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!