I’m Not Too Old For That!

I feel like all my favorite reading related discussions on this blog happen from conversations with non-reading people or non-YA reading people (this, this and this for sure). This discussion is certainly a product of such a conversation.

I was catching up with an old friend and the topic of reading came up and I definitely read different things than I used to. I explained some of the stuff I’m into now and she, totally not trying to be disrespectful, said something along the lines of, “But how do you read about teenagers so often? I feel like I’m so past all that and like it’s not at all relevant to my life anymore. Plus I like more literary things” And I mean, her right to read what she wants and I do understand WHY adults might not be into YA. Totally, I read adult fiction too because I can’t ONLY read YA. Anyways, I explained a little of why I love YA and gave her a couple books to try out because I am very confident in their relevancy to people of all ages. (I’m not even going to tackle that literary comment because HAHAH some of the YA books I love are way more ~literary~ than some adult books I’ve read).

But that encounter got me thinking… I will be 30 in October. My 10 year high school reunion happened last year. I AM SO FAR PAST HIGH SCHOOL. Why does YA speak to me still? I mean, I still read adult fiction and other things but I am so, so into YA and don’t see a switch being turned off anytime soon.

I mean, aside from the fact that YA has some of the most innovative and creative and exciting stuff coming out and AMAZING writing/storytelling/characters…what IS IT about YA that attracts me to it still? I really thought about it and I’ve come to the conclusion it lies in these two areas:

1. There is something really appealing to me when I read YA because of the lens I read it through as an adult and how I can reflect and process my past.

I honestly think there are so many things that I’d experienced as a YA that makes so much more sense to me now as an adult. I am a very reflective person by nature and I’ve found that reading YA has helped me to do that and also has made me more self aware as an adult because of it.

2. THERE ARE SO MANY UNIVERSAL THINGS IN YA THAT DON’T GO AWAY ONCE YOU HIT ADULTHOOD.

I mean, SO many of the things I read about in YA are actually relevant to me. I might not be in high school or be falling in love for the first time as an old married lady but what I find about a lot of my most favorite YA books is that when you strip away that kind of stuff that isn’t applicable to me, I still find things that are so, so relevant to me. That are these universal THINGS that most humans — young and old — deal with to some degree. And I have found that YA has explored these things in such a raw and honest way that really clicks with me.

Here’s just a small sample of things that have been so, so relevant to me in YA novels (in a thought-provoking and meaningful way) despite being past that ripe YA age:

grief and loss and tries to work through that. My mom might have passed away in 2006 when I wasn’t reading YA but there is still so much to work through even years later and reading YA stories about grief has helped me process a lot. It’s given me new eyes to what I experienced as an actual young adult when my mom was sick and then passed away. Read: Why I love reading stories about grief

–  friendship: I’ve read books about losing friends, making new friends, the ups and downs of friendship, etc. etc. As a 30-something my friendship landscape may have changed but friendship at 16 and friendship at 30, while different, relies on a lot of the same core things. And a lot of those friendship issues that you have at 16? YOU STILL HAVE THEM AT 30 BUT JUST IN DIFFERENT WAYS. It’s still so hard to deal with friend breakups or growing apart, the difficulty of making new friends, opening yourself up to new friends (getting over your initial judgments to make room for a friend) and there is still so much JOY in having girlfriends. I think I appreciate those relationships EVEN MORE NOW.

–  finding yourself/growing into your own as you grow up/becoming the most REAL version of yourself/figuring life out: I’m sad to report to 16 year old Jamie that you don’t figure your shit out when you become an adult like I thought would happen. I think, as a approach 30, I’m more myself than I’ve ever been before as I’ve waded through a lot of versions of myself that were only half true to my heart. But I AM STILL FIGURING IT OUT. I don’t think you ever truly figure things out. I still doubt myself. I’m still growing and learning (about myself and the world). I learn SO MUCH about myself and my own journey through YA characters of all genres. Things that inspire me, things that make me want to be braver and better and kinder, things that make me want to live more boldly and take more chances. I STILL don’t know what I want to do with my life despite knowing what I want to BE ABOUT and HOW I want to live. I’m still figuring it all out.

