I was going to call this post a confession, but then realised that it isn’t exactly much of a confession if you read my book reviews. I read YA all the time! But when people ask me in real life what genre I like to read, I’m often hesitant to say young adult because…well, I’m not really sure. I feel like YA novels are aimed at teenagers and people younger than me.
At the age of 26, I’m hardly old. But I do often feel like this is an age you’re supposed to be “grown up” at. When you’re supposed to read books for adults, about whatever adults like to read. Yet I still find myself reaching for books about the trials and tribulations of high school and college. Coming of age novels and even sometimes what’s described as middle grade fiction – books that are aimed at the 8 to 12 age group.
I’m hardly in the minority. Would you pick Harry Potter today? Would you choose to read The Hunger Games? If you answered yes, you’re probably a middle grade or YA reader like me and didn’t know it!
I’ve been thinking about why, as “grown ups”, we might reach for the YA shelf recently. YA books often go from two angles: a fast-paced thrill ride or a slow ascent (or descent) into coming of age. For me, I think these books provide a sense of escape. We all hark back to the days when things were simpler. People just a bit older than me, maybe with their own families, might hark back to the life I live right now. But I, in a late-20s settled relationship living in a safe and comfortable environment, want books that give me something different. A nostalgic reminder of the past. An adventure in a world I don’t recognise. A reminisce into the early days of teenage relationships. The all-encompassing obsession of your own life and troubles that now seem laughable. Because that’s what a reader so often wants: an escape from reality.
I think sometimes we want to experience what we’ve experienced through someone else’s eyes. To feel that we’re not alone. And to look back on that experience with the benefit of hindsight. That it wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the world; that you can put it behind you. See the world with rose-tinted glasses for a time, and experience adventure that we crave in our 9 to 5s.
That’s not to say that you can’t get this sense of adventure in grown up books (I hesitate to call them “adult novels” here, because that’s a different thing entirely!). But I find the fast-paced nature of YA books, aimed at keeping a younger generation engaged, who nowadays may not have such an attention span or, in fact, simply the time to read a slow-paced novel, to be more fun and excited, easier to read.
So if people ask me in future what genres I like to read, I will tell them young adult unashamedly. Because of the nostalgia. Because of the adventure. Just because.