The Road to Happily Ever After

by Melanie Hooyenga

When I was a kid, I gobbled up books like the Sweet Valley High series and anything by Judy Blume. I’d lose myself in the characters’ lives, imagining what it’d be like to kiss my one true love or figure out my life before going to college. But somewhere along the way, it became uncouth to seek out these books.

Sure, it was okay to read Jane Green or Helen Fielding, as long as the books that surrounded them on your shelves were deeper literary fiction. You know, REAL literature. If you were going to read a book on public transportation, Khaled Hosseini trumped Sophie Kinsella any day.

But I never stopped loving the happily ever after. I’ve read most of Nicholas Sparks’ books (and seen the movies) but those aren’t the novels I’d discuss with fellow book lovers. If books came up in conversation I’d name-drop the bestsellers of the day, but in the privacy of my home I’d devour Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin.

All that changed when I started reading young adult novels. While the plots are as varied as anything you’ll find in adult literature (and they certainly don’t all end happily), YA novels don’t shy away from the idea that things might work out in the end. Even in the darkest YA, there’s usually a glimmer of hope that while things may not end perfectly, they will get better. And I don’t know about you, but I could usually use a little hope at the end of the day.

Soon I discovered Stephanie Perkins, Lisa McMann, and shelves full of authors who don’t shy away from happiness, and I slowly stopped caring what other people thought of my reading choices. There have been countless articles arguing that YA lit somehow isn’t as good as adult lit, and while I won’t get into that debate here (although I think it should be clear where I stand), I think what really matters is that you read what you enjoy. If you love horror or thrillers or non-fiction adventures, read those! And own it. Don’t hide your true joy in a dark kindle. Life’s too short for that.

I still read the occasional adult novel — even ones without happy endings — but YA happily ever afters hold my heart and I’m no longer afraid to admit it.