Like many other members of my generation, I am an adult who reads young adult fiction. There is no part of me that's embarrassed by the habit, and it seems others agree. Young adult fiction, thankfully, has started getting the literary recognition it deserves, and adult readers of the genre have become so common that when I'm strolling through the YA section of the bookstore, nobody even bats an eye. Actually, when I think about it, for some reason I was a hell of a lot more embarrassed to be combing through YA books when I was 17 and in the actual target audience than I ever am now as an adult.
For those of you who aren't already addicted to young adult novels, I can tell you that once you read one, odds are you'll also be sucked into the genre, partially because there are countless amazing young adult novels to choose from, and promising new young adult novels coming out every month. I have so many novels tagged on my GoodReads account that the only way I'll get through them before I die is if I get my hands on a time-turner. And while some of my choices are "adult" fiction novels, I have a feeling that no matter how old I am, the majority of the novels on my list will be YA – and I have plenty of good reasons why:
The Characters Are More Relatable
Whether they're written in the third person or the first person, the author usually gives you a sense for the main character's personality and motivations right from the get-go, letting the reader into their thoughts more candidly and honestly than a lot of adult fiction novels out there. I find myself in a particularly weird age group being in my early twenties, because I feel like, aside from series like Shopaholic (which, shout-out, I will always love), there are very few novel heroines in my age group. And if I'm going to make a choice about what to read, I still identify way more with 17-year-olds than 30-year-olds.
I love my life, but when I pick up a book, I don't want to read something that is basically a barely-different variation of it. Young adult novels, as far-fetched as some of the scenarios seem, are so outside the realm of reality that you're taken to an entirely different world, with new choices to consider and morals to evaluate and, oh yeah, every now and then someone tries to kill you. Even the more grounded, realistic young adult fiction offers more escapism than adult fiction.
It's A Lot More Plot-Driven
Or at least it feels that way to me. I generally know what to expect when I pick up a young adult novel: Some defining event of the plot usually kicks off in the first chapter, and from there we are taken on a journey that propels itself forward with other defining events throughout. A lot of the time this rings true with adult fiction as well, but adult fiction – let's take Nicholas Sparks, for instance – has a tendency to write a lot of thought monologue, or flashbacks, or bits of writing that can be tender and beautiful but also drive back the action a lot. When I'm reading, sometimes I'd rather just get swept up in the action than caught in a moment.
I am a sucker for young love. Even though a lot of young adult novels complicate it for the sake of drama, at its core it's more innocent and compelling and fresh, and I'm still in a stage of my life where awkward PG-13 romance is more exciting to me than the adult fiction alternatives. I find, with adult fiction, the characters already have messed up romantic histories and baggage, and while that can create really great narratives and dynamics between the characters, sometimes I just want to live vicariously through two characters who don't know there might be relationship trouble again. Sometimes I just want to read about Tris and Four making out, dammit.
The Authors Are Winning So Hard On Twitter
And I am following every single one of them. Honestly, the amount of self-restraint it takes not to reply to every tweet Sarah Dessen and Rainbow Rowell send out is physically painful for me. It is beautiful to see the relationships young adult authors have with their fans on Twitter, and how accessible they make themselves to not only their impressionable young audience, but to older readers such as myself.
I Like The Drama, OK?!
I’m an adult. I don’t like actual drama, in my own life nor my friends’ lives. But I do SO enjoy dissecting fictional drama. I imagine this is the rush that other people get from gossiping. And the drama is so much more intense in young adult fiction, partially because it revolves around teenagers, when everything feels more intense, and also because of dystopian, post-apocalyptic life-or-death scenarios.
The Stories Are More Empowering
As a girl reading modern young adult fiction, it's awesome to see heroines in these dystopian stories kicking ass and taking names. These authors are creating worlds where girls and boys can step up and rise to an impossible challenge, worlds where girls can fight and hold their own and nobody even makes a big deal out of them being a girl.
High School Really Blew
OK, high school wasn't that bad, but I spent the whole four years with my nose in a textbook or my feet on the track, and just like ripping a Band-Aid off, it felt like it was over before it even started. I never did anything remotely interesting or crazy in high school. Every now and then, it's nice to read a book about someone who did.
YA Books Get Awesome Movies
Not every book-to-movie adaptation is going to rock your socks off, but how cool is it that we get movies based on our favorite books in the first place? Sure, there are plenty of movies based on adult fiction books as well, but young adult book-based movies have clearly been on the rise for the last few years and, even though it's hit or miss, it's a trend I hope is a lasting one. It's worth it for every time a movie gets even just a part of the book so right that it looks on screen just the way it happened in your head.
You Have More Empathy For The Characters
I especially see modern young adult authors making their characters more accessible and empathetic by allowing them to be flawed, and to occasionally be flat-out wrong. Even when they are well-intentioned, they act without thinking or make mistakes, and it makes them easy to root for. I like characters I can root for. It makes it that much more satisfying when you see them grow and learn from their pasts.
You Stay In Touch With Your Younger Self
If you're ever looking for some record-breaking nostalgia, re-read a young adult novel that you read when you were younger. It is amazing just how much your perspective will change on the characters and their situations even in a few years. Re-reading The Outsiders as an adult nearly broke my heart, because this time I was reading it with an empathy for the older characters that I was just too young to have at 14. I'm sure if I read it again in a few more years my perspective will be entirely different then, too. That is what is so beautiful about young adult novels: they don't just grow on you, but grow with you.
Images: Lionsgate;, Giphy(11)