Hello, pals! Today I am bringing you a post I’ve been mulling over in my head for quite some time now. It’s also one that I’m scared to share because I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I’m putting my big girl pants to bring you the reasons why I have distanced myself from young-adult novels…
I want to start out by saying that the last thing I want is to hurt anyone’s feelings. What I am writing about in this post is solely what I feel as an avid reader. I am not bashing young-adult novels nor am I saying they aren’t a great way to get into reading. Young adult books will always have a special place in my heart!
So, to thank the young-adult authors who have made me love reading so much, I want to give the genre their credit…
💫 It’s so easy for teens to feel understood
If there’s one thing young-adult novels do that no other age group/genre can nail quite as well is making teens feel valued and appreciated. So many life-changing things happen to us when we’re young and it can be very easy to not see our thoughts and feeling represented anywhere. Young adult novels make teens feel valued and like their problems are more common than what they think.
Take having body image issues, for example. I struggled with this a lot when I was around 14 and 15 (and still do), but seeing books with main characters who looked at their bodies the same way I did made me feel less alone and like a weirdo. Even just having a character struggle with what may seem like run-of-the-mill issues is a huge confidence booster.
This was the main reason why I loved YA so much growing up. I knew that, no matter what, I could open the pages of a book and see that I’m not alone in the world. And this is no small feat for teens, nor should it be disregarded.
💫 YA is getting a lot more diverse
Young adult has been getting increasingly more diverse. Now, a lot more authors from different countries, of different races, sexual orientations, and with different disabilities are getting published. Therefore, YA is showing its readers that there are multiple narratives — and that they’re all valuable. In today’s world, I feel like seeing the world from other people’s perspective is one of the most important things to do.
There is so much intolerance in the world, and it all seems to stem from an inability to connect on a human level, I believe. Putting stories out there that feature main characters who go experience life in a different way shows readers that the world isn’t as simple as it may seem. Just because they haven’t faced prejudice before, it doesn’t mean that no one ever will. Nor that people who speak out against injustices you haven’t been a victim of personally should be dismissed.
There are honestly so many upsides to reading diversely, and they certainly don’t limit themselves to YA novels. But I feel like no other corner of the publishing market is as worried about diversity as the YA corner. If only adult literature would follow the same steps! I could die a happy reader…
💫 They’re fun and easy to read and attract young readers!
Despite what a lot of people may say, books that are accessible to teenagers don’t have a problem “sounding too young” — that’s the whole point!!! Why do we act so shocked and surprised to hear that teenagers and even young adults don’t tend to like Moby Dick or other classical literature tomes? Sure, they are really great novels (after all, there is a reason why they have survived for so long), but do they get young readers interested in literature? Probably not!
The reason why YA sells so well and gets so many young people invested in reading is because the prose isn’t overly complicated and the stories speak to the readers. Let’s think of scenario A) you give a 16-year-old student who has never loved to read a book with complicated prose set hundreds of years ago. Now, let’s look at scenario B) you give the same student a book with accessible sentence structure and vocabulary that they are familiar with about a character who is struggling to decide what to study at university. Which one do you think the student might be more interested in?
As I’ve mentioned before, YA literature has the magical ability to make readers connect with what they are reading. If they have a positive experience with what they read, teens are much more likely to willingly read something that is not assigned for class. And isn’t that what we want? To raise future readers and teach them to think critically, as well as to have more empathy for others? YA literature does all that and so much more!
However, even with all those pluses, there are still some things that annoy me profusely in YA novels. These reasons were the ones that led me to read less YA and move into other age groups/genres…
🌿 I have grown up, and so my interests have shifted
I am all for readers of all ages picking up YA books, reading them, and loving them. Young adult can be read by everyone, especially by people looking to understand ~the youth~ and trying to see the world through their eyes. But, at the same time, I have grown up (I am a whopping 20 years old!) and no longer see myself reflected in YA.
As I said before, YA is amazing at getting readers to connect with the stories, and so when I say I can no longer to connect to characters or plots, I’m not bashing the book itself. Instead, I am admitting that I no longer worry about getting into the university I want, nor do I worry about what people in my high school say about me. Those two chapters of my life were once very significant, but I have closed them and started writing new ones.
