I was really young when I read Judy Blume's Forever. I mean about nine. Yeah, I know. I was obsessed with everything Blume--Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret. The usual elementary-school-aged books. I knew Forever was about first love. But I didn't know it was about a girl's first physical relationship until I started reading.
Clearly, at that age, I knew nothing about what it was to have a boyfriend. Or romantic feelings for another person. But I knew that someday, I would. I didn't know anything about driving a car or wearing makeup (other than bubblegum flavored lip-gloss). I didn't know what it was to attend school where you had to change classes. But I knew I would.
When I read Blume, I got a chance to imagine a grown-up version of me. As much as I was walking in her character's shoes, I was walking in my own--the someday shoes of a future me.
Maybe, really, that's one of fiction's greatest powers. Maybe it jumpstarts not only our imagination but our ability to daydream--about where we're going, what we want to do, who we want to be.