Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead
I recently rediscovered my very deep love for YA fantasy.
I don't know why I ever stopped reading it. Maybe I was under some delusion that I needed to be reading 'scholarly' works, or choosing books that are 'literary' (she says with her glasses perching poshly at the end of her nose).
It's all nonsense, of course - read the books that bring you joy. For me, this includes Vampire Academy.
I had a very hard time with motivation and direction a little while ago, and none of the books I'd picked up were holding my attention. For me, this hints at trouble beneath the surface: busy schedules and stress can often distract me when I've set time aside to read. My heart races, my hands shake, I become moody, and I barely glance at covers before tossing books onto the DNF pile.
So one day, in the middle of a restless week, I threw up my hands in frustration. I felt teary and lethargic, tired to my bones. I got in the car and took a drive to my parents' place (this was pre-locky D).
My parents are readers and understand the healing power of getting caught up in a story. I got a big hug and a cup of tea from my Mum before heading upstairs to browse my old bookshelves; so many of the books owned by my sisters were left behind when we all moved - how are you supposed to decide who takes what when the literary goodness of your youth belongs to all three of you?
I picked Vampire Academy from the shelf without thinking, grabbed a towel from the cupboard and headed to the beach. That day was cold, but the weak sun beat a path through the clouds as I picked a spot on the sand. I was alone; I could hear the waves from the bay trickling onto the shoreline, the soft whush of the cars on the highway behind me, the faint yaps of a happy dog a little ways down the beach. I took my first proper breath for months and opened the book.
I sat on that beach for hours that day. That was the first time I had been totally engrossed in a story for months (possibly even years) and I wasn't going to let it end in a hurry. I gobbled it up, reveling in each snarky comment made by Rose, every sexy rebuttal given by Dimitri and all the kick-ass moves they delivered to the bad vamps. It was mysterious, hot, intriguing, action-packed, character-driven and pretty original. And I damn-well loved it.
I had spent so much time as an adult feeling insecure about my reading choices (which were stacked on top of a myriad of other insecurities that steadily built around me over the years). Reading - the activity I loved, that I never questioned as a kid - had become a chore, and choosing which book to read next had become a burden. But I realised very quickly that the books we love don't leave us - Vampire Academy gripped me just as much as a 24-year-old as it had when I was 15. Why shouldn't it? It does everything right from a narrative, world-building and genre perspective, and it's really really fun.
I drove back to my apartment in the city that night with the rest of the Vampire Academy series stacked on the seat next to me. There was a sense of lightness in my chest and a smile on my face. I could still smell the salt from the bay.
Do yourself a favour and revisit your teenage reading days. They're comforting in a time of global pandemic, injustice and insecurity, and may even remind you of why you fell in love with reading in the first place.
Which teenage books did this for you?
As always, thanks a bunch for reading with me.