Let me start by saying that a lot of my favorite authors write primarily Young Adult (YA) literature, and a lot of my favorite books are also YA. In fact, YA was almost exclusively all I read from around ages 14 to 20, and for a long time I thought that trend would continue well into adulthood. A big part of YA readers are people (mostly women) in their 30s, and I definitely thought I was going to be one of them. But for the last few years, I have been straying farther away from the YA section at the bookstore. In fact, out of the 70-ish books I read last year, only about 8 or 9 of them were YA, and 6 of those were a reread of one of my favorite YA series. So I think it’s fair to say I’m falling out of the YA loop.
To go back a little bit, growing up I really used to believe this saying that teens and tweens have about adult literature: that it’s all boring books written by depressed white men about dudes having a mid-life crisis and cheating on their wives. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of books like that out there, but generally speaking this statement couldn’t be more far from the truth. But even if it wasn’t true, it kept me from trying the genre out for a long time.
But in college (because I was a Writing, Literature and Publishing major), I naturally spent a lot of time reading. A lot of these books were ones that I probably would’ve never picked out for myself, but they were books that I enjoyed immensely. This made me realize that there was a whole world of books out there waiting to be discovered. Discovered by me in the way that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, obviously, a whole lot of people were already reading them and I kinda just stumbled upon them.
But that being said, as time went on I saw myself not reaching out to YA books anymore. I didn’t know what the hottest new series was or who everyone’s fictional crush was that month. Inevitably, I asked myself, have I outgrown the YA genre?
I don’t know if “outgrowing” is the correct word for the phenomenon I’m experiencing. I think that word suggest that you’re beyond a certain stage in your life, that you’re too big or too mature for something. But the thing is that I would never call myself “too mature” for books for teenagers. These books, after all, have a lot of wisdom in them and a perspective that we could all use once in a while. We all went through a time in our lives when adults were telling us that our problems weren’t serious, or that we weren’t smart or mature enough to understand the “real world,” so I’m not going to turn around and say the same thing about teens now — teens who are reading books that very much deal with the real world. So I don’t think I have outgrown YA in this sense.
A lot of people also say that they have outgrown YA books when they don’t relate to them anymore. And I think that, in some way, is true for me. I’m certainly not a teen anymore. But the protagonist of the books I read are criminals with loose morals, refugees of war, people with magical abilities, rich socialites and their love for drama, etc., i.e., I don’t exactly read books to relate to anyone. I read books to see the world from another perspective. So I don’t think I have exactly outgrown YA in this sense either.
So, have I outgrown it at all? I don’t know. I don’t think I have at least. After all, I still read books in this category from time to time and enjoy them. So was this whole article pointless? Maybe, but maybe you can relate to this sentiment too or at least think what I had to say was a little bit interesting, so it wasn’t pointless after all.
The bottom line here is that I don’t believe you can “outgrow” a book genre or category. Books are not exactly shoes that stop fitting you. They’re more like seasonal clothes. Those winter coats that you push to the back of your closet when it’s too warm outside to wear them. Maybe a chilly day will come soon (a favorite author of mine will release a YA book or a premise will catch my eye and I’ll inevitably want to read them) and I reach back into the depths of my closet to dig my coats out.
If anything, I hope to encourage all YA readers out there who are hesitant of other genres to try them out, I’m sure you’ll find something you love (and I’m sure some of the books you love already are technically adult books, but that’s a subject for another article). And also encourage readers of all other genres to step out of their comfort zone every once in a while and explore other categories, if you don’t like them, your favorite genre will always be there for you.