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Why Adults Read YA or Should If They Don’t Already

Guest post by young adult author Maureen McGowan. Her most recent book, Deviants, released on October 30, 2012. In a post-apocalyptic world, where the earth is buried by asteroid dust Glory, a sixteen-year-old orphan, must conceal the superpowers she and her younger brother possess in order to survive.

Until three years ago, I hadn’t read a young adult (YA) novel since I was twelve. Why would I want to read books meant for kids? When I was a teen, most YA novels were decidedly juvenile, so I went straight from Nancy Drew to Sidney Sheldon. But in the intervening (cough) decades, YA fiction has changed.

And I’m happy to confess, I now love YA fiction.

It turns out that I’m not alone. A recently reported Bowker Market Research study found that 55 percent of buyers of YA fiction were adults and 78% of the time they were purchasing for their own reading—that is, they weren’t buying the books for their kids.

DeviantsIf you’re an adult like me, who hasn’t read a teen book in years, here are some reasons you should try:

  1. YA fiction is fast paced. In most YA fiction these days, there’s no padding and no excessive description or narrative.
  2. Teen novels tackle big subjects without being pedantic or preachy. Today’s YA novels don’t hit you over the head with a “message” but at the same time don’t shy away from big questions and issues. 
  3. They are penetrable. While many tackle complicated topics, you don’t need a PhD in English to interpret YA novels, and most have an uplifting ending.
  4. There’s plenty of drama, conflict and tension. The teen years are full of heightened emotions. It’s when we experience our first loves, first heartbreaks, first huge setbacks and triumphs. And first experiences are storytelling goldmines.
  5. YA fiction blurs genre lines.
    • Want a novel set during the Holocaust and narrated by Death? YA has that. Try The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak.
    • Want a story with horror and adventure, set in a future (that feels like the past), written in a literary style? YA has that. Try Blood Red Road by Moira Kelly. 
    • Want a sci-fi re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion? YA has that. Try For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. 
    • Want a supernatural thriller, in a dystopian setting, with a dash of both romance and horror? Try my new YA novel Deviants.

I could list more reasons why I love YA but, bottom line, I’ve found most books in this category to be engaging, entertaining, thoughtful and well written.

So, if you haven’t read a YA novel since you were a teen—try one. It just might make reading fun again.


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You've said so succinctly what I've floundered around for a year trying to say. I read & write YA and these are the reasons. The biggies for me were that they don't shy away from hard topics but they're not preachy with the (air-quotes here and a little world-weariness in my tone of voice if you please) "message." They're fast paced. They get things done and they don't dawdle while doing them.

Thank you for solidifying what I've been groping for so long. Now... get out of my head. That's creepy. :)

I like YA for the reasons above and because I don't have to skip through pages pointless smut that really doesn't need to be there for the story to move foreword...listening no prude but if I feel the need for that kind of thing I have "other sources". If the actor describes someone so fully and so often that I could draw them and the positions they are in from memory, you've already lost me and im looking for a new book to read ...I want a story not a letter to penthouse that so many authors think we are looking for especially thanks to 50 shade of literary fail. I know how babies are made I don't need someone spending several pages describing it to me ....a simple the fell onto the bed tearing at each other (cut to ) the next morning having eggs is sufficient....again I want to point out I am not even remotely prudish but if that's what im looking for I will watch a video ...I don't need it cluttering up a story I am trying.g to read.

Thank you SO much for such a well thought out post that represents my viewpoint as a 45-year-old mom who devours YA literature, especially Dystopian & Post-Apocalyptic novels.

Also, thanks for that bit of statistical information - even though I'm far from embarrassed when I head right for the YA section of Barnes & Noble, lol, it's nice to have some validation and at last read what I've suspected all along; that I'm not the only one out here who's loving this stuff!

Oh, and "Deviants" is going right on my TBR list; it sounds incredible! Awesome cover too, by the way. I think covers are critically important. Best of luck to you!

Thanks Rich! As soon as I started reading YA fiction again I was hooked. And knew it was what I wanted to write too.

Thanks for your comments allen. Some YA novels have love scenes too... but you're right--most don't. And I'm sure that's yet another reason why some people love them.

Thanks Terri B. I really hope that you enjoy Deviants!

I started reading YA about 5 years ago and I'm so glad. I love the diversity. I go through stages of reading nitty gritty realistic YA and then dark paranormal and now I'm loving the new YA sci-fi I'm discovering books like Partials by Dan Wells, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Brithmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien...well my list could go on, but then I'd never write my own YA novels - lol

Exactly! I just starting picking up YA a year ago, and you've nailed the reasons. Congratulations on the publication of Deviants.

I'm old enough to remember when there wasn't a YA genre per se. It was kids books, then everything else. Some valid points on why adults go to todays YA. It brings them back to the times when they felt a story, not just turn pages. Still, many of our YA books don't live up to expectation. We owe to that 55% to be better than mainstream. We're not just telling a tale, we're putting our emotions on the pages.

I'd like to add Laini Taylor's, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, to the list of worthy titles.

I like YA fiction, even though I left that demographic decades ago. Thanks to your post I now know why -- and that it's not weird.

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