Do you read YA?

image While I was at RT and at various parties or dinners in the evening, the topic of adult readers of YA came up frequently. Some authors and readers questioned whether adult books were being packaged and sold in the YA section in hopes of attracting the attention of adult YA readers who shopped there. I can tell you there were a TON of authors talking about their upcoming YA novels. The crowded high-school-hallway turnout of the Teen Alley at the book signing and the number of young readers I saw roaming the booksigning looking for books to read (I was clear on the other side of the room from Teen Alley, so any young readers who I saw had made the trek across the crowds to the other side of the ballroom) indicates to me that YA remains popular with young readers – but what about these adult readers of YA? Are you one of them?

I totally am. I love YA romance for a host of reasons, and while I’m pretty picky about what I read, I love contemporary YA that’s not paranormal or dystopian most especially, because I love the tension and struggle provided by having emotions that are foreign and new and sometimes overwhelming. I know in the previous comment thread following my review of The Luckiest Girl, some readers mentioned preferring YA romances that didn’t end in a HEA for the hero and heroine because it’s not believable for them to see two protagonists embarking on a coupled future at such a young age. I personally don’t have that problem with suspending my disbelief though I totally understand the perspective of those who do. I met my husband in high school and we were together from freshman year of college onward, though we didn’t get married until we were 25 and he’d gotten that supah sexxay graduate degree he was after (rwor). So I understand the “Hold all calls, we have a winner!” feeling at a young age, and appreciate when an author pulls it off and makes it seem that no matter how the characters grow, they’re going to grow more awesomer together.

But I want to ask you, via the poll below: are you an adult reader of YA?

What do you like about it? What do you dislike? What books rock your world? Why YA, or why not?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Pam says:

    I read a lot of YA. I love the coming of age themes and the problems that teens face today are a bit different from when I was young. I am 31 and my blog revolves around YA. This may be because I work with teens and I partner with a children’s store but I think there is a lot to be said for the new YA LIT.

  2. 2
    Kati says:

    Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins blew me away. I’ve read it about three times. I think that the author has the perfect tone for a high school senior. Snotty and smart, and totally vulnerable. Plus, it’s high school. Set in Paris. What’s not to love? I’ve already pre-ordered her next book.

    I also adore Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series. The books are gritty and dark, and adult in tone, but I gave them to my then 14YO niece and she loved them. I think maybe she thought she was getting away with something, not realizing that they are written for the YA audience.

    I think YA is only getting better and better as time goes along.

  3. 3

    I got re-hooked on YA while I was working in foster care … I had a house full of teenage girls, and when they got ahold of a YA book that spoke to them, it was as though everything was OK.  For at least a day or two.  Inspired me to go back and read my favorites.  The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix … le sigh.

  4. 4
    Cassandra says:

    Second star to the right, and straight on till morning! I will never be too old to read YA.

  5. 5
    Ceilidh says:

    Yep, I read YA, I love YA and one of these days I will finish my YA book, honestly! *shifty eyes*

    I don’t mind romances in YA; if it’s done well it can be fantastic and just as good, if not better, than in adult romances, but so many YA books let the romance overwhelm them, not to mention how derivative many of them are. There are some diamonds in the rough and I know the genre’s big on trends and such, but the same old stuff gets boring very quickly. I’m also very annoyed by the romances where it’s so all consuming that it wipes the characters free of personality, common sense and intelligence. Then again, I’m no fan of that sort of obsessive romance in any age group of literature, but in YA it just feels especially squicky to have a teenage girl completely devote herself to some ‘mysterious bad boy’, especially when the development between the two is so weak. I also hate love triangles in YA but that’s a whole other rant!

    I’m interested to see what trend’s next; we’ve had paranormal then dystopia, so my money’s on Greek mythology.

  6. 6
    RJones says:

    I don’t.

    I don’t like teenagers.  I didn’t when I was a teenager myself.

    Though, I’ll admit, my feelings are more a prejudice than anything. I love and still re-read Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, which I think is probably sold as young adult now.

