For a genre that is literally called ‘Young-Adult literature,’ it is interesting to note that over half of YA readers are over 18! So why are adults reading (and enjoying!) so many books that are originally written for the intended audience of teenagers?
It started with Harry Potter
If you were around at the height of the Harry Potter hype, you might remember that the underground was full of adults reading the books, and the publishers even released the books with more ‘adult’ covers for those who didn’t want to hold the brightly colored books in public. It seems that this was the first time that a mainstream YA book became acceptable for adults to read and for many this is where the love affair began.
YA books Vs. typical fiction
A lot of fiction books fall hard into specific genres, such as chick lit or sci-fi, whereas YA books are far more likely to cross over. For example, The Hunger Games series were post-apocalyptic, but with romance in them, and the Twilight books were fantasy mixed with romance – YA loves a good love story! In fact, often the love stories in YA books are the reason that adults enjoy them. A lot of basic fiction, and chick lit style books look at women and men who are married, going through a divorce or trying to find love again. Unless you are in those stages of your life, you are more likely to want to read a different type of love story, which is where YA fiction comes in.
A lot of the focus in young-adult books is around mental health. For example, the king of YA fiction, John Green’s new book, Turtles all the Way Down, follows a young girl who is struggling with OCD. This subject matter is not unique in the genre, as there is a whole host of books that tackle this including The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and the book that inspired the Netflix show, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Mental health is discussed a lot more in YA fiction.
Coming of age
These stories tackle ‘coming of age,’ a phenomenon that is not over as soon as you graduate college. We are all always changing and being able to reflect back on our own teenage years, as well as see the growth in ourselves is part of the draw of a book in this genre. Teenage characters experience the world in a way we can identify with, but that is different to the way we see things now, and there is a magic in that. We can relive our first times (kisses, love, failure) through someone else, now that we are safely on the other side.
Not only do adults love YA literature, but they are unapologetic about it too. If you have been on the fence about trying something in this genre, now is the time to do so! Start with a classic like Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and see if you’re not hooked!