And honestly these are just A FEW of the things that my last couple reads made me think about and were so RELEVANT to my life (I could go on — family issues, identity issues, living more fully, figuring out what you want to do with your life, fighting for what you believe in or what is right, life disappointments, feeling lost, dealing with depression, heartbreak, etc).

And sure, I’m not saying reading YA as an adult is something that everyone has to be into or is their thing. I can understand not WANTING to read about high school/teenagers, being picky about what kind of content you read in YA or even finding SOME stuff in YA eyerolly as an adult (I do sometimes!) but to say that YA can’t be or isn’t relevant to the life of adults is simply not true.

 

I’m curious…if you are an adult reading YA..what draws you to it? If you have a different feeling about this, I’d love to know!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I’m drawn to YA because I feel like sometimes adult books are trying too hard to be /literary/ and it’s hard to see the story through the excessive amount of complicated words and tangents. YA is more to the point I find. Reading is hard enough for me to concentrate on without having to Google words :’)
    I read adult books, I read YA, I read middle grade and I like what I like. In the end it’s about enjoying and learning..
    Imogen’s Typewriter. <3

  2. This so relevant to me as I’m even older then you
    First of all for me it was that I didn’t want to read books with explicit sexual content or foul language. I gave YA a try for this reason and kicked off with some great books. There I learned what amazing books there are on the market. Amazing authors who know how to write and with fantastic imaginations.
    Also I think people who don’t read YA as they think they have grown past the teen years are so wrong! We may get older and wiser but in our souls we still feel young. Our bodies age but inside there’s always that young person lurking and able to enjoy everything life throws at you. And stuff that life throws at you doesnt change because you are older. Friendships are friendships, love is love and grief is grief!
    Maybe most importantly reading for me is relaxation and escapism. My daily routines are mine 24/7 I don’t read to have more of the same. I read to go into another world which is probably why I love fantasy and historical stuff so much!

  3. i love reading YA, im 21 and i think ya books just speak to me more than adult books and i dont see that changing anytime soon. Theres no shame in reading YA even if you are 30 or older, dont get me wrong i read other stuff too but not as much as YA.

  4. I think one of the biggest reasons have for loving YA is the depth of characters and stories. Adult novels so feature some of the same themes but the characters are supposed to have all this life experience and are making the same often immature mistakes as YA characters. I have more patience for younger characters making these choices than adult ones. Also, much of adult literary fiction is terribly depressing- lives of quiet desperation, regret, cheating spouses, troubled children- no thanks!

  5. I am past the 30 mark and I totally still read YA. I find a lot of the themes are relevant and can relate to any age. As far as more literary things – UGH. I hate when people say things like that. It sounds so dismissive even when they don’t mean to. Really like this discussion!

  6. I prefer Middle Grade to YA which HAHAHA is even further removed from my current life! But I still love heading to this genre for all kinds of reasons. There’s comfort in revisiting old favorites, childhood favorites, etc. It’s also interesting to me to see how, now that I’m heading toward 30, I’m experiencing these books in such a different way – I feel characters’ emotions differently than I did when I was in that age group. I see the story in a different light and notice things I didn’t when I was younger.

  7. Yes! This! I read YA because although I’m 30, I WAS 16 at one time and know what it was like to be in that phase of life. Adult books SO OFTEN are about characters in phases of life that I’m not in yet, or will never be in, so even though they might be the same age as me, I can’t connect in any way. AGE AIN’T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER. It’s SO not about the age, but about the story.

  8. I’ll be 26 in August and I mostly read YA. A lot of it, for me, has to do with the lack of ridiculous sex and meaningless cursing. I’m sure there are YA books with it and adult books without, but it seems easier to find books without in YA, at least what I’m reading. I feel like a lot of adult books (that are contemporary, I guess) are just not where I am in life. A lot of the conflict comes from divorce or moving or job stuff that I just can’t relate to (as a happily married SAHM), but I’ve been through a lot of the conflicts in YA. And one more thing in this only slightly coherent comment, I love dystopian books and they seem to be mostly YA, so I’m gonna stick with it.

