“Why Do You Read YA?”

April 23, 2014 ● BY ● TAGS: Piece of Mind

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Where I share my thoughts, musings and bookish questions.

I get asked this question a lot, by people who are just honestly curious, by people who are secretly judging me, by people who don’t even attempt to hide their disgust. Because answering this question is getting old, I have decided to tell you why, exactly, I like to read YA. Because apparently we need to write an explanation of sorts to have people understand why we love books for this age group, whereas people who only read classics never have to do this. I’m not going to go into that right now, although I think you are pretentious and sad if you judge people for what they read.

I think that people have the wrong idea of YA books and to be honest, it bothers me that people are overgeneralizing when it comes to YA. Like a well-known actress who will soon portray the female lead in a YA book to movie adaptation pointed out (*cough* Chloe Grace Moretz *cough*), the first thing people think of when they think of YA is love triangles. They think all YA books are Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or City of Bones, and while there is nothing wrong with those books (don’t you dare bash HP and THG in front of me!), YA has more to offer than these incredibly hyped series, and I hate that people don’t see this. Of course, the Twilight franchise is so famous (or infamous, if you will) that this is something people think about. But let me tell you this: not every YA book is like Twilight. And if you judge a book by another book that just happens to be written for the same age group, I think you’re doing something wrong.

Who said that a book can’t have literary value, just because it’s written for young adults instead of adults? Why think less of adults who read YA for fun, when it’s perfectly acceptable the other way around? Part of the reason I started a YA blog is that while I think that it’s a great thing to write impressive stories for teenagers who can learn from them, that does not mean they are the only people who can learn from these books. I think people need to be aware of the great stories that YA has to offer, instead of being put off by something that is really just a guideline. There are fluffy and literary, emotional and logical, straightforward and insightful YA books, just as there are fluffy and literary, emotional and logical, straightforward and insightful adult books. YA books are about life and struggles and romance and friendship and family and society, just like adult books are. The only difference is that they’re written for a younger audience, which does not mean that this is the only audience for this book. (Dont believe me? Check out Gillian’s recommendations!)

My personal reason for reading YA is that it makes me happy. This does not mean that all YA stories are happy-go-lucky fluff stories with no real content or literary value. It does mean that I like reading about characters who, damaged or not, are for the most part still hopeful, have not given up on life, are not in the middle of a midlife crisis, are characters I can still relate to but also learn from. These are characters that, despite their issues, still have their whole lives ahead of them, and are at that defining moment in life where they get to decide who they are and who they want to be. This fascinates me. I love reading about characters growing up and learning to deal with disasters, while still having some youthful hope and positivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all adult books are depressing, or that I don’t like dark books (the opposite is true, really), but I like where these characters are at in their lives. I think it’s an interesting time.

I don’t even exclusively read YA. I will read pretty much anything that speaks to me, no matter which age group it was written for. But it still bothers me that I have to keep explaining why I mostly like young adult books instead of adult books, as if this is something that makes me somehow less than people who only read classicss. I’m not saying you have to like these books, but to judge books for one age group by other books meant for that same age group is pretty narrow minded. I’m not giving up on classics just because I hated - hated - Heart of Darkness, am I? All I’m saying is give these books a shot before you judge them, and don’t judge people on what they read. It’s ridiculous.

Judith is a 21 year old book blogger and reviewer, English student, compulsive book buyer, aspiring writer, proud book pusher, founder of Paper Riot and co-founder of the Recaptains. She also has no filter when it comes to Twitter. Beware. More?

32 Responses to ““Why Do You Read YA?””

  1. Ugh, people are idiots. Why does it matter what age group a book is supposedly for? If you can connect with the story and enjoy it, it shouldn’t matter.

    Someone at work the other day refused to go to see the Divergent movie because “It’s one of those teen books isn’t it?” And yet they were happy to go and see the bloody LEGO MOVIE. TWICE. These double standards drive me crazy. So, it’s cool and hip for an adult (a 30 year old man in this case) to love and enjoy cartoons (primarily aimed at children, lbr), but they absolutely refuse to see a YA adaptation? And judge any adult who does enjoy it? Something is wrong here.

