As you might have noticed from my reviews, I tend to read a lot of YA books. For those of you not familiar with the term, YA stands for Young Adult. These books are mainly meant for teenagers, with protagonists around 18-20 years old. Yet here I am, 30 years old and still a big fan of YA…
When I talk about my favourite books, people sometimes give me a weird look. You can almost hear them think “why does she read children’s books instead of books for adults”. I often wonder this myself. Why am I not interested in “real” literature that’s more suited for people my age? Should I give up YA and start reading more age-appropriate stuff?
This question sent me on a journey through the concept of YA and why it is so popular among teens and adults. It also led me into my own mind and personality.
What is YA and why is it so popular with teens?
First of all, let’s start by looking at Young Adult fiction. As I mentioned before, these books are mainly aimed at teens, although this target audience can be expanded into the early twenties. The themes these books deal with, are typical topics teenagers are confronted with: identity, relationships (with peers, parents,…), and finding a place in the world. Depending on the genre, you can also find themes such as diversity, sexuality, depression, problems at school, etc…
This immediately explains why YA is so popular among teens. They are familiar with these issues and experience them in their own lives. Therefore, reading about these topics can give them a sense of security. They are not the only one struggling with relationships, their own identity and so on. And by reading about a fictional character’s journey and the way this character deals with these issues, it can help these teens to look at their own problems with a different point of view.
Now let’s get to the 3rd question, the one where it gets personal for me. I mainly read Young Adult fantasy. Examples that I’ve reviewed so far are Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Nevernight, The Cruel Prince, The Last Namsara and many others. While these books all have very different stories, they also have one thing in common: the main character starts out as not belonging where they are and setting out on a journey to find their place in the world. Sometimes this is a literal journey, sometimes it’s only a psychological journey.
Why do I love Young Adult fiction?
After some deep reflection I realized why these stories appeal to me the way they do. Despite my age I often have the feeling that I haven’t found my place in the world yet. I often wonder what the point of all this is and what I am to do with my life. I feel like I don’t fit the mold of Work 8 Hours Per Day In An Office, Spend Time Stuck In Traffic Jams And Feel Exhausted All The Time. There is so much to see and to do in this world and we only have a short time to experience it all.
I’ve often wondered if there is something wrong with me. Why can’t I act like a “normal” person my age? Is my brain wired incorrectly? But lately I have come to realize I don’t want to be “normal”, I want to be myself. I don’t want to be guided by some rules that dictate my appearance and my behaviour based on my age. Sometimes it feels like our society forces people to all swim in the same direction, while I feel like I want to make up my own mind.
This is a frustrating struggle I experience every day. So for me, reading stories about people who have to find their way in the world – and in Young Adult fantasy these are often people who defy the odds, who don’t fit the established pattern – is a way to deal with this issue.
Thank you for reading all the way through, and let me know what you think about this topic. Is there an age limit to certain genres? And can the constant rat race be an explanation for the popularity of YA fiction among people who aren’t young adults anymore? Or am I overanalysing? I want to know what you think!