I watched several videos on Booktube on the topic of: Am I outgrowing YA? I asked myself the same question. I graduated from college. I’m no longer struggling with the same things teens do today. What do I do now? I’m not ready to be an adult? I hate adults. Being a teenager is way more fun than struggling with debt and staying in on a Friday night to catch up on The Bachelor. Okay, that’s still fun but not like as fun as exploring the boundaries of what it means to be a teenager. AHHH. What do I read then?!
On a serious note, my least favorite reason for people not reading YA are 1. They only read YA books that were over-hyped on Booktube, therefore found themselves disappointed and 2. They didn’t find YA complex or meaningful. Those two reasons make me want to explode. However, the other reasons I found gave me a lot to think about.
Videos that made me think about who I am now as an adult reader linked below:
Recently, it’s been brought to my attention that it’s time to give teens more of a voice within the YA community. I did some self-evaluation and decided I’d try to rate YA books with a bit more neutrality. Of course, if I love the book, I’ll praise it with 4 or 5 stars. But if I less than loved it, who cares? Teen books weren’t written for me. I’m not the target audience. The quality of those books should be determined by young readers, not me.
Last year I gave at least 10 of the fantasy books I read less than 4 star ratings. Those books in particular made up roughly 1/3 of my reads in 2017. After realizing I was having trouble enjoying fantasy, I wondered why. Even the ones that were more diverse and set in less Euro-centric worlds weren’t blowing me away. This year, the first fantasy I picked up was Everless by Sara Holland and I was greatly disappointed. Is fantasy just not working for me anymore? No, I realized. I just need to be challenged.
After reading fantasy pretty much all my life, it seems very few YA authors bring something new to the table. Or when they do, it’s poorly executed or the writing feels more middle-grade than young adult. I looked to my adult fantasy books and realized that I’ve been gravitating toward longer, more complex fantasy. I believe I’m suffering from YA fantasy fatigue. While there is more that is becoming diverse and less Euro-centric, the premises are always the same: a kingdom under threat by some kind of evil, a love story, lengthy training montages, the Chosen One or a dark, brooding boy whose secretly nice, and a lack luster heroine.In college I read a lot of YA Contemporary because it was a way for me to escape. I could jump right in and didn’t feel like I was reading something academic. But I’m not the target audience anymore.
I don’t think I’ll be picking up too many debut YA fantasy books this year. I’ve read quite a few debut fantasy books last year and I feel like the authors don’t read actual YA books to know that certain trends and tropes are boring now. You can write your own twist of said tropes, but sometimes I feel like everyone relies too heavily on old fairytales they read as a kid to write fantasy. Nothing is wrong with this, but I’d love to see more fantasy writers bring something new to the table even if they fall back on what they already know about fantasy.
This month I began reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I started off reading it as an audiobook, but ended up buying a physical copy. I thought this 600+ page book would be hard to read, but it isn’t. Do I like big books and cannot lie? I guess so. Big books used to intimidate me and they still do (never ever will I ever finish Lord of the Rings), but I didn’t realize how much I was limiting myself by avoiding the big, fancy, grown-up books.
I’m not trying to trash Young Adult books. After reading A Game of Thrones, the Throne of Glass series and A Darker Shade of Magic series I find myself wanting less stereotypical fantasy. While A Game of Thrones is the epitome of medieval, Euro-centric fantasy, it doesn’t fall into the usual tropes. I now know what fantasy can be, what it can live up to, and I refuse to settle.
I love, love, love YA Contemporary. I was having trouble finding anything decent in the post-Twilight and post-Hunger Games era (love triangles, dystopia, vampires… OH MY), but YA Contemporary is making a huge comeback. That being said I’ll continue reading and supporting YA books, but focus more on diverse YA Contemporary. I’ll also be trying to branch out and research fantasy for my age range. This is a year of taking risks.
The young adult age range is subjective. Some say YA fiction is written for ages 12 to 18, while others say it’s written for 15 to 20-somethings.
- How do you feel about YA as a teen?
- How do you feel about YA as an adult?
- Do you read a mix of both or only stick to one?
- Do you think books targeted to teens could do more to be original or better written?
Personally, I feel like adults should read YA but with an open mind and without condescension of the material. It should be understood who the target audience is. If you’re 30 years old, you are distancing from what it was like to be an adolescent, therefore teen characters will feel less mature. Teens aren’t supposed to have it all together. Stop expecting that. To be fair, there are some books that even teenagers consider to be cheesy and cliche because the characters are written as caricatures so they don’t feel at all authentic. However, there are important topics that get discussed in YA that wouldn’t be covered otherwise, such as police brutality in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Or what it means to be shy, queer and in-the closet teen like in Simon vs. The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
Representation matters. YA books are where it happens best.
To answer the question: Surprise! I’m not outgrowing YA! I’m outgrowing tropes, cliches, inauthentic characterizations, poor research, and dumbed down writing because the author doesn’t trust their teen readers to be intelligent. Again, if a teen likes those books, I don’t care and I won’t patronize them for what they read. Teenagers deserve a space and voice.