Lately, I’ve found myself reading more YA books than usual. When I started reading more YA titles in 2007 I was ravenous about them. I had never read the genre before so it felt like a whole new world opened up before me. I’ve steadily enjoyed most YA titles I’ve read since, but lately I’ve found myself not being as invested in these stories as I typically would be. This isn’t to say I’m reading titles that aren’t worthwhile, just that they aren’t holding weight with me the way a well written book typically does. I’m not sure if this is because I’m simply becoming burnt out on the genre/sub genre (as I read a lot of dystopian novels) or because I’m just growing out of the genre all together. I hesitate to assume that I’m “done” with YA books because I don’t see the need to limit myself or what I read just because I’m not currently enjoying it. Contemplating all of this made me wonder why it is that adults who are well above the target genre for YA books (myself included) find YA so worthwhile?
I think there are a few factors that make YA books appealing to adults. Much of what I will mention isn’t genre specific, these are just things I find play a role in creating the allure that is YA.
To keep readers invested, many books (from any genre) keep a fast pace. In YA books, this tends to be the norm as action driven books seem to outweigh character driven titles. Books like The Hunger Games and Divergent read quickly because they do a great job of blending action with engaging character development. In character driven books, YA titles tend to lean on polarizing yet relatable experiences. While it’s challenging to read about anyone going through difficult times, seeing younger people preserver feels especially gratifying.
Any good book will have good character development. We as readers will see and learn how a character is affected by their choices and how they grow as a person based on their actions. As an adult, I find that I often read about a YA character and find myself remembering my own (similar) experiences, or wishing I could warn them based on what I’ve gone through. This should probably make me feel strange, but it doesn’t. If anything, relating to these characters as if they’re glimpses of younger versions of myself/friends/family only makes me more invested in their story.
I tend to find that YA characters are often more bold and adventurous than older characters who may be a bit more hardened by life. While there certainly are plenty of adult characters who simply throw caution to the wind, teens and young adult characters seem expertly triumphant in their victories as they are often brave and loyal without having much experience on their side. I think for many adult readers, this lets us remember the days when we may not have been as cautious or thoughtful about our actions as we are as adults.
With the popularity of comic books and superheroes/villains, it seems that more and more YA titles are dipping into the paranormal world. While in adult books, much of the paranormal or supernatural realms occur in fantasy, Sci Fi or paranormal romance novels, YA seems to break the mold a bit on this. Many YA books tend to just touch on the paranormal enough to spice things up and make a story more interesting (take urban fantasy for example). While there are adult novels that do this as well, the appeal of discovering (and mastering) supernatural powers at a young age appeals to that sense of wonder we all have. Everyone has their preferred superpower which makes reading about kids that actually get to live out that dream (whether it’s through choice or circumstance) is a lot of fun.
In no way do I want to come off as saying that adult books are boring or lacking imagination. I think adult books are endlessly fantastic, and they have many qualities that YA and children’s books don’t have simply because they’re written for adults. Whether it’s for pleasure or as a requirement, I’m just fascinated by how widely read the YA genre is.
Do you like to read YA? If you don’t like the genre, what don’t you like about it? What’s your favorite genre to read? Are you a binge reader like me or do you alternate between genres?