Whilst YA, or ‘Young Adult’ fiction is probably the most popular genre amongst book bloggers, I’ve personally found that in the wider world, there’s still a sense that ‘adult’s shouldn’t be reading books for kids’.
Unsurprisingly, this attitude is one often held by ‘book snobs’, or people who insist the only things worth reading are Ernest Hemingway and the latest Booker Prize winner, but also more surprisingly amongst non-readers. On the odd occasion I’ve spoken about my love of books to non-reader acquaintances, there’s been a sense once I’ve mentioned that I like YA books, that this somehow isn’t ‘proper reading.’
And you know what? I really hate that attitude! Aside from the fact that anyone should be able to read whatever they want, I personally think there’s so many reasons to read YA fiction, and that people who don’t are missing out.
So here’s why I think everyone should read YA:
- Incredible stories.
Readers who don’t read YA, are missing out on some amazing stories and characters. I know from experience, because I didn’t actually used to read YA myself: I actually discovered YA through the blogging world, and was blown away by everything I had been missing!
It wasn’t that I had actively avoided YA fiction: it was just that I didn’t know what was out there. When I was a teenager, ‘YA’ wasn’t so much of a thing, and the teenage section of the library or bookshop was a tiny section at the end of the children’s section. Nowadays it’s a huge genre that encompasses almost every other sub genre you could imagine, from contemporary, to science fiction, mystery and romance, meaning there’s something for everyone.
- The coming-of-age theme is relevant to us all.
The thing that generally defines YA books is the age of the characters, and I personally don’t think that a book having a teenage protagonist should be a problem for an adult reader. For one thing, we’ve all been teenagers at one point in our life, and I imagine many of us can remember the awkward experience vividly (I know I can!).
That’s why I don’t think the ‘coming-of-age’ theme is unrelatable to adults, and in many way can be more relatable…I mean, an adult book could have a protagonist who is 50 years old, which is an experience I’ve yet to have! Not that I think we can’t relate to characters who are older than us, but I think the experience of having been a teenager, and all the angst and emotion is something we all have in common.
Plus, I often think that teenage characters tend to be more defined, purely because they’re at an age where they feel everything so strongly. They’re at a time in their life where they’re learning about friendship, falling in love and discovering who they really are, and I love reading about that stuff!
- It’s a genre that often tackles serious issues.
Because YA is aimed at an audience who are at a formative time of their life, I find that the genre often deals with serious issues and topical themes ranging from racism, to sexuality, identity, mental health, grief and violence. Whilst I think a lot of the ‘YA-books-are-for-kids’ squad like to think that YA books are ‘lighter reads’, I think that actually they tend to tackle more issues, as a way to get teenagers talking and thinking about these types of things.
- The diversity/#OwnVoices movements.
I think, in general, there’s been a call for more diverse books in recent years, but personally I’ve always seen the YA genre as being at the heart of the movement. I think this is partially because YA is very popular amongst bloggers and the online book community, and many bloggers and YA authors have been vocal about the need for more diversity, and have brought it to more people’s attention.
I know that when I was a teenager myself, I never really recognised the lack of diversity in a lot of the books I was reading, and let’s face it: it’s probably because as a straight white female, I commonly saw characters ‘like me’, in the fiction I was reading (yep, it was pretty ignorant on my part!). Being a part of the book community, and especially the YA community and seeing discussions about diversity in books has really opened my eyes to the fact that some people didn’t have that same experience as me, and how that needs to change. We all need (and want!) to see more diverse characters and perspectives, and I don’t think there’s a better genre for that than YA.
We may still have a long way to go on the diversity front, but any progress is a start!
So why do you read YA (or why don’t you, if you don’t?)?