. It was my first summer away from home, which came with a lot of changes in my summer schedule. When I wasn’t on the job, cleaning various messes left behind by loud, hormone-filled middle-school aged campers, I had a good bit of free time to myself. Not wanting to spend my summer only binge watching all of Scrubs or The Office on Netflix, I decided that I would spend some time reading books as well. I don’t remember exactly how I made this decision, but I decided that I would read the Maze Runner series. I had watched the movie before and really enjoyed it, and I wanted to see where the story would go from there. So I bought the books, read them, and got hooked on this young-adult, dystopian, post-apocalyptic series.
Now be honest, when I said “the Maze Runner series” or “young-adult,” you may have rolled your eyes internally at me or thought less of my taste in literature. Yes it’s true, generally when a series is labeled as “young-adult,” its target audience is really high school aged readers who have no desire to critically analyze a work for its literary merit, or to find meaning deeper than the words on the page. The writing style in these types of books is nothing special, and rarely do these authors use symbolism, foreshadowing, or any other literary devices that we’ve all studied in our literature classes. Surely a student at a liberal arts college such as myself would not stoop to read such a series as that!
But I did, and actually had a lot of fun reading the series as well! However, I did feel some degree of shame for enjoying this series. I felt I needed to explain to others that I knew this series “wasn’t real literature” and how I was just “reading them because they’re fun.” Now it’s true, I don’t think anybody would honestly say that the Maze Runner series (or whatever other young-adult fiction series you can think of) is a better literary achievement than say, Shelley’s Frankenstein or Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but I don’t think that means we should write off the young-adult series completely. The Maze Runner series, for example, has a very creative and original story that really pulls the reader in (I only mention the Maze Runner so much because it is this series that got me thinking about all of this). Was I blown away by the style of narration or literary sophistication of the series? No. But it was a series that was very enjoyable, and I do not regret having read it in the least bit.
I love works of fiction. Some of my favorites are Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Orwell’s 1984, just to name a few. But at the same time, I really like works such as The Hunger Games, Unwind, and, of course, The Maze Runner. I think it is great to read works recognized for their literary achievement, but there should be no shame in kicking back with the newest young-adult fiction series about, say, a young werewolf living in post-apocalyptic Sweden where he must fight to the death on TV to end up with the female love interest of the story. Read books, but don’t confine yourself only to a certain brand of novel. Read books that sound interesting and fun to you, whether that may be Divergent or The Great Gatsby. Read what you want, and don’t let others decide what books you can and cannot enjoy.