    But still… teenagers?  Ew, icky.

  7. 7

    I am definitely an avid reader of YA! I also write YA—but I think I write it because I’m drawn to it. One of the things I love about YA novels is that they usually don’t have huge chunks of description or things that slow the writing down—things that, er, bore me or that I skim. Another thing I love is that YA books seem to so often delve into the emotional life of a character in a deep way, and often challenge various forms of oppression, or encourage being kind with each other. Not in a preachy way, just…a way that feels good (at least to me) to read. Of course, not all YA books are like that, and there are different things I like about each. I especially love fantasy and realistic YA novels.

  8. 8
    SheaLuna says:

    I don’t read a LOT of YA, but I read some.  I pretty much only read paranormal or dystopian YA. :-)

    Mostly I just enjoy the stories.  Honestly, sometimes the stories in today’s YA are infinitely better than those in “grown up” books.  I find the characters are often better developed and more realistic and the plots are more interesting.  The authors seem more willing to take risks, be silly and write outside the box. 

    I also read old skool YA for reasons of nostalgia.  When I was around 12 I read the first couple of books in John Christopher’s The Tripods series.  For years that story kept nagging at me until I bought the entire set about two years ago.  I’ve read them through more than once and I love them just as much now as I did then.

    The only downside, for me, of YA is that it’s naturally lacking in adult romance and relationships.  If somehow the awesomeness of the YA story could be combined with the adultness (Is that a word?) of my usual fare, it’d be the perfect combo.

  9. 9
    Ridley says:

    I really have no interest in reading YA novels. The teenage years were something to overcome, not revisit. Immersing myself in the angst, shortsightedness, arrogance and hormones of those years breaks me out in hives. No thank you.

    I’m much more interested in stories about adults dealing in our crazy world. I’d be more interested in 20-22 year old protagonists than I would be in 14-16 year old ones. I want to read about maturity, not rebellion.

  10. 10
    Larissa Ione says:

    Tough one. I struggled with the yes or no, because I’m picky about the YA I read. I’ve tried a handful of contemporary YA novels and just couldn’t get into them. On the other hand, I enjoy dark, gritty paranormal YA, especially of the dystopian kind.

    I think it’s because teenage angst annoys me. I didn’t like BEING a teenager, so I don’t want to read about it. Contemporary YA takes me back to a time of my life I just want to forget. Besides, I have a teenager now, and he provides enough angst as it is. :)

    Paranormal YA works much better for me because it’s more fantastical, and the more removed from recognizable life, the better, which is why dystopian YA works for me. The characters tend to act older, thanks to having to grow up faster, and the life or death stakes keep me reading.

    I probably just made no sense whatsoever…

  11. 11
    Carrie S says:

    The trend I’ve noticed at bookstore/library is to shelve any materials with characters between the ages of 12 – 25 as YA.  So, if I didn’t read YA, I wouldn’t read Great Expectations, Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn.  I’d also be missing out on Holly Black, Virginia Euwer Wolff (no relation to the Virginia Woolf), Phillip Pullman, etc etc.  I’ve found Terry Pratchett shelved under YA and also Tolkien and Jane Austen.  I’d say I look more to YA for coming of age stories and fantasy than for romance, but to skip the whole section of the store because it’s YA would cause me to miss as much great stuff as I was missing back when I used to waltz right past Romance because I had no idea how great it could be.  Of course I’m really picky about what YA I read, but I’m picky about what I read in all the other genres as well.  Sadly, no one genre has a monopoly on crap.

    language53 – there are more than 53 great ways to use language – why by snobby about any of them?

  12. 12
    Meredith says:

    I read YA, and I teach and study about children’s media, but I’m picky. I also swear that someday I’ll write my paper about bigger (self-identified “fat”) protagonists in YA, because there are a lot of good books out right now that cover this (and don’t always end in diets, which is nice). I also go back to Lackey’s Valdemar and A Wrinkle in Time (and Anne of Green Gables, and Little Women, and every other book I loved as a kid).

