Adults in YA: Why We Still Read, Part 1


If you're an avid YA reader, there's no way you've escaped hearing about the stigma that surrounds the genre -- the fact that people who read YA even though they're older than the "targeted market" are often seen as immature, nostalgic, or stuck in their younger years. Recently, after our university newspaper posted an opinion piece in which the writer talked about how we all need to "read our age" -- meaning, basically, that we should break away from YA and focus on the classics such as Dickens -- we decided to send out a Tweet and ask if there were any other YA readers that were over 18 out there. Not to start trouble or stir up angry feelings, but just to see -- just how many "out of the age range" YA readers are there? Our Tweet was as follows:


SOS! 🗣 Do you read YA even though you’re 18+? If you do, please DM us or reply to this Tweet — we have a post idea, and we need your help! #replytweet

— The Book Bratz (@thebookbratz) March 14, 2019

Well, it's safe to say the response we got was absolutely overwhelming. We got nearly 1,000 people over the age of 18 who wanted to tell us why they still read YA even though they're past the "marketable" age-range for the genre. We had so many amazing responses that we wanted to take the time to share them all with you -- but since there are so many, it turns out that we had to make it a series! For 10 whole weeks, we're going to be sharing 10 reasons (100 in total!) why "older" YA readers stick with the genre, and why it's important to them. So without further ado, here are 10 readers above the age of 18 (plus a bonus from our very own, Jessica!) who explained to us why they still read YA:




To me, YA is such an important factor of my life that I could never see myself living without. People are so quick to brush off teens as being whiny and dramatic and overreacting about things, but when you think about it, there's nothing a teenager goes through that doesn't also occur in adult life as well -- heartbreaks, new relationships, friendships, loss, terror, fear, or trying to find themselves. As someone who is past the age of eighteen, I can assure you that I have definitely still felt all these things and more, even in my "adult" life. YA is so important to me as a reader because, for starters, it is constantly adapting and changing and becoming more diverse, and also because the stakes in YA books feel so much higher because they ARE. Teens are experiencing these very real feelings for the very first time, and that's always been something that captivated and drew me in as a reader. -Jessica, The Book Bratz

My introduction to the genre was the Gallagher Girl books by Ally Carter, and I've never looked back. I love the community and it feels amazing to talk and fangirl about these books with both authors and other readers. For me, YA is as familiar as it is unique; all these tales of teenage problems of love and relationships and taking down evil regimes are always engrossing and entertaining, and I find that I relate better to those stories of loss and triumph than the ones in adult fiction and literature. There are many more diverse stories out now then when I was 13 and 14, and it's an exciting time to find black girls reflected especially. 

I am a 25 year-old who still reads YA books. I love YA because I can typically read a YA book in a matter of hours, a couple of days at the longest. I don't need mentally challenging reading material after I've spent all day working hard and mentally challenging myself at work. I read more than enough high-level material for my job. I want something easy, light, fun and relaxing to entertain me, and staring at a television screen for hours on end doesn't interest me. 

Putting the fact that I'm still a young adult aside, I just genuinely love these books. They can range from realistic contemporary to things happening in far off planets in far off worlds. The characters are a vast range of experiences, nationalities, and sexualities and can reach an audience that adult books might not be able to reach. I love the never-ending range of topics and genres. I love finding characters to relate to and love and I find that I haven't had as much luck with that in New Adult or Adult-oriented fiction. 

A certain YA series deserves all the credit for getting me back into reading when I was 28. I had been reading all of my life, however, my 20s were a mess and reading wasn't a part of that. This particular series wasn't mindblowing, but it certainly blew up. And it was all I needed to ease back into worlds that I had allowed myself to get away from when life caught me doing things I never thought I would. I had been a very young teen mom, so I had to grow up fast. I missed out on a really big part of the "formative" years for young adults. I was worried about rent and utility bills and how to juggle them with the needs of my kids on top it when my friends were just worried about getting into the college of their choice. YA allows me to forget. YA allows me to dream again. YA reminds me of why I love reading and books, and why I love writing. YA keeps me from losing sight of me that never grew up even when she was forced to act like she was. 

