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I am not a teenager. Yet, a few years ago, I stood in Target and eyed the book cover of a popular Young Adult novel, intrigued by the quirky illustration and the simple title: Eleanor & Park. I resisted the purchase, but I never forgot that cover.

High school seniors write stories that are interesting. I encourage vulnerability, details, a sense of humor, and deep thoughts. I like reading what they write. It’s no surprise that months after a college application season ends, I miss reading stories from this perspective. This year I decided that I didn’t need to be a teenager—or even the mother of a teenager—to fill up a few of my afternoons with Young Adult fiction. In addition to Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, my recent favorites include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I discovered that while reading, I often find sentences that are perfect examples of effective writing: the use of the “em” dash, the addition of a sentence fragment, the inclusion of dialogue. It’s also super-fun to live inside the head of these young characters, if only for an afternoon.

Readers make better writers and readers make better thinkers. Skilled writers and innovative thinkers succeed in college. Off the top of my head, I know both Wake Forest University and Columbia University ask applicants to list recent books they’ve read—both assigned and for pleasure. A favorite book may be an interview question or the topic of a short essay response at any number of other colleges. Frankly, the students I meet with high reading scores on standardized tests are—more often than not—avid readers.

I know, I know, reading takes time and what teenager these days has extra time? With Spring Break coming up, there will be time. Download a free e-book from the library, buy a bargain on Kobo, visit your local library, or check out what’s trending on Amazon or goodreads. Treat yourself and escape into another world this Spring Break!

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