I recently picked up a young adult novel from my local library.
It was a regular trip to stock up on books for the Thanksgiving holiday. I checked the new releases, found a book on my TBR list for fall, and scouted the fiction for something that caught my eye. Then I made a quick trip to the YA shelves and was pleasantly surprised to find Taken by Erin Bowman.
Taken is the first book in a trilogy that was completed in 2016. The cover has a cool gradient of colors and features a far-away boy and girl heading into the distance. There’s a silhouette of tree branches or tree roots at the top. TAKEN is typed in yellow capital letters right in the middle of the cover.
I was drawn in immediately and decided to take it home with me. Well, I read it in 2 days and really enjoyed the book.
This made me start to think about how many YA books I read and why I like them. So, here’s a breakdown of why I read young adult books as an adult.
Escaping the World
I read books to get lost in another world. I want to live a thousand lives and love a thousand loves all from the comfort of my couch.
But YA novels have a special way of allowing me to escape from reality. A trend in YA is to create an idealistic setting that is a bit romanticized and definitely not entirely true. So YA makes it even easier to leave the current start of the world and get lost in that perfect high school dance or the sorting ceremony telling you where you belong.
YA is immersive like adult fiction is scared to be. I can fall into even the worst fictional YA settings and stories and still be pleased to be there and experience it. I might not like the occasional themes centered around self-harm or anorexia, but I still use it as a way to escape the current world around me, for better or worse.
Teen characters inherently have a lot of room to grow. I get so proud watching young protagonists learn about themselves and the world around them. It’s like I become a proud parent seeing them accomplish their goals or make amends for past mistakes.
There’s just so much potential for these characters that I can root for them more easily than your average adult character.
I’ve been a reader all of my life and remember making my way through the majority of the YA section at my small-town library. I was probably about 12 or 13 when I really started going for all YA books and got into a rhythm with them. I remember that small corner of the little library full of books like Skinny by Ibi Kaslik, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and anything John Green.
There’s a lot of happy memories there and I like remembering those feelings. Going back to a simpler time when the biggest concern seemed to be what my favorite characters were going through.
Shorter and Quicker
I’ll make a broad generalization here and say that YA novels are shorter and quicker to read than adult fiction.
I know there are a few lengthy young adult books and series (The Book Thief, Eragon, Harry Potter), but most range between 40,000 and 80,000 words. A quick adult or teen can easily finish this in one sitting if they want to.
Sometimes I’m in the mood to get a whole story in within only a few hours. Maybe more like a movie, but words? That’s what YA novels are best for. Quick, but fulfilling.
Dystopian Future Trope
I’ve always enjoyed the dystopian future books. I think the trend hit a little late for my prime YA years, but I’ve read many of them nonetheless.
I can’t get enough of Hunger Games and Divergent. Or Uglies. Or Host. Or Maze Runner. You get the idea.
The dystopian future setting will always draw me in because it will be relatable enough in its worldbuilding that I don’t need to imagine a whole new world, just an uglier version of the real world. As an adult reading young adult novels, this keeps things interesting while making the concept easy to believe.
What’s more relatable than young love? We’ve all been there. That teenage crush that vanishes as quickly as it started. Pining over a forbidden love, destined to finally be together if only… But they never pan out.
Living vicariously through hormonal and innocent teen leads makes the reader appreciate what young, passionate love has to offer over the more serious tones of adult romances. I like getting lost in the love triangles of a couple clueless kids. It’s always passionate and inexperienced, yet the heartbreak is real. The loss of a crush or a first boyfriend will stay with those characters forever, and with the reader too.
Happy Ending with Hope
Happy endings are one more reason why I like reading young adult novels as an adult. They have happy endings. Almost always.
I’m not going to spoil any book endings here, but there are a few out there that don’t end so well.
However, I think the majority of YA books end with an inspiring or hopefully message that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. There’s an air of youthful zeal and happiness that makes me want more.
So, Why Do I Read Young Adult Novels as an Adult?
The simplest reason is that I like them. The more complex answer is that YA books allow me to escape to a world where there is hope and love and learning.
I want to experience the world through inexperienced eyes and learn from them. I want to see the hurt and love reflected through naive, trusting eyes. They have so much more to lose than I do.
Like many others, I have no problem reading a few young adult novels as an adult. I just like them.