Adults who read YA fiction

“Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

– Ruth Graham @ Slate.com

So, there may be a lot of you out there (past the teenage years and charging into adulthood) who were a little offended by the above statement and enjoy sitting down with books like Divergent,  The Fault in Our Stars, Illuminae and A Court of Thorns and Roses. Well, according to Ruth Graham – a regular contributor to the Slate.com site, we shouldn’t be doing that to ourselves and we are “better than that.” Now I’m not saying she’s not entitled to her opinion but there are some flaws in her reasoning, at least from where I’m standing; what’s to follow is my thoughts on why views like this are damaging to readers.

Firstly, so much of what’s being said in the article (link above) relies on the notion that books written for adults are always more appropriate for adults. I mean, you don’t see her chastising the very adult Fifty Shades of Grey books despite the potential sanctioning of abusive behaviour. (I didn’t manage to get through the first book so can’t possibly weigh in on this debate.) Getting back to the point, the argument put forward in the anti-young-adult-lit article is pretty reductive. It groups all teen literature into one tiny box. I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Fault in Our Stars,  but I think it’s pretty different to The Hunger Games (maybe Ruth and I read them differently)?

What’s interesting is that I actually agreed with Ruth’s reading of TFIOS. I found it to be “a nicely-written book for 13 year-olds” and didn’t really rate it as a life-changer for me as a reader. It just was a bit too cute (real-life, tearjerkers are rarely my jam). It’s a well written book with a decent story but it just wasn’t for me, and maybe it does resonate better with a different audience. However, my view is that not every 13-year-old reader is the same, much like how not every 35-year-old is the same. To belittle someone for reading something written for a younger general audience seems far too reductive and a little ignorant. Plus, if the main argument is “It wasn’t written for adults”, well neither was Gulliver’s TravelsTreasure Island or Great Expectations and we wouldn’t shame adults for getting to know these classics inside and out.

What I found really insulting about this article is how it doesn’t celebrate reading enough. Ruth does promote adolescent reading and enthuses about teens having lots of reading available but she doesn’t seem to realise that the YA genre can be a stepping stone for new readers of all ages. It’s reading level and combined topics of interest can be enough for a non-reader to get excited about new books. Reading is something schools and organisations have been pushing to encourage for years and years. It’s great for comprehension, wellness, vocabulary, memory, focus, analytical skills and a whole host of other things. To write an article that would actually discourage people from reading is such a sad thing. Especially if you’re hell-bent on ‘bettering’ people.

I suppose for regular readers promoting genre variation is a good thing, you could find something fabulous you’d never considered before (like I did when I read Memoirs of a Geisha) but it’s not the be-all and end-all of being a reader. I agree that readers are missing something if they read YA fiction exclusively but it’s an individual choice and I guess you can’t be too sad about missing something you’ve not yet experienced! Reading is a waiting game; one day you’ll pick up something different and it may (or may not) change you as a reader. Personally, I feel like you should read what you enjoy, there’s nothing worse than trudging through a book you hate just to impress people. I don’t feel, as Ruth does, that the satisfying endings these novels provide is a bad thing if it entertains and makes people happy. Emotional and moral ambiguity is everywhere in life and nothing is quite that black and white. Read to benefit yourself and don’t dwell on the judgement of others, that’s the key to really loving books.

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I was actually inspired to add Submergence to my reading list following the article and hope to post a review of it once I get my hands on a copy!


What do you think? are genres made for specific age groups? Let me know in the comments below


 – Cat –

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9 thoughts on “Adults who read YA fiction

  1. Here here!
    This is a brilliant post. On many occasions I’ve had someone scoff at me for my reading choices. From my father telling me I would “grow out of Harry Potter” several times since My early teens (Prooving him wrong 15 years later) from reading ‘The Hunger Games’ series and The ‘Divergent’ series at work. There is always someone who turns thier nose up.

    On the other hand, there are very many whom we can inspire with our book choices! We just have to ignore the ones who try and put us off of a perfectly reasonable pass time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s sad that shaming exists in so many areas in life. If you read for pleasure who cares if it’s Fifty Shades or Hamlet, right?! None of us really knew that the Harry Potter franchise would become such an important artefact of our times but it really does teach us a great deal about the universality of reading and genre shaming. 🙂

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  2. I don’t think you should be embarrassed to read YA if you’re an adult. I personally only read adult fiction because whenever I’ve tried to read YA I’ve found it immature for my tastes (completely personal preference!!!) but that may be because I was brought up on adult everything, from books to movies. I watched things like The Shining and Old Boy when I was 10 years old, my mum had no qualms about growing me up on the more “mature” stuff so I’ve always been used to it. I agree that people should be open to read more than just YA, but I feel hypocritical saying that, as I only tend to read adult fiction. I completely agree with you to say that’s it’s just plain nasty to judge someone for what they read. If you wanna read YA, do it, if you don’t, then don’t. There’s no need to belittle people for their reading choices. We all have our own tastes, and surely, any kind of reading should be celebrated!

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    1. I completely agree, I applaud anyone who celebrates reading no matter what it is! The YA genre is still quite familiar to me at the moment and it helped me get back to reading for pleasure after I finished my degree but there are some YA novels now that aren’t in touch with me anymore and that’s cool too! It’s all about the reading journey and our tastes definitely define that! You’re right that we are all unique as readers.

      And I don’t think it’s hypocritical to say that people should be more open to diverse genres despite having favourites yourself. You can be open to them without reading something new and different every single day. Whilst you read adult novels predominantly at the moment I’m sure if a YA story caught your eye one day you’d read it and not dismiss it because of its genre alone. Plus adult novels are so diverse anyway, we’re all crossing genre lines every day with what we read. Genre is such a blurry concept.

      Also, I’ve never seen Oldboy and I like a bit of noir on occasion – may have to give it a watch!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right, just totally I kept a novel on my tbr list that was classed a YA horror because it sounds like it could be a great book! I read adult fiction & nonfiction, but like you said, I read a range, from historical, to literary to horror and thriller! I’ve definitely noticed there is less genre merging in YA, they do often seem to revolve around the same plot lines & issues, but if that’s what you like, that’s what you like. I’m rereading The Series of Unfortunate Events this year and they certainly aren’t aimed for adults but I would find it mad if someone judged me for it. They’re excellent pieces of literature, so why shouldn’t I read them?!
        Oldboy is very good but very dark!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent! I love the Series of Unfortunate Events books – couldn’t agree more that they’re fabulous (and grow with the reader too – much like the Harry Potter books!) YA lit can be pretty repetitive but I think it has some ‘divergence’ of genre. Excuse the kind of YA-esque pun! I’m mostly into the more post-apocalypse/ dystopian ones though I did give Fangirl a go to see what the Rainbow Rowell hype was about. I liked it but the central plot was definitely one I would’ve got more out of in my teens…

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  4. I read a lot of YA and don’t feel bad about it at all. 🙂 One of the big reasons I like it is because YA tends to be more hopeful and uplifting than adult fiction. I read to escape the sadness of real life, and YA does that way better than “gotta be realistic, no matter how horrible it is” adult fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Young Adult fiction has slowly addressed more and more mature topics in digestable ways without steering into New Adult, and sometimes you need that. Look, do I think it’s healthy to read more challenging material? Yes. But is it worth judging someone for enjoying something? No. My favorite book to this day is A Wizard of Earthsea, a juvenile fantasy by any measure but also an amazing piece of fiction (helped by the fact that it was written by one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, Usula Le Guin).

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