Why I Read Young Adult

November 17, 2015 books, discussion 20

See? See! I’m not only telling you why I DON’T do stuff. Today you can get another unwanted and unasked for insight into how my brain works. Aren’t you excited? I know I am.



I’m 22, and I love reading Young Adult. I’m pretty confident that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s not the only thing I read, but I think it’s safe to say the majority of books I read are classified as YA. I know a lot of people already outlined their reasons for reading Young Adult as an adult, but I’ll contribute to the discussion, because I feel like it, and because some people still view YA as lesser.

Misconceptions

Firstly, YA isn’t a genre. I’ve seen it referred to as one, and I’m sure I’ve referred to it as one, but it’s just not. Fantasy is a genre. Crime is a genre. New Age Horror Romance is a genre I just made up, but it’s still more of a genre than Young Adult. Okay, I’ll stop being a douche about it for a second and admit that, yes, I know what you mean when you refer to Young Adult as a genre. But first and foremost it’s used (quite ingeniously) by marketing departments to categorize a book and target it at young adult audiences. I’m not saying there’s no sense in that – children do have different requirements of books than adults, but I also don’t think you can ever adequately define a reader age group for books – just because a book features a 12-year-old protagonist doesn’t necessarily mean it can only be enjoyed by children, yet a lot of the time books are treated that way. I read a lot of adult books when I was still a kid, and I enjoyed them a lot. Good books can be enjoyed by all ages, and if a book doesn’t work with audiences of different ages, it’s probably not a very good book in the first place.

Who am I?

Books classified as YA are usually books about teenagers. So why do I find them so fascinating to read about instead of doing the smart thing and running in the other direction as soon as I read anything related to being a teenager? My answer is the same as most people’s: your teenage years are the time you get to decide who you are as a person, what you take away from the experiences life throws at you and, most importantly, who you want to work towards becoming. I do think that you can and should change and grow at every age, and you definitely do not have to figure everything out as a teenager, but the fact remains that people often experience formative experiences during their teenage years. Character development is important to any book, but Young Adult books require it more than most.

Let’s Experiment

It’s entirely possible that this is my limited experience or I’m parroting something I’ve heard someone else say, but I get the impression that YA tends to be more inclusive of minorities and to be open to try new things. I’m not saying there’s not still a long way to go, but Young Adult often takes more chances to challenge the status quo. Diverse books are a much better reflection of reality than non-diverse books, so it makes sense that people would enjoy them more.

The Writing

It’s hard to generalize this, but YA writing is often direct, unassuming and clear. I’m not saying it’s simple or less sophisticated than writing in adult books, because there’s a lot of truly beautiful and clever writing in YA, but sometimes it’s just more focused on getting the action across than sounding pretentious showing off how many alternative words for blue thesaurus spits out (I know, I know, X Young Adult protagonist’s eyes are probably described as cerulean, azure, cobalt and indigo over the course of a single chapter, but you know what I mean).

I love reading books of all kinds, and I welcome it when I have to read something for university that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but there’s something about YA that keeps me coming back. I could say that I mainly read YA for entertainment purposes, but I’ve learned so many important things from Young Adult books that it wouldn’t be an accurate statement. No matter what age, I will always be reading Young Adult books, and I will proudly display them on my shelves.

Why do YOU read YA? How do you feel about age marketing for books? Did I forget some defining characteristics of YA?

