discussion post

Why ‘adults’ need YA just as much as ‘young adults’…

Hi guys! Happy Friday! Today I wanted to make a post about YA books, and why as an ‘adult’, I gain just as much from reading them as the ‘target audience’.

This was inspired by Casey’s amazing post over at Adoptabookaus about why ‘Reading has no age limit’. She excellently argued why we shouldn’t feel ashamed for reading YA just because we’re outside of the intended ‘age bracket’. Please go check it out right now! It’s made of awesome.

This topic has been on my mind for a while, as I’ve seen a number of snobby online articles over the past few months about why adults *shouldn’t* read YA.

The two in particular which riled me up (which just for reference’ sake, and not because I endorse them in any way, I am going to link to here) were:

The craze for adult colouring books shows how we’ve all become infants (The Telegraph)

Most YA fiction is grown-up fiction in disguise (The Guardian)

Both of these articles made me hopping mad, and I wanted to share my feelings on why these journalists are, in my opinion, all kinds of wrong.

The Telegraph article suggests adults should be reading ‘classics’ instead of enjoying children’s books, and ‘painting’ instead of collecting adult colouring books. It argues that adults are somehow dumbing themselves down by reading YA.

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First of all, reading doesn’t have to be about expanding your mind – people read for all kinds of reasons. Personally, I mainly read for enjoyment, and I’m far more likely to enjoy an exciting thriller, a swoonworthy romance, or a creepy horror than I am to enjoy War and Peace. Sometimes when I sit down after a hard day at work, I’m not really in it to improve myself, y’know?

BUT… sometimes I do want to learn. And that’s great because…

YA books CAN teach you things, and DO have educational value.

Holly Bourne’sAm I Normal Yet?’ taught me a great deal about what it’s like to suffer from OCD.

Neal Shusterman’s dystopian Unwind series prefaced every chapter with informative, real life news articles on everything from organ selling on the black market, to scientific developments in transplant surgery and 3D organ printing.

And Leslie Wilson’s Saving Rafael taught me far more about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust than I ever learnt at school.

I am an adult, and I am constantly learning new and fascinating things of *value* from YA books.

But how do we define value anyway? Does a book have to be a classic, educational, or philosophically profound to merit value?

Why can’t a book have value because it cheered me up after a crappy day? Why can’t a book have value because an author managed to make me blub like a baby using words from their mind? Why can’t a book have value because it got my heart beating like crazy with romantic feels? Why can’t a book have value simply because I ENJOYED IT?

I mean, being an adult isn’t easy… why should I feel ashamed of escaping into a fantastic book which makes it that little bit easier to cope with?

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Moving on to the Guardian article (btw, please do read Cait from Paper Fury’s response to this – which Casey highlighted in her post – because it’s bloody brilliant):

The Guardian article talks a lot about how YA books are becoming more popular with adults, and that because of this they are ‘catering less’ to their intended audience – teenagers. It also implies that there is something *wrong* with an adult reader for enjoying a YA book.

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It’s incredibly offensive to suggest that teenagers can’t handle a book with more ‘adult’ themes. Personally, I read a lot of adult books as a teenager, as YA wasn’t a massive thing back then. It’s really only taken off massively in the last few years. I had no trouble understanding and enjoying these books, because *surprise surprise* TEENAGERS ARE NOT STUPID.

It’s also incorrect to say that YA books are becoming more ‘for adults’ and less ‘for teenagers’. There are gazillions of fantastic teen bloggers in this community who devour these books, and love them as much as I do. I applaud YA authors for not PATRONISING their audience by dumbing down the books they write for them; for writing about the things which matter to teenagers. (Which, funnily enough, matter to adults too – we’re not THAT different.)

I believe there *is* still a clear difference between YA books and adult books, but not because YA books are somehow *less* than adult books, but actually because they are  often MORE.

And THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ADULTS ENJOYING THEM. It angers me so much that somebody would suggest there is something WRONG WITH ME for enjoying them. That it’s ‘weird’.

You know why I read YA books? Because I DON’T SEE MYSELF IN MANY ADULT BOOKS. And for me, I place more *value* on books I *do* see myself in.

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Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy my fair share of adult books. But, I never seem to relate to their protagonists as much as I do those of YA books.

