I’ve seen several times articles or thoughts about adults reading YA books. That doing so is weird, or that some read them because they’re “easier plots” or “simpler reads,” or for a bunch of other reasons, some positive, most negative. Reading YA when not a teen has a stigma attached to it, as if a True Adult shouldn’t stoop down to read such “childish things.” (This, I find ridiculous. I read just as many adult books as I read young adult books—there are plenty of “easier plots” or “simple reads” in the adult book range and plenty of complex plots and difficult reads in young adult.)
For me, there’s one major reason why I read young adult: I like it. Another reason is, I write a lot of young adult so I read a lot of young adult. But aside from those, there are two factors into why I still read young adult. The first being…there’s a lot of books out in the world. To be more specific, there’s a lot of young adult books out in the world.
By that I mean, I never, ever, ever, ever could have read every young adult that had ever been published in the seven years I was a teenager. Not even just the ones that interested me—I love fantasy and sci-fi and paranormal and dystopia and contemporary and most in between. And because as time goes on, there are just more of them. Sure, a few fall into the chasm of lost books that no one cares about anymore because NEW SHINY BOOKS arrive all the time, but for the most part, books stay on the shelf. Books are there forever once they’re out. The pile of young adult books to choose from just grows and grows. So every year, each new batch of teenagers has even more young adult books to choose from than the last had.
And with the boom of young adult in the last few decades, this is the case for me:
I’m not a fast reader. I own a lot of books. I own a lot of young adult books. And I still haven’t read them all. I likely won’t ever read them all (thought I’d like to at least read the ones I own). To attest to that point, I have a young adult trilogy that I’ve wanted to read since high school but haven’t gotten around to it yet. And it’s not because I don’t want to read that trilogy anymore. I’ll still read them once I’m in the mood, someday, I’m sure. It’s not because I lost interest in them over time so that now they sit on my shelves collecting dust—like so so so much dust, I seriously need to clean my shelves. The reason I haven’t read them is because…I just haven’t yet. Because there’s just so many books, y’all and I’m a slow reader. I always add to my TBR, young adult and adult and anything I find. There’s just more and more and more of them, all the time. So of course, I couldn’t have read them all while being a teen. So I continue reading those YA books I wanted to read then, now as an adult.
And a lot of those YA books I own, still unread? They’re the first fews books of a series that are still being published.
That’s the second factor. That’s the big one for me.
Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters books. Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass books. The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle. All books that I started reading (or I now own but came out during the time) while I was between the ages of thirteen and nineteen and didn’t finish (or in many cases have yet to finish) until after my teenage years.
I’m now twenty-four. I started reading Cassandra Clare’s mega-series Shadowhunters when I was fifteen or sixteen (the optimal age for those books) and I’ll be thirty when the last trilogy starts being published (according to her estimated release dates she’s posted). THIRTY. I’ll be the age Cassandra Clare was when she started writing the books three years before City of Bones came out in 2007. THIRTY. And you bet, I’ll be reading them. Because I love that world, I like those books, and I want to see it to the end.
And look at Harry Potter. There are legions of adult fans who read them as children/teens and still reread them, still pass them down to other adult friends to read for themselves or to their kids. People started reading Harry Potter at different times in their lives, and the books came out over several years, so there were loads of people finally reading the last book at adult ages. I didn’t even read Harry Potter until I was in high school, years after Deathly Hallows had come out.
Also, when I like an author’s writing or world or whatever, I stick with them. I’ll read anything by my favorite author Victoria Schwab, whether she writes young adult or adult, until I die and I can’t read them or she dies and can’t write them. I started reading her books out of high school (when I had just turned twenty) and started with her young adult books, then with her adult books. But if I had been a teenager while first discovering her, nothing would have changed. I still would’ve continued to read whatever she put out while going into adulthood. I didn’t just think, “Oh, I’m an adult now, I need to stop reading those books even though I love them and love the author.” Because that’s ridiculous.
Seven years between thirteen and nineteen is not a lot of time to discover all the young adult books available. And to stop reading them just because you turn twenty would be silly. And that’s not even mentioning the people who started reading young adult books at the age of thirty or fifty and love them. All of it is great. Read what you want and read it without shame.
Maggie Stiefvater posted a great thread today on Twitter (which is the reason I started thinking about this topic today) that I like. I think there may be an even deeper reason to why adult adults (the people who started reading young adult at thirty or fifty) gravitate toward YA. This is an interesting take on the topic, I agree with it. But I think the vast majority (as you can see from even her poll at the start of the thread) are freshly adult adults. Her first books came out when those 18-24 years olds were young teens. The first Raven Cycle book came out when those 18-24 years olds were 13-19 (and her first YA books were published much earlier than that, which likely led people to the Raven Cycle books to begin with). They probably followed her as a writer and continued to read her books from teenhood to adulthood, as I think is most common, and is exactly as I did.
The point I’m trying to make is that there’s this weird “mystery” to why so many adults read young adult books and it’s really not that big of a mystery. Young people still read them after phasing into adulthood. It’s really as simple as that.
(I very well could be wrong. I don’t have any data to back me up. This is just an opinion post.)