discussion · publishing · ya · young adult

Hating on YA: Adults reading Young Adult Fiction

When someone asks me what my favourite book is, I bite my tongue and lie.

The Grapes of Wrath,” I say, or, “Animal Farm.” I watch as they nod their head knowledgeably and remark, “Oh, such fascinating symbolism, do you remember when …” and then I put on a strained smile, all the while pretending that I have read either of those books.

My favourite book is City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and you might not have not heard of it. It follows a young woman who, on the night her mother is kidnapped, discovers a mysterious underground civilisation called the Shadowhunters, and uncovers a secret that she may very well hold the key to their salvation.

It is a Young Adult book.

Don’t grimace.

I am a life-long reader and have read profusely and hungrily, as if, at any moment, the book might be ripped from my hands. I have read Shakespeare, Austen, Woolf, and Wilde. I have devoured books from Dickens, Fitzgerald, Williams, and Murakami. But I have never experienced that feeling of intense excitement and shocked anxiety that I do when I read YA fiction. It’s like I can conquer the world.

In fact, I can.

I can be the predestined leader of a prevailing rebellion. I can be a disillusioned princess about inherit a kingdom. I can be a magical antihero about to undergo a change in heart, as the plot demands. I can be a WWII hero, a wizard, a nurse, a killer, a victim, a demigod, a lonely boy, or even an assassin queen. I can be many things and it comes back to YA.

So why am I ashamed to admit such a thing?

Despite the fact that YA fiction is amoung the highest earning categories for the book publishing industry, if you are caught perusing the YA section at a bookstore, and you do not happen to be a fifteen-year-old girl, doubtless you will be judged by the book community.

Helen Razer of the Daily Review likens Young Adult readers to fans of E.L. James. Journalist Christopher Noxon sees YA fiction as adults refusing to put away their childish things. Ruth Graham from The Slate says that “you should feel embarrassed [if] what you’re reading was written for children.”

As someone who has dedicated their life to the craft, I thank you journalists for making me suddenly question my desire to seek a career in the YA industry.

With articles such as these, it is easy to see why so many people, myself included, refuse to admit our love for this type of literature that encourages girls and boys to be whomever they desire. Why is it shameful when an adult finds heart and courage in the same thing a teenager does?

Even Harry Potter is not exempt from this shame. When Harry Potter blew the publishing industry apart, Bloomsbury rereleased the books with adult covers, so adults could also enjoy the work without feeling like they are reading a Children’s book.

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But we know that adults love YA fiction, no matter what the rest of the world may think. In 2012, a study showed that 55% of YA readers are adults. With the rise of the online blogging world, as well as Amazon and Goodreads, it is easy for fans of YA to come together and have conversations without ridicule from our peers.

So when we are forced to return to the real world, we hide our love away like a dirty little secret, and carefully pull it out only when it safe to do so. We lie about our favourite books and talk nonsense about stuffy literary fiction, all the while wishing we could just discuss how awesome Katniss Everdeen is.

It is hard not to feel embarrassed when admitting to reading YA, but it is something I am struggling to persevere through. I no longer want to make that Gladwellian mistake of admitting to something I don’t actually like. By this I refer to the psychological market research conducted by Malcolm Gladwell. In his Ted Talk, Gladwell describes a survey about coffee in which 80% of people stated they prefer a “dark, rich, hearty roast.” In fact, the percentage of people who like dark coffee is closer to 20%, but we are conditioned to lie for fear of how we will be perceived if we say we prefer “milky, weak coffee.”

Like confessing to drinking weak coffee, admitting that I find pleasure in YA books can be humiliating, primarily when the wider society has been conditioned to view children’s books with contempt and disregard (at least when adults read it). It is not how adults should behave and therefore it is wrong.

We need to change the perception around adults reading Young Adult fiction. Books bring people together, not tear them apart. So the next time you see an adult on the train reading a YA book, or your friend confesses their favourite novel is Divergent, don’t say, “Aren’t you a little too old to be reading those books?” or, “When are you going to grow up?” We have grown up. We read YA to escape the humdrum realities of our adult lives.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Are you an adult who reads YA? Do you ever feel embarrassed admitting that? Let me know in the comments!
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85 thoughts on “Hating on YA: Adults reading Young Adult Fiction