In the Guardian article, the journalist generalises and trashes the YA ‘genre’ arguing:

“Much YA is a lazy, disheartening mush of false problems, fake solutions, idealised romance, second-rate fantasy, tired dystopias. Easy to read; easy to forget.”

Well, I am going to say something about adult books now which could be taken as me doing the same thing, so I’d like to clarify that I know this isn’t true of ALL adult books…. BUT:

Many of the adult books I have read are unrealistic and simply not relatable to me and my experiences!

Most of the ones I read are fairly formulaic, and I’ll admit my ‘grown up’ reading isn’t all that diverse. I mainly read:

A) novels about women inheriting old houses full of historical family secrets

B) thrillers about women whose husband’s turn out to be psychopaths

C) romantic fiction about women who waltz into publishing jobs unrealistically easily

I love these books, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t RELATE to them (even though many of the protagonists are my own age).

I do work in publishing, so you might say the third of these is relevant to me and my experiences. But it isn’t really. It provides an idealised picture of it. I read books like this for escapism, but I don’t connect with them as deeply as I do YA.

When I was a teenager, I read a lot of adult women’s fiction, and it gave me a very unrealistic view of what life as an adult would be like. I grew up thinking adulthood would mainly be about swanning around an office in a pencil skirt and fabulous heels, cappuccino in hand, confident I had it all figured out. I also, naively thought I would have ditched all the awkwardness of my teenage years.

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I still leave the house with toothpaste on my shirt, and my shoelaces undone. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m still scared about the future. (Perhaps even more so).

Btw, I’m not trying to scare anyone here. Adulthood isn’t all bad. We have wine. 🙂 And money to spend on books. 🙂

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My point is, teenage worries and fears are not dissimilar to my worries and fears as a 25 year old human.

Wrestling with your identity, friendship, being in love, dealing with grief, struggling with mental illness, being angry with the government, standing up for what you believe in… these are not just “teen” issues, they are my issues too.

Many YA books are described as ‘coming of age’, which is always traditionally regarded as a thang that teenagers do. But do we ever really stop ‘coming of age’? What is this mysterious ‘age’ we are supposed to ‘come’ to? I’m pretty sure ageing is a thing everyone, not just teenagers, does for… ooh… approx. 100% of their lives?

We don’t stop changing, struggling through crazy emotional ‘life stuff’, and learning when we hit the age of 18. I’m still doing all of those things, and adult books are doing me a disservice by not guiding me through a time I’m finding just as difficult as being a teenager.

Until I see myself in an adult book, I will continue to read YA books, thank you very much…

Because YA books are fantastic! They make me laugh, cry, fist-pump my feelings of ‘YASSS! THIS!!!!”, and most of all, they comfort me. They comfort me because they reassure me I’m NOT ALONE in not having it all figured out.

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Are you an adult reader of YA? Do you see yourself in adult books, or do you identify more with YA books like I do? And if you’re a teen blogger, do you feel that YA has stopped being for you – that it has become too adult? Or do you think that’s a load of old rubbish?

I’m really interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this!

Image credit: Giphy


95 thoughts on “Why ‘adults’ need YA just as much as ‘young adults’…”

  1. I definitely identify more with YA books, but I’ve kind of figured that may be because it wasn’t so long ago that I was a teen (I’m 23 right now). Honestly, I still feel like I’m about 16 years old sometimes so like you said, it’s really hard for me to relate to “adult” characters. Combined with this is that I got married really young (when I was 20) and most books about characters my age are about young single 20-somethings living life–I can’t relate to that. I can’t pinpoint why exactly, but YA books just have a lot more truth in them for me than in adult fiction that I’ve read.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 Yes I know exactly what you mean about still feeling 16 years old sometimes! The adult characters I read about never seem to have these moments of doubt and feeling like they can’t ‘adult’, so they always make me feel like I’m not doing adulthood right haha. You’re completely right – I can’t think of any books at all where characters in our age-group married young – so much women’s fiction seems to have about single people looking for a relationship. I’m in a long term relationship so find that hard to relate to too. And absolutely agree with you on YA books seeming to have more truth in them – for me, I think it’s that YA books are honest about how confusing and difficult life can be, but the adults books I’ve read aren’t!