  13. 13
    Carrie S says:

    Ooops, my comment should say “why be snobby” not “why by snobby”.  Being snobby about typos is totally acceptable.

  14. 14
    kellye says:

    I love to read and write YA, and hope that all of those writers who have newly turned to the genre are doing so for the right reasons (it’s the story that speaks to them loudest, that they most want to write) and not because the genre’s hot and selling, and—HarHAR—they think writing for teens is easier than other kinds of writing.

    Generally, I don’t read traditional adult romances, but I love romance in YA, and think it’s an important part of teens’ lives (even if they’re just thinking about why they aren’t interested in anyone OR if their “love” is unrequited, which is not funny in real life but should be in YA.) I love reading and writing YA because it captures that glorious, awful in-between time before adulthood. Also, teens are passionate—not just about love and sex.

    I read widely, but my first love is contemporary YA. Some of my favorites that include romance are: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, Perfect Chemistry by Simon Elkeles, Marcello in the Real Word by Francisco X. Stork, Razzle by Ellen Wittlinger, My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr, Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler, All-American Girl by Mag Cabot . . . I could go on and on & am probably forgetting some of my faves.

    Beyond contemporary, I really enjoyed Wendy Delsol’s Stork (the first in a trilogy), Peeta vs. Gale in the Hunger Games Trilogy, and Ally Condie’s Matched. (Now that I think about it, Matched has a triangle, too…but I’m not over them yet).

    Generally, I don’t like YA with needy, wimpy protagonists (who almost always are girls) whose only goal/interest is the perfect boy (bad or not). Sometimes I’m okay with it if that’s part of the character’s emotional and plot journey (so it changes at the end). If the love interest supplies all the answers, is THE end all, I’m not so interested.

  15. 15
    Sarah W says:

    I read everything: YA, Chick Lit, Mom Lit, Old A, picture books, fanfic, you name it.

    YA, which is a relatively recent market, is finally starting to hit its stride with plenty of well-written, intelligent stories from which to choose.

    I only wish multicultural and “alternative lifestyle” romances would hurry up and do the same—there just aren’t enough of either to be able to choose.

  16. 16
    Ashley says:

    I did not enjoy high school—I’m glad it’s over and I don’t have to go back.  So I don’t read contemp YA.  But I do love fantasy/magic YA.  Patricia McKillip, Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia Wrede, Garth Nix all have a light but skilled hand with romance.  Also early pairings seem more likely to me in the (typically) non-modern fantasy settings.

    /rant/ What I hate is when a good book gets castrated to make it “kid-friendly”.  I was surprised to see Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight in the YA section, so flipped to the first sex scene (which I remembered so vividly from my first reading at age 12).  In the original the hero muses that the emotional resonance of the dragons mating was so strong, it may as well have been rape, and he’d tried to be a considerate lover since.  In the bowdlerized version, it says something like “He’d tried to be a good friend to her since the dragons mated.”  I was so pissed off—that relationship was powerful to me at an age where no one would talk to me about sex.  If people don’t want their kids reading about sex, fine, don’t let them, but they shouldn’t alter the text of a book for marketing purposes.  *Deep breath* /end rant/

    That said, one of the reasons I like YA so much is the delicacy with which the authors deal with attraction.  There’s less jumping into bed and more emotion and tension.  Small gestures or conversations become packed with meaning.  The relationship is the point and the focus, sexual attraction just a facet.  Which is more mature than a lot of “adult” romance, to my mind.

  17. 17
    Kathleen says:

    I read a lot of YA but almost all are SciFi/Fantasy.
    Why? I think some of the most exciting books that are being published are YA.  Ex: Shiver, Hunger Games, Ship Breaker, Sabriel, When You Reach Me. Why would I pass up on reading great books just because of the label?
    Also, honestly, my second reason is b/c YA is easier to read. Sometimes that is a let down b/c the story/tension ends up being too simplistic (Across the Universe I am looking in your direction), but I appreciate being able to read a book quickly. In comparison, I’ve been plowing my way through The Way of Kings, and actually had to return it to the library before I was done.

