I’ll be the first to say, I don’t read much YA. I didn’t even read much YA as a teen. I’ve read books from some of the big YA series: Divergent, The Red Queen, The Mortal Instruments, and of course old standbys like Twilight and Harry Potter. But I see tons of other adults on Twitter and Instagram who love YA, so I am trying to give it another shot.
Reading YA as an adult is a bit strange. The characters are teens, but more often than not, they are dealing with serious, adult situations. I often find myself forgetting that the characters are supposed to be teens. It feels a bit like watching The Vampire Diaries, where teenagers are played by actors blatantly in their 20s and 30s. No one is as smart or put together at 15 as they are at 25. It creates this idea that you need to have all your shit together by 16 or you are failing. Which is, of course, total bullshit.
At the same time, I understand the allure. When you are a teenager, you feel like you are an adult, ready to make your own decisions and be independent. Yet, you still have so much growing up to do, so much room for growth and change. Our teen years feel like such a pivotal time in our lives, of course it makes sense to set a dramatic, high stakes story in that time. We all feel uncertain at times, like we don’t know what we’re doing and there is no manual to tell us how to proceed. By making characters teens, writers can use the teenager experience to echo their themes and strengthen them.
Recently, I have been seeing YA all over Instagram. So many of the people I follow have been posting about YA fantasy books like The Hazel Wood, Six of Crows, and A Court of Thorns and Roses, that I went out and bought a bunch of them. I love fantasy and it seems that a lot of the popular fantasy in recent years has been YA. But, I've always felt that maybe I am too old for it now, that I should be reading literary fiction, books that have been nominated for prizes and are reviewed by the New York Times. But that is all just me wallowing in book shame, and book shame is counterproductive.
I've written before about trying to branch out in the genres I read; in particular my last post on the subject was about reading something that technically falls in the Romance genre. I think I have these preconceived notions of what a YA book is or what a Romance book is, and I've let it limit the kinds of books I choose to read. But, not anymore. I am trying to read books that fall outside my comfort zone, books that don't necessarily feel like they are 100% within my wheelhouse. There's old advice we all know about not judging a book by its cover, but I think I need to stop judging a book by its genre and try more things. It might mean that I hit few duds along the way, but it also means that I could find some unexpected gems.
If you have a YA book or series you think I should check out, leave it in the comments!