Okay, my friends. After a year and a half of blogging, it’s finally time for the all-important “Why I Read YA” blog post! I felt like this would be a good discussion to wrap up the year and it’s something that I really wanted to share with not only my fellow bloggers, but the entire YA community.
A couple months ago, Candice from The Grown Up YA tweeted a great article called “The Thirtysomething Teen: An Adult YA Addict Comes Clean“. The article itself was great and then things got heated in the comments… I don’t really want to go into the negative and all of the people who tore down YA. Honestly, no matter how much we advocate it and read it and support it, there will always be haters out there. What I really wanted to do is express why I read Young Adult novels and how the discovery of them has really changed my life in quite the positive way!
I also recently (finally) saw Catching Fire sooooo. What better way to spice up this post with visual aids than using Catching Fire gifs? (Oh, yes.)
WHY I READ YA
Because I want to
Honestly, what better reason is there? Since when do people deserved to be judged based on what they read? I like YA. Bam. Done.
Because YA makes me passionate
I struggled for a LONG TIME with finding books I connected with. A long time ago, I talked about how I nearly stopped reading (thankfully it was only for a while) after being forced to read books I didn’t enjoy or want to read in high school. Aside from Meg Cabot’s adult books (somehow I never read her YA) and cozy mysteries (and some… “regular” mysteries), I never really found an adult series that made me passionate about reading and about the characters. Honestly? Whenever I wanted to read something, I re-read Harry Potter. Over and over and over again until I finally started reading YA. Then I dove into the adventure and amazing worlds The Hunger Games, Delirium, Shadow and Bone, Cinder/Scarlet/Cress… I found love and heartbreak in Gayle Forman books. These were some of the first series that I picked up, read, and said “I MUST HAVE MORE NOW.”
I started a book review blog when I was ready cozy mysteries but once I found the YA community, I immediately knew I found the place for me. I dove in headfirst, made new friends, met authors, found a hobby. Reading, reviewing, and blogging became a lifestyle. It’s become a big part of my life and I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging. YA has provided me with a passion and a drive that I was missing for many, many years.
Because I relate to them
I’m almost 27 now. But I JUST got engaged. I JUST bought a house, and those are still really new experiences for me. I haven’t been married or had kids or been divorced. I still haven’t had a lot of “adult” experiences, so to speak. “New Adult” and college-aged books are still a relatively new thing right now. What I have been through? Childhood. Adolescence. A first kiss. A first crush. A first heartbreak. School, friends, family. These are the things I know and reading YA helps me connect to the characters because I knew how I felt when I went through the same things. I feel a sense of nostalgia for my own adolescence when reading.
Because I’ve learned a lot about myself from reading YA
One of the comments on the article that I did want to touch on was an opinion that people who read YA are childish or refuse to grow up — Even some of the commenters on the aforementioned article who did read YA said that most of it is “fluff” and isn’t “educational” at all. That really bothered me.
Firstly, regardless of whether you’re reading YA or adult or MG, isn’t reading an escape for most people? We read for fun. I’m not sitting around reading textbooks, so what does it matter if books aren’t education in the “traditional” sense? Couldn’t I make the same exact argument for things like chick lit and cozy mysteries? (Not like I would and I actually enjoy those quite a bit myself, but you understand the point I’m making here.) No one gets judged for reading those. Because they’re adult. Sure, some YA is on the lighter side but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s ALL meant to read for fun! What about books like The Book Thief? Code Name Verity? A serious contemporary like Just One Day or Fangirl? Don’t all of those have a good, strong message regardless of age? People aren’t getting made fun of for enjoying Harry Potter and that’s even arguably middle grade/YA. (Although that’s SO popular that you’re probably judged if you’re NOT reading Harry Potter, amirite?)
