I have to make a confession: my headline is a bit of a lie. I wouldn’t really consider myself an adult, not mentally at least. Some websites I looked at even claimed I’m still in the target demographic for YA books. But for some reason, I still feel embarrassed being seen with them in public. But slight embarrassment aside, I love YA books and I’m not afraid to say it.
What is YA Exactly?
The YA genre is young adult fiction typically aimed at and about teenagers. YA emerged as a way to transition young readers to adult fiction while providing relatable protagonists. Themes that relate to this age group, such as identity exploration and friendship, are typical elements of YA books.
YA novels have seemingly taken on a life of their own, especially in the 2010s. YA books became popular choices for book-to-movie-adaptations. Movies like The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower not only released to theaters but gained cult followings. These film adaptations heavily impacted the rise of fandom culture and its many implications, as well.
My Experience With YA as a Young Adult
I was probably way too young when I started reading YA. Heck, I read The Hunger Games for the first time when I was 10 and didn’t know what capitalism was. Going to Barnes and Noble and reading the back of every book in the YA section was my favorite activity for around five years. My parents would literally have to drag me out of there sometimes. But don’t get me wrong, it was not because I wanted to read everything. The problem was, I was actually quite picky. I wish I could say I’ve read all the classic YA novels, but I haven’t even read Twilight – tragic, I know. I read a lot of YA, but I also read a lot of children’s lit as a ‘young adult’. Maybe I had peter-pan syndrome or something, but I just couldn’t seem to grow up.
And then came a reading hiatus. As my attention span began to wither, I read fewer and fewer books until I began to forget what I loved about reading so much. I longed to fall back in love with reading but no book seemed to work. I recently began reading The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy by Jenny Han. As I sped through the first book, I was reminded why reading YA is so great, even as an adult.
Short Chapters For the Win
First things first, YA books often have shorter chapters and slightly larger fonts. As someone with a 15-second TikTok level attention span, this has been very helpful in getting back into reading. I often have trouble with longer chapters because I feel obligated to finish an entire chapter in one sitting. This leads to skipping important details, paragraphs, and sometimes entire pages. With short chapters, it becomes easier to ingest more without feeling like I’m committing to too much.
And the writing is good, too. I hate the notion that only published books for an adult audience have sophisticated, intricate writing. Actually, some of the best writing I have ever come across has been in fanfics. Good writing should not be limited to the genre it falls into.
Comfort & Nostalgia
YA books typically focus on protagonists that are younger than me, dealing with things people my age have already done. I feel as if I should be looking ahead, reading about “adult issues”. But the nostalgia that comes with reading YA is simply unmatched. But why? Can you be nostalgic for something that happened just a few short years ago?
Then I realized why YA is so comforting. I’m not nostalgic for the version of myself that went through these issues, I’m nostalgic for the version of myself who first read these books and was so hopeful for her teenage years. It was like a switch went off in my head. It was not that I wanted to stay a teenager, it was that I wanted to heal my inner child. I wanted to let her remember what it felt like to be hopeful. For me, YA books provide a small reminder of what it was like to live carefree.
Tackling Tough Topics
YA books tend to stray away from foul language and overly graphic content. But this doesn’t mean they can’t teach adults new lessons. One thing I like about reading YA as an adult is the ability to reflect. By being inside a young mind as an adult, it becomes easier to understand the issues that young people are going through. It may even help you understand the issues you went through as a teen and how they have affected you long-term. By looking at YA books from this perspective, the more simple language may actually elevate the reading experience, not take away from it.
Sure, some YA books don’t tackle super important issues on every page. But sometimes I just need some mindless reading. Sometimes I just need to be at a beach house while a 16-year-old deals with a love triangle. It’s not the most thought-provoking, but it lets my mind wander from all of the stress I have going on. No deep thinking, just vibes. And there is value in that, too. Reading helps improve mental health and these effects are not limited to a certain genre.
All of this to say: I’m a big believer in reading whatever you want. Not sure what to read? Click here for YA book recommendations!