  9. I am in my mid-20s and still almost exclusively reading YA. I find this type of lit so compelling, especially since I am a librarian serving this age group. The teens at my library are going through so much at their age, and I read a lot of these books hoping to keep my mind and my heart on what they are experiencing. Teen lit helps me do my job better.
    I also just love it.

  10. I’m in the same age range as you (30 is looming closer and closer) and every time I get asked why I read so much YA I tell people that YA is written to be engaging and to make people love reading. While I will read just about any genre, I find that at times adult fiction can try to hard to be “literary”. Sometimes I just want to lose myself in a story for the sake of a story. And YA stories can be the best for that.

  11. My mom loves me dearly but she totally doesn’t understand why I read YA (which she stubbornly insists on calling “children’s books”) and often doesn’t believe me when I tell her whatever weird fantasy premise I’m reading is actually a book for adults.

    That said, I think one of the reasons I read YA more than anything else is because there is more immediacy in YA. The novels move faster, the endings are less subtle and–depending on the books you read–the people aren’t so horrible. All of that appeals to me.

    I have been wanting to read more adult books lately, I think because many of my favorite YA authors are publishing adult titles but I expect I’ll still be left wanting more from the ones I pick up.

  12. I’m not too far past the age of most of the characters in YA books (I’m only 22) but I do find myself having a hard time relating to them sometimes. You’re only 16, do you REALLY know what it is to fully love someone else? I know I didn’t. But I still love reading YA. It’s something that I read all through high school and I just kept reading it through college. I do feel like I’ve matured A LOT since high school, but I also still feel like I’m 16, you know? I have to think every time I tell someone my age because I don’t FEEL as “old” as I am. I think a lot of people still feel like they’re that young at heart and I think that’s something that draws adults to YA.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that while some YA still deals with hard and darker issues, the content is usually more “appropriate” than I’ve found when I’ve tried to read adult literature. I’ve tried to branch out, but I don’t like reading things with a lot of language or sexual content and so I’ve found myself setting aside more adult books because of that.

  13. Jamie, we are so on the same page about this right now. I still have people in my life who are a) shocked that I love reading YA b) shocked that I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about YA and books in general c) laugh at me because of it. Most of it has to do with my age and the fact that I should be reading adult books (which I do sometimes). I actually had a whole post in mind called “It’s Hard Being An Adult Reading YA, Yo” (for real, that was the title), but I think you got most of the backbone of it down. That the things you learn and do as a high-schooler are things that generally shape your entire life, and the feelings you have are some of the strongest and deepest and most real, and that translates whether you are 20 or 30 or 40.

    Also, YA tends to be a bit faster paced than a lot of adult books (obviously not all YA is like this, but a lot), and I just need that more in my life now…I like some slow-paced stuff too, but with the amount of reading that I (and we all) do, sometimes it’s just so much easier to connect with a story or character in YA.

  14. The funny thing is I’m not sure what draws me to YA exactly. I think I am just young at heart: I still love teen comedies, Friday Night Lights, Disney movies, One Direction, Spongebob and a host of other “kid things” besides YA books. I like plenty of “adult” things too but I do tend towards the young end of the spectrum. My honeymoon was at Disney World for goodness sake hahaha.

    More specifically I think I like reading about experiences that I missed out on/didn’t have. I didn’t date until after college even though I had my fair share of MASSIVE crushes. Sometimes on the unattainable hot guy, sometimes on my best guy friend. And the swoony parts of YA tap into all that for me I guess. Plus I like feeling happy and romantic comedies and cute books make me grin like an idiot. I also like reading about different friendships because I’ve had many kinds in my life.

    I’m also drawn to the story itself. It’s why my movie taste is all over the map, and my book taste too. Sometimes I want a fast read, which adult books can offer but oftentimes don’t (at least the ones I’m drawn to). Adult fantasies are almost too complex and dense but I really love YA fantasy. I try to go with the flow and choose hobbies and things to do that make me happy. But now I really am wondering why I’m so drawn to YA haha…

  15. YES! This reminds me so much of a post I did a while ago (Contemporary YA). Many non-YA readers/non-readers will scoff YA because the protagonists are teens. “So it’s geared for teens, not adults.” Right, okay, then why did so many people from diapers to death beds read Harry Potter? That was about a 10 year old. You can’t base the quality of a story on the protagonist’s age alone.