But even more so than that, I learned so much about myself by reading YA. I got to relive my teenage years. I got see what went right, what went wrong, and in a way, it’s like re-writing my past. What I mean by that is, I don’t remember everything from my high school years vividly and by sort of “reliving” some of those moments in YA, I get to see different sides of things like Prom and dating and my friends. Sometimes it helps me put a positive spin on something I couldn’t see before. Other times, it helps me come to realizations why things went wrong in the dating world or why a falling out happened with a friend and I was too self-centered at the time to realize it. I get to see how immature I was — and I also get to see those other times that I have been mature beyond my years. I don’t get a second chance at my adolescence, that’s true (and nor would I actually want one), but YA has helped me look into my own past and get over issues that I didn’t even know I was holding onto for ten years or more.
Because you can do ANYTHING in YA
When I first fell in love with dystopians, it was after reading The Giver in 7th grade. I wasn’t a big reader (in my free time) yet so it wasn’t until I read The Hunger Games a couple years ago that I began seeking it out. I searched EVERYWHERE and you know the only place that had a wide selection? The young adult section. Young adult also had vampires and mermaids. Heartbreak and personal struggles. Fantasy worlds and magic. Rebuilding worlds and destroying them. Robots, zombies, virtual reality, fairy tale retellings, serial killers, dragons, demons, angels, mental illness, family issues, travels abroad — Literally anything and everything works in YA. Sure, we can find a ton of these themes and genres in adult books as well, but I feel like new and unique ideas are more likely to be found in YA. Why is this? Maybe the teenage mind is open to many more new ideas. Maybe it’s easier to weave some of those unique fantasy and paranormal story lines into a coming of age story versus an already established adult life. Or maybe because YA is awesome and this is where all the cool kids hang out. (Personal bias, of course.)
I could go on and on forever about why I’m so passionate about YA and I’m sure so many of us could! But I just want to wrap this post up with a THANK YOU. Thank you to the friends who have ranted and raved with me. To the bloggers who have commented and kept the fire for the hobby alive. For the Twitter chats. For the amazing authors who inspire me. For the fantastic publishers who are so kind as to work with me. THANK YOU ALL for making this such a rewarding experience for me!
I would love to hear your thoughts as well! Why did you start reading YA? What does YA mean to you? Has it changed your life like it’s changed mine?
28 thoughts on “Why I Read YA (and How It’s Changed My Life)”
I hate it when people are so judgmental and feel the need to tear everything down. I honestly don’t care what other people think. I read YA, because I want to – like you. I love reading those books. They teach me things, I’m able to connect with the characters, I love walking around in the worlds those authors create. Reading is a passion and it’s something I enjoy, so whether I find that in children’s books, YA, adult books etc, it shouldn’t matter.
I really love this post, Brittany! I think you did a great job explaining why you personally choose to read YA and why you love it. I honestly think that what matters most, to me, when it comes to reading is the connection I can feel with the book in question. Most of the time, it just so happens that the book happens to be a YA one — and you’ve hit the nail on the head by saying that it’s often because they call upon experiences or emotions I’ve had before. I love that there’s such a broad selection of YA books out there too, and many that are exceptionally complex and well-written.
I hope the more we write these, the less we will have to defend what we choose to read. I loved your post. So many times I read YA and it’s exactly what I need to hear AT THAT MOMENT. And I’m 28 and married. Ya know? Themes are timeless. And that happens in great, multi layered YA.
I don’t even get why this still has to be a conversation topic. Reading haters, really? #1 if someone is hating, I’m not listening. They’ve already exited the discussion opportunity and settled in judgemental town. I don’t need it. You aren’t going to listen or acknowledge so why bother with you at all. #2 light & fluffy, really? I read more Adult fluff & usually resign my serious reads to YA. the Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, 13 Reasons, Ask the Passengers, Crank, & I could go on & on #3 I do serious all day long & I don’t want to read to learn anything. It is my escape. It keeps me from going postal.
I read YA & I like it, so suck it.
Great share 😉
I love YA for all these reasons as well! I wrote a post about this on Asti’s blog a while back, and I mentioned that even though I was a teen a decade ago (eek!) that I still find YA stories relatable in many ways. And I definitely love how many genres one YA book can explore!
I think it’s pretty much obligatory for YA readers/reviewers to write these posts, so I suppose I should consider writing one of my own eventually. I loved reading about why you love YA, though!
