YA fiction, or Young Adult fiction is an incredibly popular genre amongst book bloggers of all ages, but unfortunately it’s commonly regarded with a certain amount of snobbery by a lot of other people (and the odd blogger…but good luck to them making friends in the blogosphere!). Whilst non-readers who see you reading YA often like to tell you that you’re ‘far to be old to be reading that’ if you’re older than sixteen, bookworms who ‘only read real books’ like to lecture you on the formulaic plots and cardboard characters, despite probably never having read any of the books they’re talking about.
But I totally disagree! YA fiction may have a younger intended audience, but I think anyone of any age can find value in it, and it spans such a range of different subgenres that there is literally something for everyone (spoiler alert for one of my points!).
Anyway, rant over! Here’s five reasons why you should be reading YA, whatever your age!
- YA spans such a range of subgenres that there’s something for everyone.
Yep, I’ve already said this, but allow me to expand! Unlike the genres I’ve previously discussed in my ‘Five Reasons To Read…’ series (historical fiction and fantasy), ‘YA’ refers to the age of the intended audience, as opposed to specific features of the book, and so can include other genres like fantasy and science fiction within it.
I often think that genre fans who are put off by the YA tag are missing out on a lot of great examples of genre fiction, as often the only difference between a YA fantasy and a regular one is the age of the main character (and let’s just say there will probably much less sex and gore than in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire!).
- Everyone can relate to YA, because everyone can relate to being a teenager.
Most of the time the main characters in YA books are teenagers, and whilst for some of us our own teenage years are far behind us, we can all still remember what being a teen was like. It’s a time when we all go through the biggest changes of our lives, both physically and emotionally, and when our adult selves start to emerge and form, and YA can do a great job of reflecting such a scary, crazy and amazing time in our lives.
In a lot of other books where there are older characters, I find it less likely that I will directly relate to the main character, and whilst often this isn’t a huge problem (I’ll maybe relate to them in some other way), I think it can add to the reading experience if you find yourself thinking ‘I have felt that too’. For example, I can’t relate the same to a character who is a 30-odd year old mother as I could to an eighteen year old because I’m neither in my 30s or a mother, but I have been an eighteen year old, and so can better relate to their feelings and experiences (not that I was exactly a normal eighteen year old…I was too busy reading to get drunk and party!)..
- It’s a genre that talks about a lot of important issues and topics.
Whilst I think a lot of books discuss important current issues and topics, I don’t think there’s a genre that does so quite as much as YA fiction. As it is aimed at younger people, I think authors often use it as a way of getting these younger people to think and learn about issues and topics as varied as mental health, bullying, rape, discrimination, war, violence, identity, sexuality, diversity and family, and I think we could all stand to learn more about issues likes these.
Examples of issues related books include Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher about bullying (and I’ll actually be doing a post about bullying soon), as well as suicide in the case of Thirteen Reasons and abuse and neglect in the case of Eleanor and Park. There’s books that discuss mental health such as All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, and those that tackle illness and death like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Before I Die by Jenny Downham. There’s also books about rape like Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, being transgender, such as The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, and growing up and finding yourself like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. There is literally a book about everything, and I think we can learn so much from these books, and gain more understanding about the issues and topics at hand.
- It can teach us a lot about friendship.
A huge component of teenage life is your friends and friendships, and so it’s no wonder that these things feature so prominently in YA books, whether it’s a contemporary, fantasy or science fiction. Unfortunately I think friendship can be something that takes a bit of a backseat as we get older – we’re all busy and have jobs, partners, houses, eventually maybe even children – and so I think sometimes we all need a reminder about the importance of friendship. Not to mention, I love nothing more than seeing a truly heart-warming book friendship! Augustus and Issac from The Fault In Our Stars, for example, or Chaol and Dorian in Throne of Glass, or Jess and Kestrel in The Winner’s Curse.
- As a genre it tends to have more of an optimistic, feel good vibe to it than a lot of other genres.
Bad things happen in YA just as much as they do in other genres: people get bullied, abused, become ill, are bereaved and face horrific trials and tribulations (Katniss in The Hunger Games, anyone?). But personally (and maybe this is just me!) I also feel like despite the terrible things that often happen, there is more of a sense of hope for the future, and that things will turn out OK than in other genres. And maybe sometimes we want to read something truly dark and terrifying that makes us peer fearfully into the depths of the human soul, but I think most of the time what we want to get from books is that feeling that we’re not alone and that everything is going to be OK, and I think YA is fantastic for doing this.
Recommended Reads: The Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, Just Listen and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, pretty much anything written by Rainbow Rowell, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
So do you read YA fiction? What’s your favourite thing about the genre?