Nowadays, I see myself gravitating more towards books featuring main characters who are struggling to make it in their chosen career path. Characters who are dealing with the uncertainty of getting married. Characters who feel like they can’t ~adult~ properly. Because those are the issues I am going through as of now. Knowing how to deal with cheerleader Stacey is no longer a priority in my mind, but how do you make it as a writer in a big city?????
New Adult has been the age group/genre that has been luring me in more than before. I feel like NA is a weird corner of the market, though, and I either love the books I read or despise them with all my heart. Why is it that a lot of NA novels can’t be cute and sexy without being 50 Shades of Gray but younger? This is a whole other topic I want to write about in the future, but Kat over at Novels and Waffles compiled a bunch of NA books that read like YA but also don’t. It’s an awesome post, really.
🌞 With success comes formulas…
As with all things we buy, books are also a business. So it’s really no surprise that when publishers see a book doing really, really well, they push for the same formula in another book. We’ve all seen these trends and how tired they got — real fast. Remember The Hunger Games and all the dystopians that came out? Or The Fault in Our Stars and then all the sick-lit that followed suit? YA can sometimes feel so smothering, tired and repeated.
I hate feeling like I’ve read a certain book even before I read half of it. Yet, having read the major bestselling novels that came before it, you can so easily predict what will happen next. As a result, I don’t get excited to pick up a lot of young adult books anymore, and I am sure to read many reviews done by bloggers I trust before I commit to one.
This is why I am completely blown away by the books that do come out and innovate the YA. They feel like a breath of fresh air. The young adult books I read that have stuck with me the most have been the ones that take the rug from under my feet. Either because they were some of the first I read or because they took a trope and flipped it on its head.
🌿 Sometimes, they read too young for me
This ties in with the first point I made. Sometimes, young adult has a too young voice for me. I do not mean that YA sounds childish — at all! I think it has the perfect tone for the audience. This just makes me hyper-aware that I’m not the intended audience anymore… Seeing characters blow off their parents, ditch their friends for one small thing, or making a scene just to later figure out they were wrong makes me not relate with the characters anymore. And if you’ve been reading, you’ll know I love connecting with the characters.
🌞 There are books that aren’t YA???!
I know, I know. Who would have thought that there are books that are actually super interesting that… aren’t YA? I was shook when I made that discovery. I started to branch out more in the genres I was open to, and ended up finding a big passion for Adult nonfiction, literary fiction, and even New Adult contemporaries. As I have been exploring what else is out there, I realized that I didn’t prioritize YA as much as I used to.
In turn, whenever I did go back to young adult fiction, I realized that I liked it a lot more than before and that I was never bored reading those books! My relationship with young adult books now is one of peace and tranquility. Like old friends, you know? We don’t see each other all the time, but when we do, it’s really nice to catch up!
Now that I have voiced all my opinions about YA, what happens now? Will I never read YA ever again? Absolutely not! The tide seems to be turning when it comes to interesting books being published in YA. More diversity means a larger variety of tropes and plot devices — which is amazing and doesn’t let readers burn out!
In fact, there are even books coming out this year that bring back the typical tropes used in YA a couple of years ago, but they manage to add a twist in there. Be it a fantasy novel set in a school or a contemporary featuring love at first sight, I’m super intrigued to see how diversity will shape these stories differently!
I have kept requesting ARCs that fall into the YA corner of the market. But now I am a lot more strict with what I actually choose to read. This way, I don’t get burned out as easily! (I’m a genius, I know…)
While adult fiction makes up the majority of books I read now, there is a small chunk there dedicated to YA fiction. And I suspect there always will be…
Also, I would like to add that reading is all about being happy — not about pleasing others. This was a surprisingly hard thing for me to figure out on my own because this little corner of the internet I love is obsessed with YA. One of these days I will write about my experiences (and anxieties!!!) as being a non-YA book blogger. Yes, we exist and we can also be young and not stuffy and uppity!