There is a common myth in adult literary circuits that young adult (YA) books are just for teens. Adults are old and should therefore read mature, realistic content; suffering is key, and the weight of reality should permeate every page. They also say that the prose and vocabulary of adult novels should be elevated and more complicated than in YA novels. So what could young adult literature possibly offer to sophisticated adults?
Don’t get me wrong, adult literature is great, but so is YA. Just like adult books, YA literature has something that can appeal to everyone. The genre itself is incredibly expansive, from historical fiction to contemporary literature and high fantasy. Think of YA as an umbrella term for the many sub-genres involving teens and young adults—yes, even college-age protagonists get lumped into YA. There are even books written in verse and horror stories so chilling that they shake you to your core. No matter the subject, there is bound to be an extremely well written YA book on it.
In recent years, YA books have rapidly expanded their horizons and are now one of the most diverse categories of literature. Books with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters have made their way to the forefront of bookshelves and are in high demand by readers. As young adults look to YA literature to broaden their understanding of the world and find comfort in characters that accurately reflect themselves, so should adults. These books play a huge role in helping people discover and relate to their own identities, as well as develop empathy and understanding for people who have different lived experiences.
The themes in YA novels are also universally relatable. Every adult was a teenager at some point, so they have gone through some kind of formative journey that has impacted their current situation. Sometimes it’s fun to revel in the nostalgia of a coming-of-age novel or relive the flutters of first love. In other cases, reading YA can be a form of escapism to experience a youth that was vastly different from their own. For those not into escapism, YA books also tackle topics that are prominent in today’s society: homophobia, gender identity, police brutality, political oppression, suicide/death, self-harm, eating disorders, etc. The difference between adult and YA novels, in this case, is that YA novels generally leave more room for hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
If that’s not enough, adults are already exposed to young adult media in other forms. When Harry Potter exploded across the globe, teens and children weren’t the only readers. Adults were picking up the novels to read to their kids or devouring them for their own pleasure, and even if they weren’t reading the books, they probably saw the movies. Consider the popularity of the film adaption of The Hunger Games and the television adaption of Gossip Girl. Why put up a barrier against YA literature when other YA media is already consumed by adults without shame?
At the end of the day, there’s no reason adults why shouldn’t be able to enjoy a YA novel, so why not try reading one today? We highly recommend checking out the selection at Powells.