Why I Read YA

In light of yesterday’s debate in the New York Times over the power/importance/relevance of Young Adult fiction and in light of the fact that it is finally Friday, I thought I’d continue with the Week of The Bullet-Points to give you a few reasons why I am an adult who reads YA.

  • I got bored and frustrated with reading adult fiction.  I was struggling to find anything to read and decided to try a few YA picks.  I have been on quite the roll ever since.
  • YA tends to discuss themes that are relevant and usually pretty sophisticated.  I am talking about themes like death, human rights, women’s rights, violence, government oppression, human suffering, etc.
  • The characters can be more intelligent, introspective, and real than some of the characters in adult books.
  • I read somewhere that adults like YA because of it’s adherence to the narrative, whereas contemporary adult fiction experiments with other structures.  I don’t know if that is entirely true, but I do know that I am a fan of the narrative.
  • Generally speaking, I do not have to wade through literary pretense/difficult language.  I am not an incapable or unsophisticated reader, but generally I appreciate clear communication.
  • The YA book blogging community is pretty awesome and is where I landed when I started blogging a whole two months ago.
  • The YA genre was pretty paltry when I was a teen.  At the very least, I never read from the “Teen” section of my library when I was that age.  I hate to miss out on great books because I have outgrown or overlooked a genre.
  • I actually like teenagers and young adults.  I have worked at colleges for most of my professional life and my favorite parts of it involve interacting with students.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I actually like young adult characters.
  • There are so many YA series… once you start one you have to finish the rest!
  • I read what I like and I like YA.

The bottom line for me is that reading should be not only an exercise in expanding the mind, but also a fun activity.  There is a time and place for reading things you don’t like and it is called school.  If reading YA makes you happy, then I say go for it.  If it isn’t your cup of tea, that’s cool, too.  Just read and let read, I say.

Why do you read YA?

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18 thoughts on “Why I Read YA

  1. I Love the YA books for many of the same reasons. The series are great…you become attached to a character and storyline and just want it to continue. I love seeing my daughter’s reaction when she starts and falls in love with a series. She gets so frustrated when the new book is still months or a year away! YA is also a staple for any teacher in high school. I have to stay current if I want to have any idea what my students are into. They love seeing me read the books they are into, too. Great post!

    • I think it is great that you can share books with your students and daughters! I remember reading a lot of classics in high school and being stunned in college when they offered a class on Harry Potter. There is value to things outside of the literary canon… and I think it is silly for anyone to try to deny that.

  2. I read it because I love it! I’m a high school teacher and love working with teens. Reading YA makes me feel more connected to them, plus helps me recommend books.

    Really, sometimes they are just flat out more interesting. I am completely capable of reading adult lit, but choose to read what I like, like everyone does. No one should feel obligated to read a certain genre, unlike what Joel Stein thinks. That’s the beauty of reading!

    • Obligating anyone to read things they don’t like just turns them off of reading… which seems like the opposite of what anyone invested in books would want in a society that has plenty of other options for entertainment or education. I think Stein was trying to stir up controversy more than anything else, but I like a little controversy now and then.

  3. I may be stealing this idea for my own blog… I think why I read YA is because I just got to a point in my life where I was tired of typical adult fiction themes – i.e. sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with it and there’s certainly sex aplenty in YA, but it’s not so cavalier or in there just to be in there. Also, shock factors in YA aren’t as out there and gruesome/irrelevant/grotesque as they are in adult books. I know this makes me sound like a prude and maybe I’ve kinda gotten that way with my reading tastes, but I just found those things to make me less appealed to reading which saddened me, because for nearly 30 years reading’s been my true love, even before I could read.

    I also love the age group YA features. I work at a college as well, and have worked with both high school and college aged kids, so to get to know them and the issues they face through literature has really been beneficial to me not only as a reader but as a professional.

    Great post!

    • I know what you mean about the subject matter… it sort of seems like adult literature has to involve incest, rape, domestic violence, child abuse, school shootings, suicide, depression, cancer, or other terrible things to make it big. It gets kind of depressing to read book after book about lives destroyed. It is much nicer to see lives being built in YA!

  4. I completely agree. I love the young adult stuff. I’ve tried reading adult books, but I have a hard time relating to the characters. Everyone just has all of these terrible things happen to them. I much prefer stories about life where it doesn’t just suck completely and ends happily.