    • Judith says:

      EXACTLY. I hate that it’s a thing that keeps people from reading books they would probably like but won’t read because of the label attached to it.

      And that’s a great example of how idiotic people can be. Ughhhhh.

  2. I don’t read much YA, although it’s interesting to note that I have a few books in my TBR that are YA and I didn’t notice that when I bought them, I was just drawn to the story. Which Is your point. Nobody should have to justify what they read or why they read it. All books are subjective and we should just be happy people are reading, regardless of what they are reading.

  3. Ellis says:

    First of all, LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about this post, the “Because apparently we need to write an explanation of sorts to have people understand why we love books for this age group, whereas people who only read classics never have to do this.” sentence in particular. The “Heart of Darkness didn’t ruin all classics for me, now did it, narrow-minded judgy faces?” comparison at the end was perfection.

    (Also YAY Gilly’s post! It’s still one of my all time favourites (same with Amber’s post on the female-male ratio in YA) and now this one goes in the same folder. Yes, I have a favourite blog posts folder, okay? You’re in it, okay?)

    So true. It’s ridiculous that we even have to explain, defend, and justify our reading choices because people otherwise wouldn’t understand why adults would give YA the time of day. I often don’t even mention it IRL because having to explain over and over again is exhausting. What infuriates me is when people give me this weird look when they discover I mainly read “books for children” because I’m supposedly “too smart” for that and also, aren’t I a literature student, so shouldn’t I be reading the intellectually challenging, canon-approved classics? Aren’t those more on my level? I’ll tell you what’s not on my level. THOSE PEOPLE.

    So in general I’m usually just like “fuck the haters” with my best sassy-scarf-wearing Isaac face (and some Stiles snark and Lydia shade thrown in for good measure) but I love this post so much and I think it’s an important one. Also, everything Amber said.

    Also hahahaha Heart of Darkness how are you even a book that exists and is forced on us over and over again boooo to the canon.

    • Natalie says:

      ‘sassy-scarf-wearing Isaac face’

      <3

    • Judith says:

      THANK YOU! <333 I’m very excited to be in the favorite posts folder with some of my favorite ever posts.

      I don’t actually mention it often either, but some friends do know that I read that. I mean, I still read whatever, as long as I’m interested in it, but this is often YA. Deal. With. It.

      Thank you you sassy Isaac/snarky Dylan/bamf Lydia you!

      (And fucking Heart of Darkness. I want to kill it with fire.)

    • Meg says:

      As always, your Teen Wolf references bring my heart much joy.

  4. This is like a mashup of two posts I just wrote. Lol. I wrote a discussion post called don’t judge me a couple weeks ago and I think on Saturday I’m posting a Why I Read YA post. Great minds think alike. :) I HATE when people judge me for reading YA because the people that do are really ignorant. They’ve never experienced the genre and like you said, they think that it’s all the same as Twilight and THG. Not that those two series aren’t good. I LOVE THG and I actually really enjoyed Twilight. BUT especially Twilight has gotten a lot of hate and that makes people think the whole genre is the same. Unfair bullshit. Basically I just explain to people that they shouldn’t judge something they haven’t tried and go along my merry way. :)

    • Judith says:

      Oh yay! I can’t read enough posts about this topic because I’m always fist-pumping and agreeing with everything, lol. I also enjoyed Twilight when I read it, and I hate that people judge other people because of that. Who are you to judge just because you only read adult books or classics, y’know?

  5. Natalie says:

    This post is the best, A+, rolling around it it kinds of awesome.

    I don’t really have anything to add. I just agree wholeheartedly and I wish that I could carry copies around with me all the time so that if anybody sneered at me for reading/writing YA…I could just staple this to their nose.

  6. Andi says:

    WORD WORD WORD! This is exactly what I need to tell people that judge me and give me that snotty look when I say what I’m reading and they ask, ‘is that a YA book?’. It is so hard to justify what I like to read and why I like to read it. If the book I describe to you doesn’t sound interesting don’t tell me it is because the main character is a teenager. Just say it doesn’t sound like you thing. And if it does sound interesting don’t ask in the main character is a teenager and then say no because you don’t read YA. Instead give it a chance before you judge it. It’s not that hard to do.

