Bookshelves Filled with I Can

Beth Revis on the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide

I read science fiction far before I knew what science fiction was.It may have started with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Or perhaps Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Maybe even before that, with Bruce Coville or Ursula K. Le Guin or Isaac Asimov…I don’t know which story I first picked up that introduced me to worlds far different from our own, but I do know I didn’t read them because they were science fiction. I read them because they were good.

That’s one of the magics of reading while young: You’re not reading because of labels. You’re just looking for a good story.

As I grew older, I started introducing false boundaries to the book I chose. I can’t read this; it’s a boy book, or, I can’t read this; I don’t look like the girl on the cover, or I can’t read this; it’s too childish. At the end of the day, I was filling my bookshelves with a lot of I can’ts, and that, quite honestly, is a terrible way to approach books. And life.

It took growing up a little more for me to return to books for youths, both as a reader and a writer. I was never more concerned about appearances than I was as a teenager. I wanted to seem older and wiser, and so I surrounded myself with books I didn’t really like all that much; I just thought they were “literary.” I forgot for a time that the value of the book is in the magic of the words, not in whether or not the book was wrapped in a leather-bound cover stamped in gold foil.

I had also forgotten the value of stories written for young people. I was so busy trying not to be a young person myself that, much like Susan in Narnia, I’d thrown aside all my childish things and forgotten what was really important. There is a sort of truth that exists in books for young people that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Maybe it’s because, as Nancy Kress’s narrator says in “The Robot Did It,” adults’ brains are “less plastic” and that, for children, the truth is right now, such as in R.W.W. Greene’s “I Will. Not.” Regardless, in many ways, Madeleine L’Engle’s words on the matter are truer now than ever before:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

This collection of science fiction contains stories ranging from robots to space travel, with characters that embody many different walks of life and attitudes, and each one contains the sort of truth that you can only find in stories for young people. And—as with all good stories—the heart of each one is that of discovery and adventure, strength and courage. So whether you’re a kid yourself, or smart enough to have returned to liking the same sort of stories you liked as a kid, you’re sure to find something here that will remind you of the magic of reading.

This collection is for the people whose bookshelves are filled with I can.

Beth Revis,
New York Times bestselling author of the
Across the Universe series,
The Body Electric and A World Without You


This is Beth’s introduction for the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, currently at Kickstarter!


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