  18. 18
    jayhjay says:

    I don’t read too much YA b/c honestly I like books with a lot of heat which isn’t really appropriate in YA fare.  But I will say I read and loved the Hunger Games trilogy.

  19. 19
    sweetfa says:

    Euw, no!
    The angst, arrogance and above all the acne that I can’t help imagining in anyone under about 22. Peculiar teenage ideas about hygiene. Incompetent intercourse. The ignorance of contraception and stupidity about consequences. Sorry, but I find grown-ups much more interesting. Plus, being a good generation or two past my teens, I think I’d feel a bit creepy reading about…ugh, I don’t even want to go there.
    Having said that, I do like historicals, and I’m wondering if that’s partly because the social restrictions in these often mimic the sort of social pressures modern teens have to cope with. But without the acne, etc…

  20. 20
    Isabel C. says:

    I definitely do read YA, for the reasons other people have mentioned. Yeah, sometimes teenagers do idiotic things—but I haven’t noticed a shortage of idiot main characters in adult fiction lately. (Or classically. CATHY AND HEATHCLIFF, my GOD.)

    As a 28-year-old who’s been through a few guys and still doesn’t feel like settling down any time soon, I *should* find it hard to identify when the fifteen-year-old protagonist ends up with a romantic HEA. I generally don’t, though: I think it’s one of those things I have less trouble with in fiction.

    That said, the less explicit the long-termness of the HEA is, the easier a time I have with it. If the book fades on the hero and heroine hooking up, I can believe that they won’t go all Brenda and Eddie four years later, the same way I can believe that the flaming wreckage of the Death Star Mark II didn’t destroy all life on Endor, somehow. If one of them starts thinking about marriage and kids and so forth, I have a much harder time.

    Supernatural stuff helps too: if he’s already battling the forces of evil at night and she hangs out with ghosts on the weekends, then sure, okay, I can also buy a together-forever-at-sixteen thing. They’re a lot less likely to get bored with each other than most couples, that’s for sure.

    And I really have a soft spot for YA novels that do acknowledge how most people don’t end up with the first person to catch their eye. Terry Pratchett’s particularly awesome that way.

    really89—yeah, I know I’m a curmudgeon.

  21. 21
    Emily says:

    I did not enjoy my teen years. But it makes me protective and defensive of teenagers. I think it is a really tough time.
      I like young adult. But as I said before I don’t like young adult romances. In the movies, over the past oh twenty years or so film critics like Roger Ebert have noted that more and more movies feature teenagers up to darker things and more daring and dashing things than adults. Teens in movies seem to have more sex than adults. Is this trend a good thing?
    As I get older I realize I want to see people at any age have a good time. I don’t want to see teens growing up too fast unless there is some sort of issue at stake, ie. teen prostitution or drug smuggling.
    That being said I happy to read about young adults, and I don’t even care if they fall in love. As long they are safe and not too serious. I am also a sucker when it comes to stories of people who meet when they are kids or high school students and fall in love later.

    For me a teenage girl, making it to the end of high school ready to take on college/ the world, or becoming confident and learning to navigate through high school orlearning to deal with her family/friends situation is all good. Self-Empowerment, Self confidence, and learning to be yourself IS Happily Ever After!
    (Even without a guy>)

  22. 22
    TracyP says:

    I don’t read a LOT of YA, but I read some.  I pretty much only read paranormal or dystopian YA. :-)

    Me too. 

    The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead is considered YA, so it pays to be open to reading all kinds of books.  Her other series are much more adult, but I probably never would have discovered them without being open to YA books.  It’s just hard to find an author I really like in YA.  Some are written where the teen is so self-absorbed and angsty (yeah, like real life) that I can’t stand them as a main character.  I feel no sympathy for them.  It’s a delicate balance for me.

  23. 23
    g_lavo says:

    I don’t read YA for two reasons. One, I get frustrated with the angst and the drama that is totally appropriate for high school but annoying from an adult perspective. I guess I have forgotten how difficult it was to grow up and I don’t really want to be reminded.