    So basically, thank you for this post! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Judith says:

      Thank YOU! I agree that it’s hard to point out exactly why I like YA books, but what I DON’T like is people being all condescending and refusing to read anything for and about teenagers because eh no.

  7. I don’t have a lot to add because your post pretty much summed it up for me, but I just wanted to throw my support in too! I don’t know, I mean, I know I’m 22 and older than the characters in the books, but I’m not as old as the characters in most adult books. They all talk about mortgages and having 2.5 children and failed marriages and affairs and I’m not at that point in my life. I don’t have those experiences, so I can’t relate to them. But first kisses? Insecurity? All the other YA topics? I have experienced those! I continue to experience those! So why wouldn’t I read books that speak to me, even if they aren’t aimed at people 17+?

    • Judith says:

      That’s SUCH an amazing point! I definitely agree that I’m more able to relate to teenagers than most adults, so I think it’s reasonable that I am more likely to enjoy YA novels. Being able to relate to characters is such an important thing to me, so YES to this!

  8. Yes yes yessss. I love everything about this post, especially the bit about how us YA readers are always justifying our reading tastes, but those who only read books by dead white men don’t have to explain themselves to anyone.

    I’d also like to add that judging YA as less-than is also judging teenagers as less-than. Teens are insightful, intelligent, and most importantly, WHOLE people. Their experiences should not be invalidated just because they are still growing. When I was a teen (and still today, because I’m still pretty young) I hated being condescended to. I could understand nuance and tough subjects and everything else people think is too complicated for people under 20.

    I also hate the judgy types that scoff at YA because of the romance within. First of all, what the fuck, are you suddenly no longer romantically inclined in your real life just because you passed 18? (This is not directed at aromantic or asexual people, just people in general who scoff at romance in YA.) I think romance and YA are both considered to be less in literary value in part because they are read mostly by women, but I think that might be a discussion for another time.

    Anywho, sorry for the long comment!

    • Judith says:

      I’m still laughing over your dead white men comment because ugh yes why is it even a thing that people think this is a good thing?! That’s a pretty weird sentence but oh well.

      You made an AMAZING point about people being condescending about teenagers, because eh, so true, and I’ve always HATED this. It’s not like teenagers don’t know what’s going on or they’re somehow less than REAL adult (because, y’know, at 21 I’m obviously a REAL adult). They’re not even “children” anymore, so this is not children’s lit either. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love MG as well.)

      And this is SO TRUE. I like books that have an amazing romance, but don’t you dare mention that in a group of English lit students, because they’re all like ew romance. (This is me overgeneralizing but still. It’s true for the most of my classmates.) It’s definitely that these people don’t like women writers, but also that they just think that these types of literature are somehow LESS than others. Well no, fuck off.

      Never apologize for long comments. :D

  9. I totally agree with you!! Sometimes when I tell my friends I read mainly YA, they will be like “what? those are not even serious books!”, which to tell the truth, makes me feel embarrassed about not be reading super classic literature or non-fictions or award-winning novels. But really, down to the core I read YA because I enjoy them the most. I connect with the characters the most. And they make me all emotional and whatnot, instead of fighting the urge of falling asleep every 5 minutes. I LOVE YA AND I’M PROUD OF IT! :D

    Angel @ Spare Reads

  10. First thing – Heart of Darkness is my least favorite book ever. I hated that book! I don’t hate classics at all. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice and I love Jane Eyre, too. But Heart of Darkess – yuck!

    Okay, I agree with everything you say. I read books for ALL ages. I loves picture books just as much as adult.

    I get so mad at people who judge what other people are reading. Each person is looking for something different from the books they read, and they take away different things. Everyone doesn’t have to like the same things. But they shoudl respect people for liking what they like.

