Young adult fiction, also called YA, has been a popular genre for decades, but in recent years, it has seen an increase in adult readership.... or at least in public adult readership. I have a sneaky feeling that there were quiet YA fans this whole time. There's something about YA fiction that appeals to readers of all ages. So why do so many adults love this genre?
Nostalgia for the Teenage Years
For many adults, reading YA fiction can be a trip down memory lane, reminding them of their own teenage years. The emotions, experiences, and struggles that are central to many YA books are often familiar to adult readers, making them feel a sense of nostalgia and connection to the characters. It can also be a way to revisit the innocence and simplicity of their teenage years, before the responsibilities and stress of adulthood set in. The recent collection Up All Night is a great example of YA fiction that adults can enjoy for the nostalgic feelings. My Best Friend's Exorcism has that 80s YA feel, too, for nostalgic vibes mixed with horror.
YA fiction is known for its straightforward, easy-to-read storytelling. The writing style is approachable and accessible, making it a perfect choice for busy adult readers. This kind of accessible storytelling makes great escapist reading. YA thrillers, in particular, are easy reading for that instant escapism for me. If this is your jam too, try The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas, for a pageturning thriller with teen friendships at the heart.
Readers are often looking for ways to escape reality and experience new things. For many people, a good YA novel is just that. With a teenage protag or narrator (or both), adult readers are able to experience a different perspective and see the world through fresh eyes. With more and more diverse perspectives being shared in young adult fiction, this can offer new perspectives and new characters for adult readers to get to know.
If you enjoy discovering new characters with different backgrounds, young adult fiction is a great genre. From Dust, A Flame is a fantasy/YA with a focus on Jewish and queer identities, and Ann Liang's If You Could See The Sun has a lot to say about Beijing high school life.
Emotional Connection to the Characters and Themes
YA fiction often features well-developed, relatable characters, and I think fiction readers love a relatable, believable character who's really going through it. Of course YA fiction often includes coming-of-age themes themes that are relevant to a wide range of readers. Whether it's a coming-of-age story, a romantic adventure, or a tale of friendship, YA books have the power to evoke strong emotions in their readers. Many adults find that they can relate to the characters and themes in YA books, making them feel a deeper connection to the story. The Hunger Games, for example, was wildly popular with readers of all ages.
That said, I also love a YA with an OTT storyline. A little celebrity fake-dating in Well, That Was Unexpected or This Time It's Real. Or there's the reality-TV family drama in Meghan MacLean Weir's The Book of Essie, or the reality TV theme, crossed with myth in Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters.
There are, of course, many more reasons why adults love YA fiction, from returning to a favorite author or just seeing a book that happens to look appealing, from nostalgia to escapism. What about you? Do you still read YA? What do you love about it?
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