Adults in YA: Why We Still Read, Part 2

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 who explained to us why they still read YA:

To me, YA simply means that it is a story about a teenager, written from the perspective of a teenager. I fail to understand why adults wouldn't -- or shouldn't -- be interested in reading stories that fall into that category, unless they simply don't believe that teenagers are actual people living interesting lives with their own rich interior and point of view--in which case, to be honest, fuck them. Additionally, and very significantly, adults can find great meaning in reading stories that they can connect to their own young adulthood: look at the critical reception to films like Ladybird. Why should books be any different? 

I grew up reading YA. The main characters in YA deal with catastrophic changes that they learn and grow from. Since NA (new adult) is a struggling genre, this is the best [way] we can experience character growth. 

I read YA because the stories and the characters are dynamic, and I find it easy to connect with the characters in those stories. For me, it's not about the age, it's about the story and the adventure you go on while reading. I do read outside of YA, but one cannot just leave such a wonderful genre of books behind as you age. YA is important to me and so many other people in ways of representation and visibility. I will continue to read YA until I can no longer read!

I read YA fiction because it's a category full of great books, diverse characters, and interesting situations. YA books seem to be much more open to diverse experiences and real talk on complex current issues than most adult fiction that I've read. I read widely -- adult, YA, middle grade, picture books -- and don't stick to just one genre or one kind of author. Some YA books just make me happy, others make me really think.

I still read YA because it’s more than just an age group. These books manage to capture so much emotion and tackle powerful subjects into their stories, as well as mix many genres together and create a unique story you wouldn’t necessarily find in adult literature. These stories tackle just as many important topics and are literary masterpieces just as any other genre can be. The main difference I’d really consider is that the protagonists tend to be younger. Honestly, I’ve always lived by a quote by CS Lewis: “A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. 

I read and write YA. Generally, I find people who look down their nose at YA aren't familiar with what's going on in that space. It's filled with authors and readers who are pushing boundaries, doing amazing social justice work, striving for positive, inclusive representation of marginalized communities, and championing #ownvoices stories. Just because I'm no longer a teen doesn't mean I don't have a lot to learn in those areas. Additionally, I'm an incredibly slow reader with too many things going on in my life. I find many YA books move quickly, hold my interest, and allow me to feel a sense of accomplishment in the limited time I have to read. And lastly, I find coming-of-age stories to be the most compelling, heartfelt, and engaging work out there. I never understood why adults would flock to movies and TV shows about teens (Ladybird, Stranger Things, Riverdale, etc.) but not read stories by, about, and for them. It's a completely artificial distinction and I have no time for it. 
-Jamie Beth Cohen, author of WASTED PRETTY, @Jamie_Beth_S

I'm 23-years-old and not only do I still read Young Adult books, but I write them as well. I've always loved YA fantasy and will continue to love it; not only for its inclusive [nature] as a genre but also for it's relatability to readers no matter their age. There is always a lesson to be learned from a well-crafted story, whether it is believing in ourselves, overcoming our pasts, or dealing with social injustice -- YA stories connect us on a human level. They are more than just genre fiction created for escapism, they are literature that will transcend time and will help generations to come. 

I love fantasy/speculative stories, and YA bookshelves hold plenty of options. Adult books are often darker, longer, with less likable main characters, loads of unnecessary cursing, and too many eye-rolling shock-value scenes. YA plots are rich and varied, more tightly plotted, more fascinating and fantastical. They include fresh voices and new romance, instead of jaded characters who barely believe in love or change anymore. Some YA stories are dark, but there's still a freedom and hope in them that's sadly lacking in the heavier adult fantasy/sci-fi books. 

Complex and thought provoking issue are being written in YA by some extremely talented authors. Stories about racism and society, gender and identity, and what makes up and who we call our family -- these are the kinds of stories I wish I had when I was a teen, and still resonate with me today. 

Books have the ability to take you to magical places (and even ages) that you otherwise wouldn't be able to experience.  YA books allow you to experience that sensation of first loves and finding your way in life all over again. Many of the stories are imaginative and fun.  My grandma liked to make dolls well into her eighties; she also introduced me to books like Anne of Green Gables.  If they weren't too young for her, then I certainly don't need to worry about them being too young for me! 

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!

Check Out The Previous Posts:

Part One

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