  5. I read my YA now then I did when I was one. I think YA as a genre has grown up a lot since I was in high school.

    I also agree with a lot of adult books having too much literary pretense and confusing structures. Why does me struggling to understand what you are trying to convey make it superior to something that makes the same points clearly.

    Suzanne Collins Hunger Games hits every single theme you mentioned while being totally readable.

    • Speaking of literary pretense, I just started reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which is my first adult book in almost two months) and I just want to roll my eyes at the structure… if this is what I’m supposed to read all the time, my brain will explode due to pretension and condescension.

      • Yeah, I made it about 10 pages into that one before I decided I wasn’t in the right “mood” for it and switched books – to “Anna and the French Kiss”.

        I’ll finish it eventually (I’m pretty sure one of the women in my book club is planning on picking it this summer), but I think that’s one where I might actually like the movie better.

        In defense of adult books I will say there are a few adult authors I LOVE, but of course none would gain me any literary points. Have you read “Attachments” by Rainbow Rowell yet? It’s a light read, but raises some interesting points about privacy, and the conversations are so real to me I swear I had a few of them (with minor variations). At least it would give you 1 adult read:)

        • Extremely Loud is well-written, but there are some weird chapters that I think are told from other points of view, but I haven’t quite figured that out entirely. I feel like I should at least give it a chance, but if it gets even murkier in the next 40-50 pages, I’m quitting! I haven’t read Attachments… I’ll look into it, though!

  6. The newspaper comic, Mallard Fillmore, had a cartoon yesterday that was a picture of Mallard at the library standing at the “Young Adult” fiction section. In the next frame the “young adult” fiction sign says, “Moms Pretending to be Young Adults” fiction. Here’s a link to it: http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/store/add.php?iid=77705

    I laughed and tried not to take it personally as I am a mom who, indeed, reads a lot of young adult fiction. So does my coblogger, Cdsquee. I don’t even have a ‘young adult” in my house that I can blame it on. I have a little boy who is learning to tolerate reading. He obviously didn’t get my genes. Sigh.

    I generally concurr with your reasons. Probably 7 out of 10 books I read these days tend to be YA. Sometimes I worry that it means I’m not sophisticated enough, but no I
    think you’re right about adult=pretentious so many times. Why is that?

    Do you think back in the day they gave Shakespeare a hard time for writing Romeo and Juliet?

    The only thing that I find, on occasion, in YA novels that I can’t stand is when the characters get all angsty and emo. I really liked “Across the Universe”. I just got the second book, “A million Suns.” I couldn’t finish it. Maybe I wasn’t in the right moood, but just felt the characters spent so much time talking about how they felt or didn’t feel or should feel. I just wanted them to get on with it!

    But then I just finished reading Keep Mama Dead, and it kept the emmo to a minimum. There are good, better, and bad books in all genres, of course.

    • It is kind of interesting how some books featuring YA or children protagonists get classified as adult-appropriate (Romeo and Juliet, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Lovely Bones, etc.), but others are out of hand dismissed as kiddie books even though they deal with some of the same serious issues the lauded classics do. It just seems that the assumption is if you are an adult reading YA, you’re reading Twilight… not Chaos Walking or John Green or the other intelligent YA stuff out there.

      Some teen characters are too angsty for my tastes as well, but teens are a pretty angsty group. Then again, some of the adult lit out there deals with that same attitude in adults and that probably annoys me even more (the only example I can think of is Bridget Jones’s Diary which I read a long time ago and it drove me nuts because she whined about everything!)

  7. I read YA primarily for two reason I think 1) Because I want to be a Young Adult author and 2) Because sometimes I just want to read, but I don’t want to think that hard. It’s not a crime to simply want to be entertained 😉

  8. Fantastic post!! I was so frustrated at Joel Stein (whom I usually love) for his very narrow-minded comments the other day. Sure some YA is more fluffy than some adult lit. But some adult is too. There is so much high quality YA out there and the amazing thing about it? It’s accessible. It’s not elitist. Anyone can fall into the stories. And people can come out of those stories looking at the world in a different way. Adult fiction can do that too, but it seems to have more trouble with it than YA. Adult fiction has a lot to learn from YA.

    New follower!

    • Thanks, Brandyn! I like how she pointed out that YA authors are little more apt to experiment with genre combining and bending. That is definitely another reason I like reading YA– I can get my suspense, action, romance, family drama, etc all in one book!

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