The fact that people (many times women or nonbinary) who enjoy reading YA have to defend their tastes to those who think they know better, demonstrates sexism, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with reading YA when you’re older than the “advertised” age. Young adult books tend to focus on universally important themes; the character emotions are immediate, and the narratives tend to be fast paced. I love YA books, and I’m not ashamed! 

I'm 27 and I read YA voraciously. Why? Because of the hope and optimism that is just brimming from these book pages. The characters in most of these novels are just beginning their lives and sometimes, even though I'm closer to 30 then 18, I feel like my life is just beginning, too. I feel a spark of something when I journey with a character who might just be going through the difficulty of getting and paying for college or might be the linchpin in a revolutionary fight against older and darker forces. I feel like I can do anything alongside these characters -- even if it's just for 350 pages. The stories I read in YA have so much promise. Even though some of them showcase futures far bleaker than my own,  there's always a chance that the main characters come out on the other side a bit stronger for it and might make the world, or their small part of it safer and better.  

Besides the obvious, I teach teenagers, so I need to be armed to help them find the "just right" book for them. I [also] enjoy the diversity and opportunities for growth offered by YA lit.  There is a wide range of YA authors ready to tackle the taboo topics we face in the world and about which adults are too timid to speak.  When you write for young people, you do so in a way that embraces open-mindedness and an eagerness to make the world your own.  I love how creatively authors convey their ideas to an audience who they know will embrace them with gusto, despite the discomfort.  It makes me feel that anything is possible and the world is an extraordinary place where we can all continue to learn and grow. 

Well, I'm a 36 year old woman, working in the "real world' of healthcare.  Sometimes I just want to lose myself in a world completely unlike our own.  YA has the tendency to transport me to fantastical realms.  And guess what?  They are filled with phenomenal women who take control of their own destiny.  That's something to be celebrated, not ridiculed. Our world is bad enough as it is; people shouldn't be policing other people's escapes. 

I am 24 years old, for all intents and purposes an adult, and yet I primarily read YA books. I think it's wrong to suggest people to read their own age because we shouldn't police the genres or age categories other people read; we should encourage any and every kind of reading! Personally, I read YA because I relate to the characters and enjoy the stories, even if they're primarily meant for teens. Soon after I graduated from college, (the same one as the original writer of the op-ed! Go Rams!) I realized that I will continue to grow, even as an adult. I find that YA books are uniquely equipped to address the needs of people who believe they're not done growing up, no matter what age they are. So yes, even if there are love triangles, vampires, or teens -- GASP -- saving the world, I will continue to read YA. Personally, I think there are YA books that can address social and political issues that books cited in the article cannot. I've read ALL of the books listed, and yet, I would rather read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas to learn about the Black Lives Matter movement instead of reading the white savior narrative given in To Kill a Mockingbird. What happens when you run out of Austen or Bronte books? You can pick up a YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in modern-day Brooklyn (Pride by Ibi Zoboi). YA books tackle issues like mental health (Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig), colonialism (The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir), and anti-Semitism/xenophobia (A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi), just to name a few. I think it's reductive to call YA books "trashy" and "shallow." You do a disservice to people who genuinely enjoy the genre because they see themselves in these books. In the words of the McElroy brothers, "Don't yuck other people's yums." 

I read YA because I love the adventures the main characters are thrown into, I can relate so much to most of those characters! This way I get to go with them on these adventures. It’s like I’m really there because I can picture myself that age and in that story! 

What are your thoughts about reading YA past the "age-appropriate" market? If you have something else to add on this topic, feel free to comment down below and share your opinions! Also be on the lookout for another post next week, where we share even more thoughts from other 18+ YA readers!

2 comments

  1. I love this series! It's weird to me to still think that I'm technically not considered a teenager anymore since I'm 21 now, but I will definitely continue reading YA books. I think part of it is the nostalgia because I've grown up reading them for so long. I also like that they're not as boring as adult books, in my opinion.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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  2. I love this series idea. I'm still pretty early in my adult years, but I'm not going to stop reading YA books. There's so many great messages to be learned and the story lines are just as great or even better than adult books.

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