    Two, I like my romances to involve sex but I do NOT want to read about teenagers having sex. The mom in me is horrified at the potential repercussions.

    I haven’t tried a YA recently though. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot…..

  24. 24
    SamG says:

    I read the some of the YA books my daughter brings home.  I like knowing what she’s reading, and quite often, I like the stories as well as she does.

    Sam

  25. 25
    Maya Sapiurka says:

    I definitely still read YA.  Granted, I’m on the younger side of adulthood, but I still absolutely love going back and rereading all my favorite YA books I grew up with.  Most of them are fantasy/sci-fi (Patricia Wrede, Diana Wynne Jones RIP, Madeline L’Engle, Tamora Pierce, Eva Ibbostson), but I also own all of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson series.  They’re funny as hell and they’re some of the only books that my little sister and I BOTH love to read.  It was wonderful to be able to share a book and book language with each other. 

    tl;dr, Love YA, always will

  26. 26
    TinyNinja says:

    I read YA from, oh, third through eighth grades.  Started exploring Vonnegut, Irving, and Victorian era authors around fourth, fifth grade, so by the time I hit high school most YA was firmly in the “baby” category for me, as it was for most of my friends.

    Not that I’m particularly exceptional, I just think that Blume, Klein, etc., meant their books to be a preview of “upcoming attractions” so to speak, rather than something to be read when you are the same age as the character.

    I’ll occasionally read a YA for the nostalgia factor, but not because I love the genre.  I’ve found that even the best YAs are only slightly above “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” in terms of reading difficulty, story, etc. 

    And, to be honest, the adults I’ve met who read YA in public have reminded me strongly of Stephen King’s “Annie Wilkes.”  Ick, blech, blarg, and pfui.

  27. 27
    kellye says:

    Just have to say: I am loving the comments here! Someone once said (and I’m sorry that I can’t remember who): People who write for children (and I’d add teens) do so because they want to correct their horrible childhoods—or relive a happy one.

    Ashley, I was shocked by your anecdote about Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. I’m not familiar with the book, but I’ve never heard of a publisher changing the content to fit for a younger audience. That is awful.

    I agree that lots of teens are reading adult books w/ adult content, and it’s been that way forever. I remember someone passing around “The Happy Hooker” on the school bus, with the “good parts” marked, and also picking up “Once is Not Enough” from my grandmother’s bookshelf at about 12.

    Also, although sex in YA is controversial (as is sex just about anywhere, unfortunately, imho), I do think that it’s appropriate in certain stories and teens themselves often are the ones who decide what they’re ready for in their reading.

    Finally, I also had to laugh about the comment from the Mom who doesn’t want to think about teens having sex. As the mother of a 14 yo, I agree. When I’m reading and writing YA, though, I feel 16, so it doesn’t seem creepy at all. Though, now that I think about it…. LOL.

  28. 28
    kellye says:

    TinyNinja,

    There’s a big YA world out there. It could be that you’ve read mostly middle grade or younger YA. It’s hard to tell from the authors you list. But I wouldn’t call Marcus Zuszak, Robert Cormier, M.T. Anderson and Laurie Halse Anderson, to name just four, writers of “baby books.”

    Like adult lit, YA includes a range of subgenres. Not trying to be a hater! Just wanted you to know you might be missing some good reads.

    Best,
    kellye

  29. 29
    Cindy says:

    TheTwilight series has turned me off the idea of YA for probably several more years.  The angst and agony was more than I could stomach.  Plus I’m a couple of generations past this crop of YA and don’t really want to re-visit that age bracket.

  30. 30
    Milena says:

    I read very little YA, and only SF/F. Pratchett, Pullman, stuff that’s more SF/F than YA in my mind.

    And while I liked my real-life teenage years, I didn’t like YA even then; most of it seemed uninteresting to me. I will skim my daughter’s books, but I hardly ever get pulled in enough to actually read it.

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