I definitely agree about the passion. So many YA books are about emotions primarily: for readers and for their characters. Adult books can be like that, but sometimes they’re so stuffy and pretentious in ways that YA never is.
And YA really does feel so much more limitless and undefined than most adult fiction does.
I loved everything you said here. And I agree wholeheartedly. 🙂
I’m so glad you opened up this topic for discussion. In middle school I read The Little House on the Prairie and the Love Comes Softly series. It wasn’t until 8th grade I discovered Sarah Dessen and was transported into the YA world. Finding Goodreads last year opened up so many more reading doors for me and led me to books I don’t think I would have discovered on my own. I love YA because it is so relatable. Although I enjoy Adult novels their life still seems so far above my own. I’m a college student so I have had very few adult experiences. When I read YA I can relate to the characters especially contemporary YA.
This is a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Brittany. I haven’t read that article you linked to, but I’m going to right after leaving my comment.
Okay, so I’m a a children’s librarian. I’ve been reading kids (and YA) books since I was in college (not including my time as a child – although I didn’t really read YA because it wasn’t really a thing then). I’m thirty now. The thing about being a librarian, espcially a kids librarian, is that you (or at least I) don’t really even think there is anything wrong with readnig books for children or teens. Some of my favorite books are picture books. 32 pages long with LOTS of illustrations. But again, that’s sort of normal in my profession. So it always shocks me when people act like adults reading books for kids or teens is a bad thing. Their reasons are always ridiculous, and I want to ask them if they’ve ever read some of these books.
Yes there are some lighter books in YA – but the same can be said for books for adults. Light doesn’t mean bad. You touched on something that I’m going to post about soon – about why reading for escape is not a bad thing. It’s a wonderful aspect of reading. But I’m not going to go too much into it because I want to do a whole post about it.
And there are some deep, thought-provoking books in YA, too. Like you mentioned Code Name Verity, or even Harry Potter. It’s a story full of magic and adventure, but it almose makes us look at ourselves individually and and a society. About how doing what’s easy isn’t always the right thing. And even if lots of people don’t feel the same way, standing up is important (I’m thinking of Hermione and and the house elves here). And how important friendship is. I think The HUnger Games also is pretty deep (I haven’t read those books). YA isn’t a genre – it’s an age category, and just like in adult books, there’s a huge variety of types of books. And that’s a wonderful thing! Something for everyone, right!
Also, YES! to anything being in YA. That’s so true. The genre lines and blurred so much and I love that. That’s not something you find much in adult fiction, although I think it’s starting to bleed over a bit.
Anyway, I loved this post! Also, I totally judge people who haven’t read HP. I just can’t help it. 🙂
I really wish there had been more YA books out there when I was a teenager. I just had a conversation with my mom and husband about as a teenager I had trouble finding books that were a good fit for me. MG books weren’t interesting me anymore, and adult books were a bit too mature for me. I still really enjoy YA books, but I am starting to prefer adult books a bit more. I think it is because I am in my 30s now and am having more adult experiences. I am starting to connect more with adult book characters than YA book characters. With that said, there is still a lot of YA books that I still enjoy. Also, I can’t believe people diss YA books and other people’s reading preferences! That is so ridiculous. YA, adult, MG, and children’s books all have their literary merit.
I love this!
I think one reason I still love YA is because like you’ve said, I’ve been through it. I do read adult books too, but normally genre books or literary fiction that is more on the literary side, because frankly, the LAST thing I want to read about is middle-aged adults going through divorces and kids. It just doesn’t interest me at all! I really like your reasoning for learning about yourself–I think that’s true for me too. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t reading YA at all. For me, at least, I think I was too close to that subject. I was going through tough stuff and I didn’t want to be reminded of that in my reading, so that’s when I would read books about marriage and kids because it was so far-away that it was my escape. Now that I’m adult and having to think about careers and relocation and maybe one day relationships that end in marriage, YA is my escape and my way to reflect on that time. It’s easier for me now that I have some distance.