  11. YES TO ALL OF THIS JUDITH.

    I also hate the general question of ‘why do you read?’ But people looking down on YA so much makes me angry. Who are you to judge what I can and can’t read? Just because YOU don’t like it, doesn’t mean I have to dislike it too.. I think the main attraction to these books is that I can identify myself with these characters. Yes, I might be slightly older, but I don’t have troubles connecting with them. So just because the character is younger, I can’t read about it? So what if the book is written from the POV of a dragon, can’t I read that either because I’m not a dragon? Sometimes I even imagine that the characters are my age, just because they act the way I would act in that situation.

    It’s time for arrogant people to get of their high horses. I read whatever I want, because I enjoy reading. I love it. It makes me happy. And it shouldn’t matter if I read picture books or Adult books. I read everything I can get my hands on as long as it sounds good to me. Being judgmental is a very poor personality trait.

  12. Leah says:

    Bravo, Judith! I have absolutely nothing else to add – you’ve summed up my thoughts completely and far more eloquently :)

    Like you, YA isn’t the only genre I read, but it seems like it’s the only one people see. No one ever asks “why do you read Sci-Fi?” or “why do you like Mystery?” At times I feel as though I have to prove that I read other books. Particularly when customers ask for book recommendations – I have to dance a pretty thin line.

    I suppose I’m in the minority in that, while my friends/co-workers & I are entering the part in our lives that Nikki mentioned (houses/mortgages/kids/bills), we all enjoy YA. We’re able to bounce recs and thoughts off one another and it’s great!

  13. Kimmy says:

    Yup yup yup…I totally agree. Great post!!

  14. Love this post!! I feel the same way. I used to feel super judged about reading YA as an Adult. And before I started blogging I didn’t realize how many of us there are, so I sort of did feel embarrassed about it. Now I’m totally loud and proud about it. No more covert trips to the YA section in Barnes and Nobel… now I’m there like giving recs to people. I really hate that people think YA isn’t as valid as Adult. My mom is sort of like that :( Don’t get me wrong, there are some really terrible YA books out there… and there are some that I read that do make me feel too mature to be reading… but there are some freaking fabulous, awesome, ageless books in YA. I feel bad for people who won’t give it a try!

  15. Cody Doll says:

    I totally agree with you. I love YA book because I love that they change. They are faced with something and there is a change in the end, whether good or bad. That’s why alot of adult books I don’t like because they are just some year in a life that doesn’t go anywhere but I have read that in YA too. See no judgement from me.
    Keep reading whatever you want!!

  16. acps927 says:

    I completely agree with and love this post! Also, I still try to read some classics too, but agree that Heart of Darkness is TERRIBLE.

  17. Jessica says:

    *FIST BUMP*

    The funny thing here is that I am a whole decade farther away from teens than you are and I still read YA. Ugh…that statement made me feel very old.

    Every point you make here is awesome and true. I love YA and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

  18. Alexa S. says:

    YOU GO, GIRL! I’m really loving this post about why you read YA. We definitely read for a lot of the same reasons! I think it’s just nice to be entertained by a book, but also to learn from it, to see yourself reflected in it and to experience different things. YA is a gateway to worlds where that can happen, at least to me.

  19. Curlyrise says:

    I just LOVE that post.
    I just read The Fault in our stars (yes, i’m a bit – a lot – late but better now than never) and exaclty thought about what you wrote about.
    You took the words right out of my mouth.
    Nothing more too add. You said it all. Perfect post.

    A french bookworm living in Germany, reading in English,

    Curly

  20. Meg says:

    I love love love this post. The number of times I have had this conversation kills me:

    “Oh, you like to read? Me too! What do you read?”
    “Mostly YA”
    “….oh. Really?” (The really is said with heavy disappointment).

    The generally dismissive attitude towards YA is awful. Like, yes, there is some terrible YA. But HELLO! There is terrible adult too! Why are people able to compartmentalize different types of adult books but then lump all YA together as Twilight/THG/John Green?

    Personally, I love YA because I feel like it has a greater emotional intensity. This isn’t to say adult books don’t, but I’ve noticed I’m more likely to get extreme feelings from YA than I am from adult, possibly because it deals with such an emotionally charged point in your life? Idk.

    Anyway, great post, so much truth here.

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