  1. There should be 0% shame for reading ya literature. Ya books are some of the most amazing books I’ve ever read and I love them with all my heart. No one should be looked down upon for loving to read a genre that is so amazing and beautiful. It saddens me to hear that adults would be ridiculed for such a thing. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I wholeheartedly agree!! YA fiction is amazing and I much rather have fun while I’m reading, instead of being confused by some sort of weirdly structured symbolism. I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve had to explain why YA fiction is awesome, especially to fellow English students. So disappointing to hear people who love books judge me based on what I read.
      Thank you Tiana!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you. There is so much judgment based on what you read. It’s the same with romance novels. And I don’t care. I am intelligent and mature and I love to read romance novels and YA books. I will never deny Harry Potter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading is all about loving what you are reading! It’s an absolute shame that people hate on YA. We, as readers, have the choice to read what interests us and NOT what others think ’bout it. After all, we are here to reminisce the process of reading and to get transported to different magical worlds. And as C.S Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” We read for ourselves and not for the society. *course, Anj’s inner rebel side is at its peak now😂*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I have a LOT of issues with reading YA books (usually because of the cliches, weak plots or weak characters) I sometimes come across some beautiful YA that enchants me with it’s beauty. I am a lover of fantasy books, which means I dive into adult and YA fantasy with no shame at all. But people generally see fantasy itself in a negative light which is truly pathetic. Also, I like my tea as sugary and weak as possible XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, there are some books that definitely have their issues, but I feel like YA has improved so much in the past 5 years. I stopped reading YA in high school because everything felt the same and I rekindled my love for it 2 years ago. So much has changed and there are far more beautiful YA books then the cliche ones now.
      I also love fantasy, it’s always my go-to genre. I’m studying publishing and in one class my tutor pulled up a graph about the genres that sell the most as ebooks because people are ashamed to read them, and romance was number 1, while fantasy wasn’t too far behind. How can anyone be ashamed to read fantasy? Yeah, sorry, don’t you want to read about a badass in a rich, vibrant world the author created out of thin air?! Fine, more for me.
      Hahaha don’t worry, I love my coffee with sugar and lots of milk!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! Fantasy is just so beautiful. The idea of reading a world that someone created out of nothing is mind blowing. I can see why people would be ashamed to read romance novels but I don’t think anyone should feel ashamed of the things they love… unless it’s pedophilia or something, Yikes! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I find no shame bc I find that YA is written better than most adult books! They have to keep young readers entertained and that’s harder to do…so the books end up being works of art! Big YA fan here, especially since the rise of quality YA out there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love YA but I find it so difficult to admit it to my peers at school. I’m an English major at pretty snobby university and I remember one occasion in first year where we had to introduce ourselves and say our favourite books, and mine was one of the YA books I liked at the time, and I kid you not, a few people laughed. It was embarrassing, especially when they all said their favourites were 1Q84 or To The Lighthouse.
      There is that perception that adults who read YA lack intelligence, almost? Like we’re acting like children and should be viewed as such? It’s ridiculous because you’re totally right. I have read more beautiful and better written YA works than I have adult/literary books. YA fiction is incredible – the authors are geniuses in the amazing worlds they create.
      I mean, what would you rather read? An abstract, long-winded 400 page pretentious satire, or a fast-paced, character-driven YA book with a badass protagonist and a scorching romance? I know my answer 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Omg, you said this so well! That happened to me too! I tried to read 1Q84: talk about self-indulgent tripe! I got 33% of the way through this 900+ page monstrosity and nothing happened still! And I get treated like I’m an idiot for not loving it. Hello! The Emperor has no clothes! Nope, they see imaginary garments of silk while I insist he’s naked. Ugh.
        YA has to be written well to capture imaginations and keep readers READING. Adults have (apparently) unlimited patience and can read books about eating sadness in lemon cake. I have better things to do with my time…like travel across fantasy lands and have sword fights and fall in love!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I clicked on the links to the articles you provided, and I have to say what snobbish, judgmental rubbish! Speaking as a former children’s librarian there is NOTHING wrong with adults reading YA fiction, or for that matter, juvenile fiction. I myself read everything: adult, YA, and juvenile, and I’m not embarrassed one iota by my reading choices. No reader ever should be. Reading is a personal pleasure and it’s up to the individual what books they choose to peruse.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have fallen away from YA lately, but spent many years as an adult perusing the YA sections at local book stores. I have tons of friends and even a few blogging friends who do not get it. Some of them goes as far as to tease about it a bit. I just follow up with, “I read what I want”.

