YA Is Not for Adults

I’m fond of saying that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your hobbies or the kinds of books you enjoy reading. The author of this article argues that if you’re older than 18 and you still read YA fiction, then you should be embarrassed. (Although it seems that the author is talking mostly about “realistic” YA romances, not sci-fi/dystopian YA like The Hunger Games or Divergent.)

I admit it — I probably read more YA after I turned 18 than before I turned 18. To this day, I still read YA for two reasons: the stories are simple and enjoyable and because I write stories that could be classified as YA. I’ve said many times that if I ever publish anything in the YA genre, I don’t want it to be as sugar-sweet and lightweight as most of the YA romances that are published today. I can’t stand the cliché happy ending or the unrealistic romantic relationship or the inevitable drunken party scenes. They’re trite and boring.

The author of the article says that YA is more about escapism than about really digging in and enjoying a book for the quality of writing or the depth of the characters. In other words, most YA books are easygoing “beach” reads. I agree with her for the most part; most adult fiction is more satisfying. The plots, characters, and settings stick in your head longer and leave you thinking about the book for years after you’ve finished it. The situations in adult books are also more realistic because they don’t always end on an idealized or happy note.

For instance, I recently read a YA book in which the teenage protagonist planned an elaborate picnic for his love interest, complete with champagne and candles. I know that the author wanted me to think the scene was sweet. She wanted me to swoon and sigh and wish that I had a boyfriend like that. But I rolled my eyes and thought, In what universe does a teenage boy actually do that? Only in the YA universe, apparently. And it kinda sets teen girls up for unrealistic expectations of teen boys. 🙂

Anyway. As always, the moral is: Who cares, read whatever you want.

6 thoughts on “YA Is Not for Adults”

  1. Champagne? I am unapologetic about my love unrealistically romantic books, but that would have caused me to to roll my eyes too. Lol
    Nice post. 🙂


  2. Some of the most incredible stories I’ve read are YA stories — that I read as an adult. I’m still stunned that The Book Thief was marketed as a YA piece. There are others as well. It’s interesting what you describe here. I just finished a 30,000 word novella that involves three teenagers. Never thought of it as a YA story until I was done and my son read it in one night. Now, I’m thinking of turning it into a longer novel, or a series of three novellas — all marketed as YA. And I think I’ve done a decent job of avoiding the weaknesses you identify here. And, while the end of this first novella is resolved positively for all three characters, it isn’t necessarily the happily ever after ending you’d typically see in YA.


    1. The Book Thief was definitely one of the exceptions to the rule — what a good book! It’s true that some of YA is good and memorable, but those books are few and far between. I’d be interested in reading your novella/novel when it’s finished. I always like to see how endings are handled.


      1. I would love to share the finished manuscript with a few people who write YA just to see what they think about it. If you’re interested in reading it and giving me your thoughts, email me at mpaxson55@gmail.com. And if you’re ever looking for a reader, I’d be happy to return the favor. In the last year to year and a half, I’ve probably read about 12-15 manuscripts from other writers and provided them with editing and feedback.


  3. I don’t read much YA, go pretty much the same reason as you, but I certainly wouldn’t be ashamed if I did. It was around 1965 when I bought my first comic book (Fantastic Four #27, I believe, “The Avengers Take Over”) and I’ve been buying them pretty much ever since. If I’m not ashamed of that, it would be pretty silly to be embarrassed about reading YA. 🙂

    Oh, and to the point about The Book Thief, I’ve heard that there’s pressure in publishing to market pretty much anything as YA that could reasonably be placed in that category, since that’s what’s selling now.


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