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13 Pieces of Wisdom You Can Find in Young Adult Novels

We rarely find what we’re looking for in the places we expect to find them. Sometimes, when life gets us down, we look to our superiors for help. We barely notice that the guidance we are looking for may just be found in the most unexpected of places, such as on the pages of a novel written for the young and young at heart.

The next time you go to your favorite bookstore, give the young adult section a chance. What you may not find in the business section, you just might find in a coming-of-age novel or in a science-fiction book about feuding interstellar families.

Here are a few golden nuggets of wisdom I have dug up on my own from years and years of reading young adult books.

I am what I am an’ I’m not ashamed.  “Never be ashamed,” my ol’ dad used ter say. There’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.

J.K. Rowling, Goblet of Fire

You don’t have to apologize for who you are. The world needs more of those who aren’t afraid to be true to themselves at all times. Yes, some people will look down on you for making choices they wouldn’t make themselves, but at the end of the day it’s you who gets to make the choice about how to live your life.

At some point, you’ll pull off the Band-Aid, and it hurts, but then it’s over and you’re relieved.

John Green, Looking for Alaska

Band-Aid solutions don’t solve the problem. They simply prolong the agony of knowing the problem is still there. Sometimes, you have to give yourself a little tough love and rip the Band-Aid out so you can administer the proper medicine to the wound. It will hurt, that’s for sure. But when all is said and done, you will thank yourself.

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We tend to glorify the fast-paced life a little too much. We live our days quickly going through the motions so that we can get more things done and achieve more goals and make more money. It’s easy to forget that, when we’re always rushing about, we get disconnected from the things that matter to us the most. It’s okay to want to achieve a lot of things. Just don’t forget to slow down, relax, and drink in the pleasure of knowing you don’t have to be in a rush all the time.

Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

True courage isn’t about puffing your chest out. It more likely shows up when you’d rather hide inside your room and stay there till the storm passes, but you step out and do what you have to do anyway. It’s not about conquering fears either. Courage is fueled by the heart. When you know in your heart you have to do something, and you do that thing because you know it’s the right thing, that’s what courage is.

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Got that?

Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

It’s easy to get hung up over a problem. You can spend all your energy on looking for solutions. And if you don’t find the right solutions, you can waste away at feeling bad for yourself. Do you see how that in itself is the problem? You already set yourself back simply by looking at things as though they are problems to be solved. What if these things you call problems were opportunities? What if they were simply experiences of another sort? Or what if they were simply moments in the past that are no longer here? Problems stop being problems when you are willing to look at them in a different way.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert, Dune

Fear isn’t something to conquer. Fear isn’t even something to fear. It’s simply something that you must allow yourself to feel so that you can move on from it. Or more accurately, so that fear can move on from you. The only reason fear keeps hanging onto you like an old friend is because you keep refusing to look it in the eye. And for as long as you keep doing that, you’ll keep being a slave to that fear even when there’s no reason to be scared.  

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

When you’re working toward a big dream, it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere. Every day, you wake up and put your nose to the grindstone. And every night, you go to bed thinking you’ve been doing the same old thing over and over again. But a year from now or even six or three months from now, you’ll see the progress you’ve made. And you’ll realize that everything you’ve done in the last year wasn’t for nothing after all.

Coming back to where you started is not the same as never learning.

Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Going back to square one can be one of the most heartbreaking things for someone with a goal. You give yourself fully into achieving your goal, only to realize you’ve been doing the entire thing wrong. You may need to start all over again, this time with much less enthusiasm than you had the first time. But this time you have a wealth of lessons learned from the mistakes you’ve made, and that’s something not even enthusiasm can compensate for.  

The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.

Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

There’s a time and place to get serious about things. Most of the time, however, that time isn’t when you’re trying to deal with a serious problem. It’s one of the biggest ironies of life. Often, the solution to the most serious problems can’t be found in grave reflection. Often, the solution only shows up when you let loose and relax a little bit. Einstein himself formulated his game-changing theory of relativity after he had a dream about it, after years of serious thought and introspection.  

Nervous means you want to play. Scared means you don’t want to play.

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

When it’s hard to make a decision, listen to your heart. It always knows what to do. You can endlessly weigh the pros and cons of a choice, but your heart instantly knows the right choice for you. And you can tell what that choice is simply by observing your feelings. When you’re nervous but want to do it anyway, like when you’re about to go bungee jumping or scuba diving, go for it. But when you’re totally dreading the idea of doing it, that’s when you know it’s not for you.  

You’ll never know where you’re going if you go about what-iffing like that.

Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

We can ask all the hypothetical questions we want, but at the end of the day, we don’t get anywhere being armchair philosophers and not doing anything about our lives. It’s okay to reflect about the things you want to happen in life. What’s not okay is if you’re just going to sit there and think about doing things instead of actually doing them.

“Atticus, he was real nice.” “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird  

It’s about time we drop the idea that humans are savage animals. Aren’t you sick and tired of being deemed nothing more than a bag of flesh and bones with a brain that’s just slightly bigger than most primates? Humans are so much more than that. We have valuable talents and gifts to share with our fellow humans and the rest of the world. We simply have to look beyond what the physical eyes can see so we can find them.  

I think you gotta be who you want to be until you feel like you are whoever it is you’re trying to become. Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can.

Julie Murphy, Dumplin’

It’s not really what you do that matters. It’s who you’re being. When you’re being the person you want to become, you no longer have to worry about what to do. You just end up doing them naturally. You might feel like an imposter at first, as though you’ve stolen someone else’s identity and claiming it as your own. But the more you get used to being that person, the more it becomes easy for you to do the things she does. Remember, you can be whomever you want to be. You simply have to choose to be that person every day until you no longer have to choose because you have simply, naturally, finally become her.  


Posted on

February 12, 2023