Embarrassed About Reading YA? Don’t Be!

More than half of the young adult books sold in the US are bought by adults—adults who 78% of the time are buying the books for themselves, not a teen. So why are you still hiding your copy of Divergent under a dust jacket for the latest Louise Erdrich? We know that’s not Nietzsche on your NOOK.

You read YA. You read it. You know you do, or you wouldn’t have clicked on this link. So own it. That’s the idea behind Scholastic’s #IreadYA campaign this week. Authors and readers, like myself, are taking to Twitter and Facebook to say it loud and proud: YA is not just for young adults. Here’s why you should be reading it.

It’s universal. Studies prove that 100% of adults have been a teen at some point in their lives. That’s a hard statistic to get around. Not every reader once rescued a group of endangered bonobos from a violent revolution or hunted escapees from a vast library of the dead or starred in a reality cooking show in Napa Valley. But every reader has felt the awkwardness and excitement and frustration and invincibility and longing for connection and understanding that is being a teenager.

It’s heightened. I like to say that YA is just the human drama writ large, because for teens (and teen characters), everything is new. Therefore it is exhilarating and frightening and, yes, life or death, even if it just feels that way. You will find love and pain and forgiveness and failure in YA, so prepare to feel. Luckily even hardcovers are cheaper than therapy.

It’s good. I’m done with the impression that YA is simply dumbed-down literature, and so is The New York Times and just about every respectable critic. Yes, there is crappy YA, like there is crappy everything. But there is also really fantastically, achingly good YA. So good that it wins National Book Awards and Edgar Allen Poe Awards and Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and Lambda Literary Awards and lots of other awards that “adult” books earn too. That’s more than you can say for your oh-so-adult J.D. Robb paperback.

Variety is the spice of life. There’s no rule that says we’re allowed only one genre. I’m in an MFA program that has me reading the most literary of literary literature. Some nights, it’s frankly nice to put down An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and pick up Eleanor & Park. It keeps my perspective fresh and my mind from melting.

You too can be cool. YA literature is where it’s at, and if you read it, you know no one says that anymore. Keep up with the younger generation through books so you don’t have your younger sister/cousin/niece/daughter stare holes through your head when you ask her “‘sup?”

Everyone else is. If teens know anything, it’s peer pressure. You don’t want to be the only at your book club who doesn’t know why Peeta is so much better for Katniss than Gale.

Do you read YA?


  • Sarah O

    I’m 24 and I love reading YA! I find it a lot more interesting than most adult books that I’ve tried. There’s definitely more variety now then when I was a teen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.taylor.790256 Linda Taylor

    What is YA??

  • DAN

    I probably spend all day reading YA whatever that is
    I wouldn’t even know

  • Tammy

    YES!!! I read YA and I love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/justanotherjen Jen Connelly

    I’m 36, mother of 5 (oldest turning 13) and I bring home stacks of YA books from the library every week. All for me. I’m not embarrassed. I can never get into “adult” novels but I can totally relate to YA. I even write it myself. There’s the added benefit that I’ll mostly know what my soon to be teen is reading (currently the Beautiful Creatures series).

  • http://www.facebook.com/amritze Amy Stewart Ritze

    I disagree completely!! I have the discussion with my nieces all the time (they are in their late 20s and early 30s). I think it is the dumbing down of America, books, the movies, the fact that no one knows how to spell correctly, etc. I’m not old, I’m 47 and I’m not an English Professor, but it drives me crazy when people my age talk about Twilight or books and movies like those. Or send text messages, Facebook, and twitter with incorrect spelling or shortcuts that are juvenile. If we don’t stop this by the time we have grandchildren they will talk like cavemen!

    • http://www.facebook.com/exn02 Christine Eun Nam

      Newspapers like the LA times and the New York Times have a reading level of 7th grade to 12th grade. Just because it was written in that reading level doesn’t mean it contains juvenile writing or “dumbing down” writing. Its the same for Young Adult books. Just because it is written for a younger crowd- doesn’t mean it is less smart and/or less important. And most importantly– almost none of the YA books are written in internet-slang fashion.

