Adults in YA: Why We Still Read, Part 7

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:

The idea that YA is merely a nostalgic reliving of their teen years is a superficial, disingenuous view of the genre. Cherry-picking a handful of commercial successes from years ago to make your point is akin to taking the top 3 grossing movies from 2015 (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, per IMDB) and claiming they represent all movies. I'm an "Xennial" and read (and write) YA. I also read adult literary fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and classics. With YA as with all fiction, I put myself in the shoes of the characters -- characters who are still articulating identities as they bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood -- and think through what I might do in a given situation. I think through what 16 year-old me might have done and compare it to what now-me might do. YA, like all fiction, also extends an invitation to step outside my own experience and see the world through the lens of another. That invitation isn't reneged when you "age out." 
-Jodie Lynn Zdrok (@jlzdrok), author of Spectacle (2019)

At the age of 33, I still read YA because YA is genre where young people are fighting rebellions against oppressors and discussing racial/gender/sexual identity and bias in everyday situations. These are the stories that give me hope for a better future because the authors aren't afraid to confront these topics. Additionally, as a POC, I find more diverse characters in YA that I can personally relate to, which I don't get a lot of in the adult fiction genres that I do read. 

Even though I recently turned 25 years old, I’m reading more YA novels now than before. YA novels commonly revolve around the themes of coming of age, self discovery, and coping with change -- matters that people can relate to no matter what stage in life. YA books also help me overcome past issues that I didn’t have the confidence or resources or examples to help with when I was younger. There are a lot of things I kept bottled up when I was younger and the characters in young adult novels give me that extra push to speak up and confront issues so I can finally put them behind me. 

As someone past the “advertised” age group, I can truly say that I love YA because of the nostalgic feelings they invoke as I read. YA authors work tirelessly to provide the world with works that are both amazing and groundbreaking. I believe that YA literature is for everyone to enjoy because it would otherwise lead to a form of consumer discrimination based on age. “Advertised” age groups are also suggested age groups that shouldn’t be strictly adhered to. Otherwise, I would not have enjoyed works by Mary Higgins Clark at 11 years old. 

I’m almost 22 and have never considered giving up YA. YA never seems juvenile to me. Characters in these stories go on epic adventures that adults only wish they could go on and go through heart-wrenching situations that some people will never go through no matter their age. And there is so much more diversity! 

YA is a safe space for me. I love reading fantasy, however, it's hard for me to navigate safely in Adult fantasy. There are authors that believe that because they are writing adults books, it's okay to normalize sexual assault scenes or to use sex to drive the entire plot, and that's something that makes me deeply uncomfortable. That doesn't happen [often] in YA, so I can navigate the bookshelves and choose any book that catches my eye without worries. With Adult, I'm dependent on reviews from close friends to pick a book, since I have had terrible experiences before. 

I still read YA because there's so much adventure. Life as an adult can get pretty dull, and a little adventure is hard to come by. YA novels make it a little easier to break the dreary cycle of a 9-5 job and keep me excited about being alive. 

YA is not a genre I grew up with. I moved on from children books to pretty much anything that would catch my eye, whether it was something my mom was reading or something my teachers suggested. YA was just not in my radar (and it also wasn't very popular in my country). As a queer young woman growing up in an abusive environment, I didn't get to experience a lot of things that are typically central in YA until much later, so only now I can connect with these themes and really appreciate them in a usually more light-hearted context (especially with YA contemporary). I read and love across all genres and target groups, but YA has a special place in my heart. 

Here are some of the reasons I read YA (I also read MG books too!): I can relate to a lot of them more than adult fiction (I also read a ton of adult fiction).They tackle a lot of problems in today's society. They are more honest in portraying real issues, plus they all have a bit of hope in the stories -- something that is needed in today's world. I have so much more empathy for others because of the YA books I've read (and the YA book community). There is so much more diversity, [and] the books are fun, entertaining, plot-based and well-written. 

As an adult, I've read just about every genre there is, and I keep returning to YA. I love reading stories about first love and figuring out who you are, and I especially appreciate the element of hope at the end of the stories. The three-dimensional characters face issues I never could have imagined as a teen, the story-lines are fast-paced, and the books regularly keep me up long past my bedtime — even on school nights. 

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
Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

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