    Plus, it’s BECAUSE you’re an adult that makes YA even more special. You remember what that was like, those high emotional stakes, and now you’re removed from it a bit and can laugh or get your heart pumping again. Sometimes you really learn from it, too. It’s like reading into your past self and going “ah yes, I did that once too. Maybe when that happens again in my adult life, I can learn from it. Thanks, book refresher!” Does that make sense?

    Several of my friends who’ve never read YA are reading it now. Many of them are in their mid-30s and asking me for recommendations. They love the immediacy, the complexity. They’re fast reads, even when they tackle difficult topics. I’ve heard a few tell me, “They’re just easier to handle than adult books. I get a great story told differently and it doesn’t make reading feel like a chore.” And isn’t that what reading’s about? I’m not dissing adult books, btw. Love them. It’s just that everyone should have something to read for pleasure. Reading SHOULDN’T be a chore!

  16. I am 46 and I love to read YA. My kids are 17 and 20, and they are nothing like any character I have ever read about. They have never been typical teenagers. And yes, I feel a bit creepy when I find one of the guys in YA to be a bit swoony.

    I started reading my mom’s romance books before I was a teenager. Back then they weren’t as explicit as they are now. As a young teen I’d get my YA fix from the school library. I really got into reading YA as an adult because I was tired of reading ‘romances’ that were supposedly geared towards my generation. So many books focus on sex as the main story, and there’s not depth to the characters or the story. With YA, you don’t have to worry about sex too often, and the stories are so varied that it’s refreshing to read.

    I do still read adult romances every now and then just for something different. I have found that I don’t enjoy most New Adult because it’s all about the sex sex sex. How many times and ways the author can write about sex doesn’t make for an interesting story to me.

  17. I really love your point about viewing your own young adulthood through a different lens, now that you’re an adult. I read stories with complex characters who make mistakes because I once was one of them. I don’t have issues reading love triangles because they happen – and they happened to me! As a teenager, I was always conflicted about my feelings. I had a boyfriend I really liked that I broke up with just because a previous guy I liked at one point decided he liked me. Nothing even happened with boy #2 and overall it was the dumbest thing. I’ll always love reading YA because I can remember the bad mistakes I made as a teen and know that (1) I’m not alone in that and (2) that the MC will grow up to be a totally well-adjusted adult, like I (mostly) am.

  18. I’m 39 and still read YA avidly. Many of my friends do as well. Why do I read it? There are so many reasons.

    1. Most of the time, they are more emotionally honest and open than most adult books.
    2. Sometimes, it is nice to read about a time when life was a bit simpler and certainly less demanding – even if it didn’t feel that way.
    3. I read YA so that I can discuss books with my children and their friends or at least know what they are discussing.
    4. YA gives me a good idea of issues within schools with which my own kids may be dealing.
    5. They happen to be amazing stories that I feel everyone should read. Seriously, can you imagine NOT reading the Harry Potter series?

  19. I read YA for so many reasons…(1) I never really had much of a YA section when I was that age so I feel like I am STILL discovering it. (2) YA has helped me deal with so much as far as losing my dad is concerned. It seems strange to say that books have made me feel less alone, but it’s true. The adult books that handle this topic just never really clicked with me. (3) YA has shown me true friendships that I don’t always see in adult books. That’s not to say that they aren’t there, but it’s just that I have had a hard time finding that. (4) I have enjoyed YA fantasy SO MUCH MORE than adult. I don’t know what it is, but that’s how I feel. (5) I honestly have a hard time with adult content. A lot of the books I read I felt like the author felt they had to have all this sex and foul language that honestly does not matter or advance the story at all. YA, or at least all the YA that I have read, skips that.

    I feel like I learn from YA, but I also see how far I have come. I am still discovering myself, and that is not something I see a lot in anything but YA (in adult you see a lot of that coming from a divorce and other places that I just cannot relate to at all). I love YA, and really hate that people even think that the age makes a difference at all.

