Why YA Literature Appeals to More Than Just Young Adults

As a thirty-six year-old mother of three, I am not the target audience of the literature genre dubbed young adult. Affectionately abbreviated YA Lit, this genre refers to books written for 12 to 18-year-olds, and yet I, a self-proclaimed avid reader, find myself consistently drawn to these titles.

(I just checked, and in 2017, thirty out of the sixty-six books I read were YA!).

Experts say we’re in the second golden era of young adult literature, a period which started in the early 2000s, which was, not coincidentally, when I was in college and started noticing and reading books marketed as YA.

I’m not the only not-so-young adult reading these books. YA is a popular genre being read by many bookish people I know, and market studies have shown that adults are buying at least half, if not more, of the YA books out there. 

So what gives?

As I asked around to see why other adults are reading YA, I found a lot of the same reasons I had: We read YA because we like it, and we aren’t afraid to admit it, even if some people think we should be (a few years ago Slate published an article saying adults who read YA should be embarrassed, which is, in my opinion, ridiculous).

The truth is, YA literature depicts a fleeting time many of us look back on with nostalgia.

We often reflect back to how we felt during those years and, at the same time, how we’ve grown since then. One friend of mine loves how reading YA reminds her of when reading became a “safe haven” in a tumultuous time in her life.

In YA we often get our fill of swoony romances without the explicit/shock factor stuff, less swearing, drama (that’s fairly unlike the drama in our real lives), a clear good-versus-evil conflict, plucky heroines and deep emotions, good character development (a lot of it is written in first person), friendship and family issues, fast pace, and easy reading.

It’s common to find series in YA, too, which means a longer time before you have to say goodbye to beloved characters. Like any genre, YA runs the full spectrum and varies widely, but if any of this sounds good to you, you might want to give YA a try.

A quick word on pacing and ease with YA: We live in a culture all about brevity and consuming quick bits of information. (If you don’t feel the increased struggle to stay focused on longer reading material, please share your secrets!)

One thing I love about YA is that I find them easy to blow through while still thoroughly enjoying the experience. They don’t bog me down with long wordy passages and difficult-to-process themes.

That doesn’t mean YA is fluff or twaddle; so many YA novels are clever, witty, and well-written.

Though they often touch on deeper issues and subjects, it’s usually with a lighter tone. I find myself drawn to them between heavier or wordier novels.

And for someone who’s struggling to get back into reading, YA can be a legitimate reading confidence-booster and a gateway into reading more and finishing more books.

As our friend Anne Bogel often says, “Life’s too short to read bad books.” And I would also add: We shouldn’t let the industry pigeonhole us into or out of a genre.

Life’s also too short to feel bad about reading books with teen characters. There’s a lot in YA literature for us to enjoy, and we can almost always take away something from these books, even if we aren’t technically the target audience.

We were all teenagers once, and maybe the further we get from those years, the more we can benefit dipping our toes back into remembering what it felt like to be that young again.

p.s. – 5 tips for the distracted reader.

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