    • dershwin

      It’s ironic that your own grammar is not up to par. Were you also affected by the ‘dumbing’ down inflicted upon this country by YA novels? I will agree with you that Twilight is terrible… but YA is SO much more than Twilight. LOL G2G TTYL!!! =)

    • elizabet

      You make a grave mistake by generalizing all YA fiction. Yes there are some duds, but for every Twilight (which an overwhelming amount of people like to bash) there is a Divergent, Miss Peregrine’s Home…, and The Outsiders. In an era where blogs, vlogs, and Twitter feeds are vying for our constant attention, a lot should, and can be said, for this genre.
      As far as people taking shortcuts in regards to grammar has nothing to do with YA fiction, you’re making assumptions. Reading has lead to a more literate generation and a big portion of that is correlated to the fact that YA literature is so popular.

  • Nanareads

    I love love YA! I’m 31 and proud to be reading YA. I was not a fan of reading when I was a young adult because I had to concentrate on school and helping my family. I am now catching up on all the reading I would’ve have read back then if I had the chance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000361638946 Jeanie Inman

    Let’s face it YA authors writes lots of books that interest witches and pagans. I am one and aparently The authors are either pagans or wants the younger people to learn it so that is why I read YA books. not many books written you us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sheilabear13 Sheila Jordan

    Fiction is written for the enjoyment and entertainment of its readers. A good book, regardless of genre, should read as a friend, telling you a story – nothing more. It’s personal, it’s an escape and shouldn’t have to conform to someone else’s standard of writing. As a mother of 4, I have found YA novels to be an effective tool for starting conversations and keeping the kids talking. I prefer YA over any other type of book as do my 30 year old med student, 24 year old honors grad and 16 year old rising junior. My son and husband prefer non-fiction. Regardless, there is no ‘dumbing down’ in my household. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Save the judging for the only one qualified to judge.

  • Michituckygirl

    Whoever said that YA is “dumbing” down readers has never read a quality YA book. The good books are rich in character and detail. Enough so to capture your imagination and bring you into the story itself. It is an escape. Even with a book labeled YA, I find it difficult to imagine the lead characters as teens sometimes because they are often put in situations that force adult decisions. For example, “The Clockwork Princess” has these so called children without parents, found in opium-like dens, overcoming weaknesses, finding strengths, and risking life and limb that only grown mature adults usually accomplish.

    With that said, my 22 year old daughter, an avid YA reader (like her mother), has better spelling and grammar than she ever had in high school. Hunger Games is what kick-started her passion for reading and I would never complain about that!

    I suggest, to any YA snob, read the Maximum Ride (James Patterson), The Immortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare), or The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) series and skip Twilight (although I enjoyed it *shrug*).

  • http://www.facebook.com/ilovedisney247 Heather Macdonald

    I’ve been reading YA since I qualified as a YA. First because I was a high school teacher and then because I realized that YA authors are doing a much better job connecting with interesting and new themes and plots. If you haven’t picked up Divergent or Under the Never Sky . . . you should!

  • shockexchange

    “Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids From Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead” a YA book that’s a must read. In its March 1, 2013 issue, Library Journal called Shock Exchange “An innovative look into the Great Recession of 2008″ and “an intriguing work” http://clicky.me/7VvE . Midwest Book Review described the book as “A must for collections looking for memoirs on the financial world” http://www.clicky.me/midwestbookreview .

  • Leslie Hoff

    This was a great article and so true :) There are so many books out their with “teen themes” that can be enjoyed by people of all ages because we have all gone through those teenage years and can relate! That’s the best thing about reading; not only does it transport us to a different place and time but it allows us to empathize, relate, and enjoy the characters who remind us of ourselves or people we know! This article has really reminded me of a fantastic novel I just read by Author Max Zimmer entitled, “Journey” (book 1 of 3). Even though this novel follows a young boy, Shake, and his ten-year experience from age 12 to 22 this doesn’t mean that this is the age group that has to read it! Anyone can! Drawing on his own experiences, the author writes here about a boy growing
    up as a Mormon just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the late 1950s
    and early 1960s. The details he offers about the often misunderstood
    Mormon religion are insightful and never
    preachy. The tone is honest, and the story, as seen through the eyes of
    Shake remains realistic throughout. As he enters his teens Shake begins to
    question Mormonism and his upbringing. He is hardly a rebel, yet the more he doubts, the
    harder his parents and his church come down on him. Readers from their teens on up, no matter their religion, will identify
    with Shake as he begins to challenge everything he has been brought up
    to believe is true. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone :) No ageism allowed!

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you for the suggestion! As a Mormon myself, I especially appreciate literature where the character is conflicted. It makes me feel as if my own doubts and questions are perfectly normal.

  • Bethany Lander

    I am 22 and still love YA. I just finished Paper Towns and enjoyed it a lot.

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