20 Responses to “Why I Read Young Adult”

  1. Alyssa

    I think one point related to the quick-and-snappy prose idea is that while many adult books, especially literary books, tend to be character-based, YA books are often plot-based. It’s not that I don’t adore a wonderfully crafted character in a slower book every now and then, but it takes a sort of esoteric skill to craft a character and tell it to a reader without boring them out of their mind. But everyone tells stories, and the wonderfully mad kind of stories is what YA lives off, and I think that’s why it can be universal.
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      I think there’s great character based YA as well, like Fangirl, but I do prefer it when there’s SOMETHING happening at least. I think YA just often gets to the heart of things, whereas authors of adult books sometimes write around them or lose themselves in trying to be meaningful.
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  2. Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser

    I must admit I don’t read mainly YA nowadays, but 99.9% of the time when I do read a YA book I thoroughly enjoy it; I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda earlier this year and now I can’t stop recommending it to everyone I know. I don’t avoid YA on purpose, either, I’ve just found myself reading a lot more adult fiction over the past year. That being said I do agree that YA is so much more diverse, and so much more willing to take risks, than a lot of adult fiction out there; there are so many adult fiction books about middle-aged men going through a mid-life crisis and cheating on their wives and it’s so dull. YA has its own regular tropes – love triangles and instalove etc. – but I agree that it’s very diverse, and I love that. :) Great post!
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      To be fair, I have to switch it up every once in a while! If I’ve read a lot of YA, I’m going to need to read something else, and then I’ll get back to it after that. A lot of the time I don’t even pay attention to whether something is adult or young adult, I just always end up with YA somehow! Simon vs. was GREAT. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. :) Hahaha yeah that plot you’re describing is particularly dull. It would have to be really well done for me to enjoy it. Do you have any recommendations for great adult books?
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  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    YESSS TO ALL OF THIS. *collapses because agrees so much* I read YA mainly because it’s written simpler. Like it doesn’t take 400+ pages to pretentiously waffle on about, gah, who even knows what. And also because I can connect?? Like for a lot of adult books I just can’t connect at all because they’re all older than me or the experiences are way different. I mean, obviously I haven’t experienced a ton of things in YA books either. xD But I remember what it’s like to be 17 and the doubts and anxieties that go with that. So = insta connection. OH OH OH…and also I don’t wanna grow up. So I’ll read YA forever pleas and thank you.
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      The pretentious waffling is definitely a negative. I just don’t have the patience to indulge someone’s need to make sure other people know they’re smart by waffling about supposedly profound insights for hundreds of pages. (That sounded harsh; I don’t think all adult books are like that haha) Oh, good point, I can’t connect to a lot of that stuff either. That doesn’t mean I don’t like reading about it every once in a while, but a lot of the time I do find it harder to relate to characters in adult books. I mean I definitely relate to YA characters more in a “oh yeah I remember how awful being a teenager was” than a “oh GOD YES that’s what I’M going through right now” kind of way these days, but I can still relate better. Agreed, growing up is for suckaaaaz. (that’s how mature I am apparently)
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  4. Olivia S

    LOVED reading this post!! So often I frown upon YA for being focused on teenagers and angst too much, but then the other half of the time that’s the exact reason I’m running straight into the arms of Young Adult Fiction. (try to figure that one out, right?) I also love your idea that YA is more accepting of minorities – I think that’s true, but hadn’t ever thought about it until reading your post!
    My favourite part about YA, even though I don’t read it as much anymore, is the theme of growing up and discovering who you are, who you want to be, where you want to go with your life. I’m still very much there, and I find it so interesting/encouraging/whatever to spend time with characters who feel the same way.

    (plus, I write mostly YA!! woop!)
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      Well, it’s good to switch it up every once in a while! I’m not a huge fan of copious amounts of unnecessary angst, but not all YA books are like that and even when they are, I can just read an adult book every once in a while to keep things interesting. Yes! I love YA books because they usually have some element of figuring out who you are and what you want to do and TBH you don’t just have to do that when you’re a teenager. YAY for writing YA! :D
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  5. Valerie

    I totally agree! I find it hard to read adult books sometimes because 1) Word use and choice is way beyond the level I want it to be when I’m trying to do something fun, and 2) I can’t relate to it. Like I really DO NOT care if so and so is having an affair with so and so and DRAMA. I want to focus on a coming of age story, a development, and I completely agree that sometimes that is missing in adult fiction.