    I have never made fun of or thought someone else odd for their choice in reading. Reading is reading and if it is not educational it is an escape. It should ALWAYS be encouraged. I am a grown woman who catches tons of flack for loving manga and GNs. I am thankful that I have noticed an increase in the number of adults shopping these titles. And there do seem to be more articles addressing why adults enjoy YA. So that is a plus I believe 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m fine if my friends don’t understand why I am drawn to YA, but I draw the line at them teasing me.
      I didn’t even think about manga and graphic novels. I can only imagine the kind of teasing you would get for that.
      I hope that more adults who read YA start speaking out. There is really no issue at the end of the day. We’re all reading for pleasure 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have no shame in purchasing YA fiction. I write it so I had better read it. But on a serious note, fiction should be judged on it’s quality not necessarily the content alone. There are some YA stories that are so poignant that deserve to be read by any and everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s just so annoying when people are hating on each other for no reason. I mean, the type of books you read is nobodys business. I don’t see any problem at all with somebody choosing YA or horror or lovestories or whatever. Just because I don’t like a certain genre doesn’t mean nobody else is allowed to check it out.
    When a book is good, I read it. No matter what genre it is from.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I tried to leave a like but the button never came up 😦 Yes, I adore YA and one of my favorite books, in fact, I love all of them by Cassandra Claire. I even have the DVD which they made from City of Bones. I am not ashamed to admit that I love YA and never feel embarrassed. It’s time that we all stood up together and said. “I love YA. So there.” lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Cassandra Clare too!! Her books are amazing 😀 Yes, we all have to stand together because YA is amazing! Thanks for commenting
      (Don’t know why it’s not letting you like, that’s weird)

      Like

  11. It’s ridiculous, truly, that people are shamed for reading YA. I have loads of fun reading it, though not all YA is created equal. But that can be said for any genre. I will read anything I feel like, and I really don’t care what people have to say. Great write up here, I enjoyed it!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My post on Book Snobbery addressed this somewhat. I wish more people (some teens) would understand that adults read YA too and we’re just as much a part of the community as they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I LOVE this article. Thank you so much for writing it. I’m 38 years old and I have no shame in standing in the YA section of my bookstore. It’s honestly the first section I peruse, and where I stay the longest. Not feeling shame may have something to do with how many other adults are standing around me also looking. My shame comes in talking about it. Almost everyone I know in my real world teases me about it. My mother calls my books juvenile, and I’m constantly told how people don’t relate to books about kids. It does affect me, sometimes I wonder why I can still relate to books about a 17 year old. Though, logically I know it isn’t because I’m not a full fledged adult, just like they are, it’s because I read these books that put me in their shoes. And I have for years and years.

    Articles dismissing YA fiction always make me irate. Especially because YA as it stands today is so much more mature than what was YA when I was a teenager. Books like VC Andrews are now in the YA section, when I was a kid they were in horror. Ender Game used to be in SciFi, now it’s rejacketed and in YA. So, it was okay when it was on a shelf that said ‘adult’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!!
      I am the exact same, I head straight to the YA section whenever I’m in a bookstore. And yes I agree, the shame comes in when you try to talk about the books and people just don’t understand.
      I totally agree – YA fiction today is so mature and incredibly well written. You wouldn’t even find such good books even 5 years ago – or it was a struggle at least. Today, every YA book I pick up is gold.
      Oh wow, I always thought Ender’s Game was YA – didn’t know it was branded as adult first. So interesting what they consider YA today 😀
      Thank you for commenting!!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I am personally not a fan of YA but I don’t think anyone should be ashamed for reading it. I do find it odd though when people count the books they read to their 2 years as reading in terms of challenges etc

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You can’t see me but I am clapping in my cubicle & silently mouthing YESSSSSS! lol, eloquently said & I have felt all of the above. As a matter of fact my husband who also reads YA feels the same way whenever we visit Barnes & Noble with our 2 tiny humans. We tend to start downstairs in Fiction which I love but end up going upstairs rather quickly to the YA floor. I’m a bookworm that reads across mostly all genres (exception: hardcore romance) but YA is where i truly escape & find the next great adventure. We’ve gotten stares from adult & teens when we browse the shelves making for a hell os an awkward experience. Now a days I care less & less, I may even occasionally leave the dust jacket on 😉 thank you for writing & sharing this post <3!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahaha awesome! I’m glad you can relate to it. I’m sure everyone who reads YA has felt this embarrassment. That’s so sweet that your husbands reads it too! It’s amazing how so many adults are able to connect to YA fiction and how it brings people together too.
      I love reading many genres too, but like you, I always come back to YA.
      You should see how embarrassing it is in the library! The YA section is in it’s own room near the study lounge and everyone sees me perusing the shelves. Eek.
      Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience !! 😀

      Like

  16. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I have always read what I want to read openly without feeling embarrassed by it. I have never personally had someone criticize me for what I read and I hope I never do. Everybodies tastes are different and I don’t think anybody should be judged based on what they read. Just because an adult is reading a book that was meant for children doesn’t mean said adult is going out into the real world acting like a child. I probably don’t make any since sorry. Also I am the odd ball who hardly ever drinks coffee because I hate the taste of it. The only way I can drink it is if there is a lot of creamer and even more sugar. I pretty much want the coffee taste to be gone lol.

