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Katy Birchall discusses the importance of funny books for teens

Author of the hilarious The IT Girl series and Morgan Charmley: Teenage Witch, Katy Birchall talks about how important comedy is when writing for young people…

I was a teenager when I fell head over heels in love with funny books.

At the age of 13, I was given Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries and found it so wonderful that I rapidly devoured the entire series, and then went back to the first book and read it over and over until I knew it practically off by heart. I spent every night in fits of giggles, huddled underneath my duvet with one of her books and a torch (I didn’t have a mobile yet, it wasn’t a thing).

At the time, I was having trouble fitting in at my new school. I was keen to make friends, but I was awkward and self-conscious, and it was all proving trickier than I’d anticipated – I found true comfort in the story of Mia Thermopolis, a self-confessed ‘loser’, just like me. Mia helped me to feel less out of place, she made me laugh when I was feeling low and, thanks to her, I didn’t feel quite so alone. The Princess Diaries still makes me giggle and remains a comfort book for me today at 31.

Comedy is hugely important for anyone of any age. Not only does it offer a cheerful and entertaining escape from the chaos and anxieties of everyday life, but it can also help us to navigate difficult times. It may not necessarily solve a problem, but it can help us cope with it, a spark of light relief that makes us smile, even just for a second, and think, ‘I’m OK. It’s going to be OK.’

Funny books effortlessly encourage empathy and compassion, without shoving the message down our throats. We fall in love with and celebrate characters who are more than often deemed outcasts; their journeys remind us of what’s really important in life – kindness, acceptance, compassion, friendship, the joy found in being different.

To put it simply, comedy books are marvellous and the world would be a duller place without such silliness and fun illuminating from their pages. What could be better than losing yourself in a book and having a good laugh? Except, perhaps, when a reader tells you that your books made them laugh. Now, there really is no better feeling than that.

Follow Katy @KatyBirchall