By Victoria Garcia
Young Adult literature is a developmental stage in every reader’s book journey. A highly popular genre, it offers several benefits. As the name implies, YA novels are targeted toward teenagers to help them navigate the feelings, situations, and relationships experienced as a side effect of growing up. And YA literature is just plain fun to read. Adults often fondly remember the books they read as younger versions of themselves.
But there’s an argument about when you’re too old to be reading YA literature. The answer to this is: never! While some may say that YA literature is only for a particular age group, books transcend boundaries. They are meant to be enjoyed by all readers. Why miss out on what they have to offer by putting an expiration date on YA novels? Here’s why you’re never too old to read YA literature.
YA literature brings a sense of nostalgia
Growing up, many people may miss out on aspects of adolescent life due to school, work, strict or absent parents, social issues, disabilities, and so on. There is a sense of nostalgia for something we couldn’t have when we wanted or needed it most. A comforting hug from a grandparent, a sleepover with siblings, sharing laughter with cousins, fresh night air with friends…YA literature feeds the nostalgia of those memories or lets us experience the memories we never had.
Today’s future adults will in a few years be floored with nostalgia from the experiences they missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this loss, they’ll turn to a good book where the protagonist enjoys the senior year the reader never got. You’re never too old to read YA literature because it gives you the chance to catch up on times you wish you had. Wouldn’t you take that opportunity?
YA literature allows for better understanding of teens and their issues
Though I am now a recent high school graduate, I started reading YA literature way before I should have been. At the time I didn’t understand. Why does this character care so much about another character when she hardly knows him? But it was a fun read, like reading Harry Potter or The Mortal Instruments. Sure, I didn’t understand the world I was reading about, but that’s what made it fun—I was learning. This thought process also applies when you are “past the YA age.” Maybe you aren’t part of that world anymore, so it’s a fun learning experience.
Reading YA literature is a way for adults to adopt the perspectives of teens and understand the issues and feelings they face. Teens often struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicide. According to HealthyChildren.org, anxiety disorders in teens have grown 20% from 2007 to 2012. Despite this research, teens feel misunderstood for being teenagers in a world that scares them.
An adult reading 13 Reasons Why might not personally relate to the story, but the book could give them insight into how a teenage girl is feeling driven to suicide. On the other hand, an adult who suffered from bullying and mental illness throughout high school will understand the protagonist’s struggles and find an outlet to process their own experiences. YA literature gives teens and young adults a safe space to explore issues that are experienced in this developmental phase, such as loss, first-time experiences, anxiety, coming-of-age, and new responsibilities. You’re never too old to read YA literature when it is a valuable tool to see inside the lives of others.
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YA literature has a genre for every reader
Of course, there are different genres of YA literature, including dystopian, coming-of-age, fantasy, and adventure fiction. Dystopian is a subgenre that features a society living in unseen, frightening, or oppressive circumstances; the opposite is utopian, a subgenre that involves a perfect society. Coming-of-age is a subgenre that usually takes place when a character comes to a certain understanding of themselves and life. An impactful change or decision typically occurs to resolve the plot. Fantasy is a popular YA subgenre that showcases supernatural or magical elements and is set in a remarkable world that differs from our reality. Adventure fiction often follows a character embarking on a mystical or dangerous trip and involves elements of fantasy and coming-of-age. YA literature thus provides young people—and adults—with an escape to experience another life before they are forced to create their own.
Many adults enjoy (translation: are wild fans of) Harry Potter, which also happens to be a YA fantasy series. If you’re an adult who enjoys The Hunger Games, that’s YA dystopian literature. If you’ve read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, a piece of literature with one of the most beautiful storylines and quotes of all time (“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”), you’ve read a YA coming-of-age book. Novels such as these often receive acclaim from adult critics in addition to inspiring the dedication of their young adult fans.
YA books offer a wide variety of genres for any bookworm’s taste, so if you ever find yourself drawn to a YA book, then read it! You’ll never outgrow YA literature with so many stories to choose from.
It’s okay to still enjoy Young Adult literature if you are no longer a young adult. It might not directly apply to you, but by educating yourself, you grow an understanding of how the literature you’re reading addresses stories that exist in the real world. YA literature represents a significant portion of the population and is important to literary culture and many readers’ personal journeys. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying a valid, valuable genre of literature. No matter your age, you’re never too old to read YA literature.
Approach YA literature with an open mind. Don’t read YA novels if you are unwilling to give them a chance. Instead of viewing them as unrealistic or childish, welcome the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a different generation.