    Like

    1. No you make perfect sense! I only started experiencing this judgement after high school and into university when I started reading YA again. I’m an English major so you can imagine how well it goes down with people who read post-modernism when I tell them I read YA. I only wish I could have your experience!
      Hahaha I live on coffee but unlike YA I have no qualms ordering my weak, milky latte. 😀
      Thanks for commenting !!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Such a great post! I’ll admit I often feel like I can’t really tell people’s what I’m reading because like you said – they look down on me for reading YA. I think a lot of it had to do with believeing teens can’t be complex and also because it is female dominated in terms of characters, authors , and even editors/agents .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Oh yes, I totally agree! Authors like John Green get so much crap about how their teenage characters are “too smart” (that actually happened) and how it’s not realistic because teens don’t act that way. I want to ask those people who say that if they’ve ever actually spoken to a teenager.
      I never thought about the fact that it’s female dominated, but that might also have something to do with it!! 😀
      Thank you for commenting

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I absolutely love The Mortal Instrument books. While all of my reader friends are switching over to new adult books, here I am still reading YA. In my opinion, it is more exciting to read YA. However, there are times where I love NA books, and even adult books. Some of my favorite books are classics, but there is nothing like opening a YA book and jumping into another life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another TMI fan, yay! I also love NA and adult books, especially the classics. I’m currently attempting the behemoth that is Anna Karenina, but I too go back to YA over and over again 😀
      Thanks for commenting !!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I find Ruth Graham’s statement utter rubbish! Do things that bring you joy. Why should anyone else but you have the right to decide what that is? I reserve the right to read like a teen forever lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m a college student, and I’m realizing that I’m “aging out” of being a YA reader. You know what? I don’t care. YA covers important topics, and it has a grand old time doing so. Here’s to us that will never grow out of YA!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me too!! It’s so awkward pulling out a YA book in front of other English majors. YA is so important and people of all ages can connect to the stories.
      Thanks for commenting 😀

      Like

  21. Likewsie! My degree is in English Literature, I’m widely read, but for some reason I’m supposed to be ashamed of the fact I read MG and YA fiction. Well, good writing is good writing. If you’re put off by a publishing label, you haven’t read widely enough. Often, the examples people give me of ‘adult fiction’ have a lower literacy level than the YA I enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Reblogged this on Book Murmuration and commented:
    Here’s a post I related to. Good writing is good writing, regardless of its publishing label. Never be ashamed of what you read. The best thing about joining the online community has been finding out how diverse most people’s reading preferences are.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one constantly experiencing this! YA is so universal. It teaches people so much. I wish I didn’t feel embarrassed to admit that it’s still my favourite kind of fiction, but you’re one hundred percent right: society makes us think that it is embarrassing if we’re not young adults. And it’s stupid. Totally stupid. Thanks for this though, made me feel a little better!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Only saw this post now, but it’s brilliant! You captured the struggle between liking YA and trying to hide it perfectly. Every time I tell myself I’ve outgrown it and try to read the more mature, “adult” books, I find myself drawn back to the fun YA genre. That said, I have noticed I’m not as quick to gush about most YA books because I do think I’ve gradually outgrown some of the less serious series etc. But I don’t think I’ll ever fully leave it behind, and there’s no shame in that. Love your thoughts on it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I know what you mean about the less serious YA books. There was a long period where I didn’t read YA at all, because I found it so childish (this about 3 years ago), but I’ve found that much of the books that are being published these days are becoming more and more mature. It’s why I love YA so much now, because the nature of YA itself has changed.
      Thanks again ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for porting this! In fact, I recently wrote a blog post about the subject, after finding out that here in my country (Brazil) YA is an entirely different genre perceived as commercial and not literary. As a woman on her mid-twenties, people try to make me feel ashamed for loving YA. But I just can’t help it, they make me feel good, isn’t this the whole point of a book?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words!! That’s the same in Aus: YA is considered commercial fiction! It’s a real shame because I have read such amazing YA novels that can’t even compare to literary fiction.
      I’m in my twenties too – and yes, I agree, so long as you enjoy a book, why shame someone?
      Thank you for commenting ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome! I think it’s so unfair for YA to be treated like this. People avoid writing it in my country because they are afraid they won’t get published. Where is the freedom in that? Exactly, I will keep reading what I like, and not what people think I should read! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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