  20. As a teenager I don’t get grief for reading YA, but I plan to be that adult who does. I really love the reasons you list as why YA is still relevant to you. The points you make about life experiences that still apply to adults are something I’ve never seen in a discussion about adults reading YA before and I’m glad to see that. Great post!

  21. Well said!

  22. Love this post! I’ve had very similar experiences with friends about reading YA. While no one has ever come out and poo-pooed YA and the fact that I read it, I have been hit with that feeling of my friends disapproving what I read and that they feel superior to me in regards of reading. ANYWAY.

    I don’t think that there is one specific reason why I read YA as an adult. Over the past year I’ve started branching (back) out into adult books, but always come back to YA. There’s something comforting about it, reassuring me of my feelings or helping me to deal with feelings from my past. I don’t think that adult books can’t serve the same purpose, but sometimes I feel like those hit too close to home and I’m not READY for that. At least with YA I can (sometimes) say “been there, done that, survived.”

    Your point about how they help you to deal with grief and friendships and finding yourself… I know adult books can do that too, but sometimes I think those same situations in adult books are too… well… adult, and often those plots center around romance and sex, two things my life currently doesn’t contain. I think YA often times gives us a more realistic approach to struggles in our lives and don’t HAVE to center around romance with a man (or a woman) the way I feel a lot of the adult books I read do.

    I have gone on a tangent so I’ll stop… but to sum up: yes, you are correct. 🙂

  23. As a teenager, I devoured adult fiction. Barring my love for Harry Potter, It really wasn’t until college that I began delving into YA fiction. This is partly due to the fact that when I was in school (I graduated in 2004) there either wasn’t a lot of teen fiction in my library or it wasn’t purchased. I picked it up because it was something I could easily get sucked into without thinking too hard. I was an English major so I had to read a lot of dense, critical literary work. I started with the Percy Jackson series and Twilight (bleh) and gradually moved on from there to develop a great love for contemporary realistic fiction (Laurie Halse Anderson is my favorite). Today at 30 years old, I’m a YA librarian, but even before that I found that teen fiction spoke to me in such a way that I even prefered it over the adult fiction. You can certainly have fluff in any genre (adult fiction included) but YA (for me) offered an escape from the humdrum. I could read from a myriad of different experiences and ultimately I could connect better with myself and how I viewed the world changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still do read and love adult fiction but YA provides me with a way to understand and think critically in a different, new and dynamic way.

  24. I have always been drawn to YA ever since I was in middle school. There’s something about coming-of-age stories that I love. YA literature is full of emotion whether it be about friendships, first loves or family dynamics. At my current job, I work with high school students and I would often talk about YA books with my students because I am always encouraging them to read.

  25. Pui-man says:

    Your second point is exactly why I like to read YA as an adult. I feel like a lot of things happening in YA books/to the characters are so relatable, you don’t have to be a teen to understand/relate to what is going on. For me, YA books are also so much more “feels-y;” they elicit more feelings/emotions from me, I am way more invested in these fictional characters than real people, and the stories stay with me for a while after I finish reading. That hardly ever happens when I read an adult book.

  26. I talk about this a lot with people in my grad cohort (since we’re all studying Kid’s/YA lit), and I always say that a big reason why I can’t only read adult books is because I don’t relate to them. Adult books (especially those people consider “literary”) tend to be ones with marriages, cheaters, jobs which people have had for years, I just can’t relate to most of that. I can relate to a lot of the themes you mentioned: friendship and finding yourself, and frankly, I think even people who have been married for years could use the reminder of what first love feels like.

  27. I’m in my mid-30’s and I adore YA. I actually didn’t even start reading YA regularly until I passed 30, so I’m a little late to the game. I love it because it seems to be more straightforward, less obscure, and easier to read. Something about the writing in most YA just seems more honest. I like the humbleness of the story lines and the evolution of the characters. Though there are many themes that translate into older adult life lessons (and I do read adult fiction as well), I like being able to identify with so many of the characters on a more simple level, seeing pieces of myself or even recognizing specific events and pieces of my past within them. YA makes me happy. It gives me comfort.