I think that may be one of the top reasons I love YA so much. I just really relate to it because yep, I’ve been through it! That’s why I get so frustrated with some of the adult novels showing 23-27 year olds who already have a super career, life figured out, engaged, married… Like, WHOA I’m JUST getting there and then……. Not even! (Not on the job front, that’s for sure haha) But I guess boring careers aren’t as interesting 😉
For some reason fantasy worlds, paranormal, dystopian… I don’t know why but it just doesn’t grab me in adult lit like it does with YA!
I really agree with the escape thing too. I read adult as a young adult and now I’m reading young adult as an adult haha. I liked reading about the girls getting engaged and weddings and careers and apartments, but now that I’ve lived through some of that and see that the rest of it is nothing like my life, I like to go back to what I do know and am NOT currently going through haha! I like to escape my every day problems, not spend more time with them 🙂
Thanks for the wonderful comment!!!
I love this post! I used to not read very much for the same reason. I wasn’t a huge fan of most adult novels, and I felt like I was too old for YA. It wasn’t until I read Twilight in 2009 that I realized I could enjoy YA without being embarrassed about it. You see, I’m 29, and while I am married with children, I don’t work or own a house. I just don’t relate to most adult novels, where the main character either has it all together or is a complete trainwreck (at least, in what I’ve read). I fall somewhere in the middle. Also, I think that YA is easier to read. I don’t mean light and fluffy, but just easier. I feel like I get bogged down in descriptions and big words for the sake of big words in adult novels. I like understanding what I’m reading and not having to look up every other word! It kind of pulls me out of the story.
Yes, exactly! I think it’s just easier for me to enjoy for all of the reasons that you stated as well: I relate to it more, easier to read at times… Absolutely! I read a lot of adult novels when I was a teenager, I think because it was a different world and interesting to see… But actually being 23, 24, 25, 26 — I’m like, “WOW, my life is not like that at ALL!” So I really latched onto YA as well because it was something else for me to explore in which I got to relate to the characters and still explore new worlds at the same time 🙂
I adore this post! I think many people, even “young adults” themselves, feel better than or superior to people who read YA books. It’s not so much that they genuinely dislike YA, but oftentimes they’ve grown to stereotype the genre. Instead of Young Adult books, they become Twilight books, or vampire books, or Harry Potter books, or Hunger Games books. They whittle this massive, complex genre down to a notoriously bad book or character or world and judge YA readers based on that. I mean, I had serious issues with the Twilight series, but according to a solid 50% of people who ask me what kind of books I read, I must like Twilight because I read YA. It’s absolute rubbish, and I hate that when I go out in public with a YA book, I have to fight not to feel self-conscious. People like to pick on the genre because it’s geared for teenagers, there’s romance, there’s fantasy, and it supposedly lacks depth. But when I read The Hunger Games, how much did I learn about human nature and human cruelty? When I read Harry Potter, how much did I learn about love and friendship and sacrifice? When I read Gallagher Girls, how much did I learn about hard choices and facing your fears?
And some YA may be shallow, but sometimes you don’t need some deep, life-changing lyricism. Sometimes you just need to not think and focus on something trivial. I don’t get why that’s so wrong.
But anyway, before I start writing full-blown essays on the subject…I really enjoyed this post. It was spot on and Catching Fire gifs? Yes, please. 😀
That’s an excellent point. While Twilight was one of the books that got me back into reading (and I enjoyed it at the time), people stereotype way too much based on the only YA that they know (and they also probably judge from the movies which I still enjoyed but were BAD hahaha).
I still have to fight not to feel self-conscious too, but I’m getting better at it! I just hate that anyone should be judge at all for what they read. I read to have fun and these are the books that I enjoy!
There is SO much to learn from these books. They may be deep, a lesson in friendships, relationships, family… No matter how deep or how simple it may be, there’s always a lesson to be found that can totally open up someone’s eyes to something they may not have realized before!
Thank you so much for the comment! (And I always welcome full-blown essays! Haha!)
