The Rise of Adults Reading YA Literature

Friday, October 18, 2013

Last week, New York magazine came out with a feature article, complete with infographics and interviews with prominent YA authors, about the rise of adults reading YA literature. Later in the week, Jezebel picked up a similar story that Vulture released, putting their own spin on it.

In the beautifully written Vulture article , author Jen Doll writes about how YA novels allow the reader to go back to first experiences, whether it’s about love or general coming-of-age. 

She writes, “There’s a kind of forward momentum, too, enabled by reading about characters for whom lives are still blank slates ready to be filled, compared to our own. We can measure ourselves against their choices and see how we succeeded; we can feel wiser than they are, knowing that what we did then turned out okay; we can also see for ourselves where there might still be room to improve. As dire as the situations may be—the worlds of these characters contain creatures bent on destroying them, untrustworthy adults, grave injustices, unrequited or deeply problematic love, abuse, bullying, suicide, murder, paralyzing self-­doubt—there is the sense that things have the potential to get better.

The writer at Jezebel, Dodai Stewart agrees. Before turning a year older and moving on into the dorm life, I thought we were all worldly and in the words of a friend, we were “deep*”. However, as I move on from high school, I realize how naïve we were. How simple we thought the world worked, despite all our knowledge. We’ve moved from a small pond to a larger pond and we realize how little we know. 

In a way, I still feel the naiveté and simplicity of my thoughts but to a certain degree, I’ve distanced myself from the characters of YA novels. I am no longer one of them, in the same situations, at the same age. Instead of being them, I am watching from the outside, slowly as I get older and further from high school.

Therein lies the appeal, the nostalgia that we feel for high school, despite the hatred that I sometimes felt for high school when I was in it and the annoyance I felt towards it at the end. We desire to go back to the simplicity, the heightened emotions and feelings, and ultimately the mind state that a single moment can define who we are. I’ve grown out of my awkwardness mostly and to a certain extent, I miss it **.

In a way, I miss how less jaded I was and sometimes, I wish to go back to those times. These are the reasons why I’ll keep on reading YA literature as well as other genres. 

*Other times, we were just wannabe hipsters.

** Knock on wood. I don’t miss it enough to want it back, though.

Why do you read YA literature (if at all)? If you don't, why not? 


  1. Oooh interesting. You see, I don't read YA for that reason at all. I HATED my teen years. I mean, yeah, there was good in it, but I feel like however jaded I am now is due to high school and not adulthood. I had issues with friendships, issues with family, issues with everything. And then college it got even worse. Now as an "adult" (24) I feel more comfortable with myself than I ever did as a teen.

    So why do I read YA then? For escape. I don't read it to connect with my past, but to escape my present, past, and future! I usually read YA sci fi / fantasy / dystopia anyways so it's not like I can really relate to it anyways. For me, it's simple, engaging writing that is fun to read and helps me forget about my troubles. That's why I read YA. ;)

  2. I read a lot of YA literature, but I'm not fond of contemporaries. For me, they're not nostalgic because what I read about happening in today's high schools is a far cry from what went on in mine. I don't remember bullying being a huge issue... but, then again, we didn't have social media and all the temptations and troublemaking that go along with it.

  3. Hm. I read a ton of YA, I love contemporaries, and I know that our ages are about 10 years off but I still feel very much like I am the character. So many of the feelings I have are ones I still have in the work place in my relationships with my friendships. Even with years passing by, I feel like so many of the same feelings repeat themselves and feelings keep coming back to the forefront. Even being reminded of something before helps me realize how far I've come or remember a moment from when I was younger and how I could have maybe handled it differently or whatever.

    I like that adults are opening up and reading more YA. There is no reason it is not as literary as "grown up" books. Reading is all about learning about people, no matter their age or origin or anything.

  4. I absolutely love this author's work. The Namesake is incredible. I'm so glad to hear you liked this one, and it's already doing so well. It's on my list! Can't wait to read more of her work. Thanks for sharing your review!

  5. That's interesting. I mean, on the one hand I do agree with this: "In a way, I miss how less jaded I was
    and sometimes, I wish to go back to those times." On the other, though, I'm really not nostalgic for high school. *shudders*

    For me, a big part of why I love YA is that, even though I'm in my late 20s, I identify more with the young adult experiences than with those found in adult novels. So much of adult fiction is marriage, divorce, parenthood, infidelity, and as an unmarried person, that stuff really doesn't have anything to do with my life. The search for first love, for new experiences, for one's niche in life, for friendship...all of that resonates in a way that a lot of adult fiction's themes do not. Of course, there's room for more books about people who are in the phase of life I am, but for now YA fills that best.

    Also, I think another appeal is how creative the stories are. :)

  6. It was my first Jhumpa Lahiri novel that I've read and I'm so happy that I did. I'm so adding The Namesake to my list.

  7. Definitely! YA novel themes often resonate with people who aren't teenagers as well.

    I do hope that there are books about younger adults who aren't teenagers, though. There isn't a continuous spectrum of books, rather there seems to be a jump of YA to adult fiction. NA seems to be slowly filling that gap, I think.

  8. This is so true! I still feel like I haven't outgrown my old self at times. Other times, I feel like I have and through the characters, I notice that.

  9. I'm okay with contemporaries. For me, sometimes the cattiness of high school that's portrayed in YA seems a distant world from my own experience.


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