There have been a few condescending articles throughout the years about why adults should not read young adult literature. I won’t bother linking to any of them, because I think they’re totally wrong and don’t deserve the web traffic. Despite how these articles denounce YA lit, adults still make up a large percentage of its readership. A survey done in 2012 showed that 55% of YA readers were adults, and since the YA market has only grown in the past five years, that percentage may be even higher today. When I first started reading young adult books as an adult, few of my non-writer friends were also reading it (with the exception of the Harry Potter and Twilight series). But nowadays, when I chat about books with my friends, more and more YA titles come up.
If someone were to ask me why I read so many YA books, here are the answers I’d give them:
1) YA is entertaining
I think first and foremost, they’re good books. Of course not every single YA novel that’s published is great, but the majority of them are high-quality stories with compelling characters, gripping plots, swoon-worthy romances, high stakes, and complex themes. No matter the genre, they all tend to be page-turners. They have to be in order to attract teen readers who could easily pick up a video game or text their friends instead of reading. YA books need to draw readers in from the very first page, and make them not want to stop reading until they’ve reached the end.
See: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
2) YA is well written
The protagonists in YA novels may be young, but the writing is not dumbed down. Some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read has been within YA books. Unlike a lot of adult literary fiction, YA books incorporate beautiful language without lengthy descriptions that slow down the pace of the story.
See: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Absolute True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
3) YA tackles serious issues, but in a hopeful way
I’ve read young adult books about school shootings, murder, drug abuse, eating disorders, suicide, rape, mental health issues, and other serious topics. They’re not afraid to tackle the tough stuff, and they handle these serious issues in an honest way, with characters readers want to root for. Not all young adult books have happy endings, but there’s usually a glimmer of hope even in the more tragic stories. With all of the terrible things happening in the world, I crave that hope in the fiction I read.
See: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu
4) YA gives readers all the feels
Another way young adult authors hook their readers is with their emotions. Most YA involves a romantic storyline, even if it’s not the main plot, and authors create character romances that teens want to “ship.” As an adult, it sometimes feels a bit silly to get so excited about two teenagers falling in love, but I’m telling you, it’s a wonderful form of escapism. Teen romance can be especially raw and messy, because for a lot of these teenagers, it’s their first time falling for someone. Some adults like how “clean” these books are – there’s no gratuitous sex, and even if sex is involved, the scenes usually fade to black before the real action happens. Also, not all of the emotional relationships in YA are romantic. I’ve read a lot of YA books about friendship and family dynamics that have made me laugh and cry.
See: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
5) YA is imaginative and plays with format
Young adult authors are always looking for interesting ways to tell their stories. There are YA novels-in-verse, epistolary novels, novels including characters’ drawings or fan-fiction, and books told entirely in diaries, letters and instant messages.
See: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr
6) Coming-of-age YA is relatable
In my parents’ generation, it was normal to graduate college, get a job, get married, and stay in the same career for decades. Millennials are different. As they head into adulthood, they are still figuring out who they are, and what/who they want to be. The emotions and self-discoveries happening aren’t all that different than what teenagers go through. Reading about teenage characters trying to figure out their place in the world doesn’t feel all that foreign to many adults.
See: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, Mosquitoland by David Arnold
7) YA stories are so good; they’re being made into movies and TV shows
More and more YA books are being adapted for the screen. I enjoy watching the adaptations, but always find that the books are way better.
See: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
8) YA is shorter and cheaper than adult books
This means more time and money to read more books!
See: the entire YA section of your local bookstore. 🙂
For those of you who haven’t read a young adult book yet, I hope I’ve convinced you to add some to your TBR list!
To my fellow adult YA readers, are there any other reasons why you enjoy it?
Janae Marks writes contemporary fiction for kids and teens. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She lives in New England with her husband and daughter.