    Plus, with that said, there are adult novels that do feature younger adults/teens. Like A Darker Shade of Magic, or All The Light We Cannot See, and I think Station Eleven does as well (I’m about to read that…I might be wrong on this but I don’t know). So it’s not like “Adult fiction features adult main characters, and Young Adult only features young adults”, there’s definitely variety in both. So I think the argument that the age of the main character is aimed towards the age of the target audience isn’t solid at all.

    Awesome discussion Vlora!
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      Hahaha yes a lot of people are mentioning the affairs and cheating. That honestly often puts me off a book as well. Can’t relate, don’t like the characters, do.not.care. I mean if there’s a lot of character development, sure, why not, but sometimes it just lacks that.

      I thought for sure ADSoM was being marketed as YA? I’m excited to read it either way; I liked Vicious! Thanks, glad you enjoyed the discussion! :)
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  6. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    I think I read YA because I AM like a teenager who doesn’t have a clue what to do with her life. Is that bad? I don’t know, but it’s true. At least, that is part of the reason. And like, since I don’t feel like an adult, I don’t really “get” some adult books. Sometimes they feel very… jaded. Not all of them, of course. But some. I also agree with all of your other reasons. And, tbh, I really think that the YA community is just fabulous in general. I guess other bookish communities might be fine, I have no idea, do they even HAVE communities? I just like the YA vibe.
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      Hahaha there IS that. No, I don’t think it’s bad. In fact, I think 99% of people have no clue what to do with their life. The YA community IS fabulous. And I also love our little book blogging corner of the internet, because it is full of kind, intelligent, AWESOME people.
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  7. Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    “your teenage years are the time you get to decide who you are as a person, what you take away from the experiences life throws at you and, most importantly, who you want to work towards becoming.”

    YES to this so much!! It’s so fascinating to see this young characters grow and develop into adults as they come to learn more about life through experiences and such. I’d rather see this than a 40 year-old going through a mid-life crisis or something… He’s already had the experiences that shape him into who he is today, I want to see what makes the people who they are in the process, not the aftermath.

    I think the misconception that YA books are easy to read is a bit misleading. I think you can say that about lots of books in various genres. Yes YA is geared towards younger readers, but there are plenty of adult books that read just as easy (if not easier) than YA. There is a lot of very literary and sophisticated writing in YA that I think is really under-represented or recognized by the public.

    Great post!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      That’s true, actually! A lot of adult books are also “easy” to read and entertaining. Though to be “fair” those are also often looked down on. And yeah… I’d rather read about quarter life crises than midlife crises. :D
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  8. Jackie

    I think you drew an interesting connection between growing up and character development. It’s not something I ever thought about before, but now that you mention it…! I’d say that’s probably one of the (many) things I find appealing about YA literature– character driven plots and character development.

    I definitely read YA books even though I’m 27. I think for me it’s mostly a comfort zone. There are a lot of adults who were recently introduced to YA lit. through books like Twilight and now they blog about it. But, I’ve always read YA lit. I would bring stacks of YA books home before book blogging and recording videos of hauls was a thing. I still love it, but I also find myself wanting to read beyond YA. I mean, I’ve had 15 years of YA books after all.

    Age marketing for books…can be kind of limiting. Look at Harry Potter– it is a middle grade/YA series…but it’s amazing and everyone should be introduced to it (in my opinion) because it’s such an inedible story. I’m sure there are many adults who would turn their nose up at it though simply because it is marketed for children.
    But, I also appreciate age marketing. As a 14 or 15 year old, I felt safe wandering the YA stacks in a way I didn’t feel when wandering the general fiction stacks.
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    • Vlora

      Vlora

      I’d love to take credit for that connection, but I’m pretty sure I read about it somewhere else haha. And yeah, Harry Potter would be the classic example for that! Though you are right about safe spaces etc. I do certainly see the benefits of age marketing, but it’s ALSO ridiculous. I guess it can be both at once?
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