  28. I’m 23 going on 24 in August, so I get the adult-reading-YA thing can be weird. But I just love YA. I mean, I try to read adult fiction and everything, but I like the fact that in YA I’m not thrown into a world where there’s sex in almost every book. In adult books I feel like being sexual is a big part of that person, and that’s not a terrible thing, I just don’t want to read about it all the time. I think it’s that sense of innocence (not just sexual innocence, but the naive nature of teens when you’ve already been through similar situations; first loves; fleeting moments, things like that) is what draws me to YA. They’re some of the most beautiful, relevant, heartbreaking, butterflies-in-the-stomach inducing reads I’ve ever known.

  29. I think I flock to YA because a lot of adult contemporary has this level of pretentiousness that I cannot stand. I also find it hard to be in my mid-twenties and relate to people having a mid-life crisis. I do read adult fiction, but it’s most genre stuff.

  30. Lindsay says:

    I turned 30 back in March, and YA is by far my favorite thing to read. there are some phenomenonal YA writes that capture that time period so well. Whether it’s epic fantasy or contemporary, it’s just so easy to relate to the issues involved in being a teen even years after the fact.

  31. I completely agree with you. A know a lot of people who aren’t readers and they don’t understand the love of books that I have, especially because I do read a lot of YA. I almost feel that I have to defend myself and help them understand why I read YA even though I’m 25. I read a lot of dystopian, sci-fi, adventure, fantasy… not as much contemoprary or realistic fiction. My main reason is because it is such a nice escape from reality; getting away from the realities and problems of my world and trading them for the mysteries, secrets, and adventures of someone else; trading them for problems that aren’t mine but that I can relate to and be encouraged by. Thank you for sharing with the world that we will never be too old. :o)

  32. “THERE ARE SO MANY UNIVERSAL THINGS IN YA THAT DON’T GO AWAY ONCE YOU HIT ADULTHOOD.” This. I completely agree with everything you said. This is basically my argument every single time someone asks me why I read “books for kids/teens/not adults”. I really just want to say “Because I can”. Honestly, I do say that sometimes, but then I try to explain it. I’m just going to link people to your post from now on. 🙂

  33. Great topic. I’m a few years older than you are, and I read more YA fiction than I did when I was a “young adult.” Like some of the previous commenters have said, “adult” fiction is often trying too hard to be literary. Plus, while YA fiction tackles serious issues, those books usually feature younger characters who aren’t yet jaded by life. That’s refreshing for me. When I read a book, I often want an escape from my 30-something world. I don’t want to wallow in it!

  34. I agree with all of this. I’m 35 (almost 36) and I love YA… and I’m not quitting anytime soon.

  35. Megan C. says:

    I just found your blog (via a tweet to your giveaway – I’m very excited to see what you come up with for the winner!), and this post is so relevant. I’m turning 27 in a few months and I almost exclusively read YA after someone begged me to read THG a few years back. For me, I think it’s the character-centric novels; they make me feel, not think. Not to say there isn’t depth in the plot, character development, and themes – of course there is. But the way those issues are tackled is from an emotionally-invested standpoint that is standard in the genre, not standout, like it can be for adult novels.

  36. I’m 42 but I still remember (so painfully!) what it was like to be a teenager. You’re right that many of the themes are universal throughout our lives, and I think that makes these books appealing to many adults. I also like reading about all different kinds of people, so why not teenagers? And honestly, although I do read a lot of adult books, many “literary” novels are just pretentious. I just want to read a good story about characters who feel real.

  37. Agreed! There are a lot of things that don’t stop being relatable as you get older: new love, etc.

    Also, in a lot of fantasy and dystopian the parents aren’t even in the book so the characters feel older. And many times they’ve gone through the crappiest things ever so they are very mature.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The research has been out for a while now — many people reading YA fiction aren’t teens anymore! People shouldn’t have to defend their reading choices, but a little self-reflection on why you love reading your favorite genre can be eye-opening. Hear Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner‘s reasons why she’s not too old for YA! […]

  2. […] Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner explains why she’s not too old for YA […]