I didn’t have much interest in reading YA books once I was past the age of 15. After all, I had pretty much started reading them when I was in elementary school. I thought I was too old for it, beyond that.
What I didn’t understand then and what has taken me awhile to figure out is that YA is not a genre, it’s a marketing technique.
What makes a book a young adult book? Lack of violence? No. Lack of profanity? No. Lack of sex? No. All of those things can be found and at times in abundance in young adult novels.
Simplified language? No. A dumbed down plot-line? No. Young Adult novels contain some of the most beautiful language I’ve read as well some of the most riveting heart-wrenching plots.
What makes a book a young adult book? One simple thing. A teenage protagonist.
In fact, many authors do not set out to write a book for young adults, they write a book, and later on learn that it can be marketed as a young adult book. Others, of course, do have teenagers as their primary audience in mind. So there’s a quite a mix in what you’ll find shelved under Young Adult.
When asked what the appeal of YA books is to me, and why I think so many people are reading them as adults now, I’ve tried to express that there’s something about those years…something about the high stakes, the intensity of emotions, the forming of oneself that resonates with us no matter where we are in life. But I think Ali (go read the whole post, it's great!) really said it beautifully when she said,
Adolescence is a crucial and fascinating stage of life--teens are an archetype of our power as humans to transform. I don't want to be sixteen again, but the challenges people face at that age still have relevance to me as an adult. My response to them is different than it would be if I were younger, but no less legitimate.
Having said that, I’ve been mulling over this idea that popped up recently that adults should leave YA books for the teens. While I disagree with that based on the understanding that young adult novels are nothing more than novels with teenage protagonists, I do sort of understand why it might freak some teenagers to have adults reading “their” books. In fact, I’ve even heard that the distinction between YA and teen fiction is that Young Adult implies a sort of adult approval over the books whereas Teen Fiction are books with adult style content and no "lesson" attached.
In any case, I cannot be shamed from reading books that are marketed as Young Adult or books that were written with a teenager in mind. I owe it to myself to read all good books, the books that speak to me, the books that remind me what it is to be human, the books that teach me, the books that make me laugh. And hopefully by being willing to read all sorts of books, I can find a way to connect with all sorts of different people.