As someone who works in publishing and reads most of the time, I get asked why I read young adult books quite a lot. Now I won’t lie, I do read other age groups and genres too, such as nineteenth-century classics (particularly Austen). Although, its young adult literature (YAL) that I most appreciate and enjoy.
It may surprise you to know that around half of young adult readers are adults! YA has appealed to so many people beyond its target audience and the previous ‘shame’ factor attributed to reading this age group has fizzled out for many reasons. One important reason: it’s not what you read but how you read. As no two reading experiences are the same, books should not be confined by snobbery and no one should look down on an adult reading a young adult book.
I’m in my twenties and like many other adults, I love reading young adult books. To be honest, I don’t think I ever stopped reading YA (and moved to adult genres) and I’ve no shame walking into the teen section of a bookstore to purchase a book labelled 15+. Not only do I love the genres, award-winning authors and captivating protagonists; I appreciate the nostalgia it brings.
Young adult literature has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, many critics have questioned what constitutes YAL and whether there is any value to the age group. Well I say, yes there is and here are a few reasons why:
There’s something for everyone:
- YAL bridges a gap between adolescence and adulthood, making YA a relatable choice for all ages. Those who are in their teens can read novels that mirror the experiences they are familiar with; while adults over the age of 20 can read YA as a sentimental reminder of the experiences they have undergone. This is why more adults are beginning to choose young adult books over adult genre books (ever wondered why bookstores are beginning to move YA from the teen section to general fantasy and science-fiction sections?).
Young adults don’t like being patronised:
- Adults (especially teachers and those working with teenagers) can understand young adults by reading experiences through the eyes of a teen protagonist. I’ve never met a teen to like being ‘preached’ at on issues relating to alcohol, drugs, body weight/image, relationships, school/study etc. Books that cover these issues such as Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy illustrate the reality of teens through first-person and third-person protagonists.
- There is nothing better than coming home after a long day at school, college or work and relaxing with a hot cup of tea and a great book. I think it’s safe to say most of us are tired and want nothing more than to unwind. YA is usually an easy, enjoyable read that doesn’t take too much concentration or effort, which is a perfect fit for the busy student/worker.
Great authors write bestselling books:
- Despite what many critics might think, some of the best authors write for young adults. Creating award winning bestselling books such as A Monsters Calls by Patrick Ness and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.
Strong leading voices:
- There are many powerful leading protagonists – male and female – in YA books: Katniss Everdeene (The Hunger Games), Thomas (The Maze Runner), Harry Potter (Harry Potter Series) and Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass). Thankfully times are changing and the typical stereotype is being demolished. Teens no longer have to read perfectly portrayed girls and athletic, powerful men. YA books have taught us that embracing diversity is what makes a strong protagonist.
Unleashing the philosopher:
- Many YA books deal with themes of life and death, sexuality, society, feminism, politics and many other topical issues. Significantly, this means people are starting to think about moral and ethical issues at a younger age. Books such as Only Ever Yours by Louise O’ Neill and History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera cover these themes.
- One of my favourite aspects of reading YA books is for escapism. I love that anything is possible and any world can be created. There are new scenarios to consider and different morals to evaluate in adventurous and dystopian, science-fiction dilemmas.