Like you, I read for an escape and YA gives me that escape. I can’t find that a lot of times in the adult genre. I’m sure it’s out there and I’m sure there are some amazing adult books, but I guess sometimes it’s just easier for me to find the YA and fall in love with it. Also, I’m closer in age to these YA characters than the characters in adult books. I don’t want to read about divorce or other things like that because I’m not experiencing those things right now. I like to read YA because the plot moves quickly. Sometimes I feel like adult books are very information heavy and YA typically isn’t. Not that it doesn’t have great world-building. It does. There are some seriously imaginative worlds in the YA genre (Girl of Fire and Thorns, Hunger Games, Throne of Glass, Cinder!). I love YA because I connect to the characters, I am completely sucked into the world, and I never want to leave once I’m there. I’m so sick of all the YA haters that think that every YA book is like Twilight. (Not that I don’t like Twilight, I actually quite enjoyed the series and it’s actually what got me back into reading.) I just get tired of people saying the writing is shoddy and juvenile and that all of us YAers are stuck in our pasts. No. You’re telling me that Tahereh Mafi’s writing is bad? And Marissa Meyer? And Rainbow Rowell? I’m going to call you a liar. And I love your point about learning things. Why should we have to learn something with every book we read? Why can’t we just read for the sheer pleasure of reading. And besides that, I definitely think that many YA books teach great lessons. Anyway, I’ll stop now or this is going to be super super long. Lol. Great discussion!
Thank you for the AWESOME comment! <3
That's really exactly how I feel! The worlds in these books just feel so amazing and I can totally get lost in them. For some reason, I just connect more to the world building and the characters in YA than I do with adult, most of the time. I think it's just so much easier for me to relate to these characters because I know I've already been there!
And seriously... There is some AMAZING writing found in YA! LOVE Marissa Meyer's books and I fangirl so hard for them... MAYBE even as much as Harry Potter (RIGHT!?) so they clearly connect with people of all ages! 🙂
I don’t understand why some people seem to hate YA books. To me it’s just what you said, why should it matter whether it’s YA or adults? The point is to relax and escape with a good book for a while and it just so happens that over the last few years in particular, there have been a whole lot of amazing YA books and amazing YA authors!
I agree! I think it’s easy to judge because you see an adult reading a book “written for teens” and you think they’re reading below them… But so many people haven’t even read YA (AND again the point with HP and how many adults LOVE the series, ya know?) but honestly… I think the market for YA has grown so much BECAUSE of adults reading these books! I don’t think YA is necessarily “written for teens” more so written with a young adult hero/heroine. That doesn’t necessarily box in a specific age group but rather has a specific POV that many different people can enjoy!
Thanks so much for commenting!!!
Awww this was such an amazing and heartfelt post <3 Well, we're not that close (though I really really do love your blog, you must know that!) but can I just say that I think it's so AWESOME that you're reading YA even as an adult and you're proud of it– because what's not to love? I may be a young adult myself at the moment, but I have a strong feeling that wherever I may be in 11 years, when I'M 27, I'll still be reading YA, and loving it just as much, if not even more. There's nothing any of us can do about the place we fit in and the things we grow to love, and I think we should just embrace them. I personally think that YA isn't just all fluff, because there are a lot of things to learn from YA, and there are lots of books out there with strong messages that really speak to you and encourage you to act. Plus, it's all good, clean fun (most of the time), which is refreshing to me. And I have to admit too, the boys in YA are the swooniest. Gotta give it to them haha! Anywaaaaay I just raved on in this comment (sorry!) but the point is, I love your blog, and I love this post, and I think you should just keep loving YA! And also, good luck with your adult life!! I can't say much there, but I hope all goes well 😀
Awwww what a wonderful comment! Thank you so much, Jasmine!!!! <3
I totally agree. Wherever you feel like you should be, that's where you should be. I wasted too much of my time in junior high and high school trying to mold myself to the people around me and once I finally fell into sync with how *I* was, life with friends & family was just so much better! I'm feeling the same way about my reading habits 🙂
Thank you so much for the lovely comment!!! It totally made my day!