  2. I love YA books and I’m well beyond the age range who supposedly they’re aimed for. Perhaps labelling books in this way can be detrimental. At the end of the day we want a book that entertains us, makes us reflect, smile, laugh, and cry. Lots of YA books do that beautifully. A wonderful case in point is I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson. Just finished this and it was awesome. 🙂

    1. I couldn’t agree more! Classifications can be very restrictive – especially as some people will dismiss a book purely because of the YA label, thinking it is less advanced or intelligent than an adult book. A good book is a good book, no matter the target audience, and it’s the qualities you mentioned which make a book good. The age of the protagonist is irrelevant. I adored I’ll Give You The Sun too – such a beautifully written book.

  3. I loved this post! I am a 40 year old adult whom LOVES YA fiction! I have read some adult titles but mostly stick to YA. I believe this is because the characters are young and they have their whole lives ahead of them and sometimes, I wish that I could go back and have a do over! It is nice to escape my reality and turn back the hands of time to a younger self to start over. Maybe I am living a big portion of my life in my fictitious world but I am perfectly happy there and no one will tell me otherwise! Again…great topic and I loved this post!!

    1. Thanks so much! 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you love YA too. I completely relate to what you said about the characters having their whole lives ahead of them – it’s definitely an appealing concept. I feel like my life started speeding up after I left university and I’ve lost that feeling of ‘I can do anything I want with my life’ I had when I was a teenager. Reading those books makes me feel more empowered that maybe I still can. And absolutely – fictitious worlds make me so happy too. It’s nice to be able to escape somewhere where you can forget responsibilities and stresses and real life for a while 🙂

  4. I have a few middle-grade fiction over the past year and loved them. Now, I am in the mood to read/re-read children’s fairy tales.
    I don’t get it when critics judge what people should or should not be reading based on their age . And then, they bring in other issues into the debate . Why mix different things? If you have something to say about books in a particular genre, then fine. You can discuss about them, give examples etc. But why throw in people’s reading preferences and choices into the debate?

    1. Absolutely agree! Placing age categories on books means pushing out potential readers who may really love a book but are made to feel they’re too old for it, or too young for it. It’s such a shame. We should be able to read whatever we want without being judged! And what you said about bringing other issues into the debate is so true. Both of these articles actually gave very few examples and made very sweeping statements about YA books without even backing them up. The whole point seemed to be to attack the readers, without giving any real credible criticism of the actual books! Which is just plain wrong.

  5. It makes me so happy to read this and as you probably can guess I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING! I find it so offensive when people put down teens as “not mature” or “won’t be interested in serious issues” BULLCRAP, teens have minds, teens make a difference and big shocker but they can understand complex language and like it! I have a big problem with book to movie adaptations because of this reason as well, I feel like when a YA book is made into a movie they dumb down the strong female MC and make the great love story into another cliche insta love with the boy with abs, if teens loved the book and the reason why they loved it was the strong characters why would you change that? (I mainly talking about the 5th wave I hated what they did to Cassie’s character)
    Just reading that line that there’s something “wrong” with me because I read YA makes me angry and then kind of justified because if reading YA is “wrong” then I’ll take that and own it. While all the “adults” that agree with this statement(hopefully there are not many) are off reading to “enhance their minds” and not enjoying it I’ll be here with all my blogging YA loving “wrong” adults reading, laughing, crying, and fangirling over amazing books that they’ll never get to experience with there closed minded crap. Awesome post and again thank you for your response to these articles it was so good to read. xx

    (also wow this comment was bigger than I was expecting it would be XD)

    1. Thanks so much for commenting (and for inspiring me to write the post in the first place!) 🙂 Absolutely agree – it makes me so angry when articles like this imply that there is such a massive jump between the intelligence of a teenager and the intelligence of an adult. I read adult books and classics when I was a teenager and enjoyed them! I don’t understand how a YA book can be considered too ‘adult’ when so many teens actively seek out and read adult books anyway! And to imply that adults are dumbing themselves down by reading YA is not only insulting to those readers, but to teenagers too, because it suggests they are soooo much less intelligent. Which as you said is a load of BULLCRAP.
      And ABSOLUTELY with the YA movies thing, ughhh it irritates me so much. It’s like, ‘let’s replace this girl’s personality with a pair of googly eyes, because her whole character is now going to be based on this boy she fancies’. UGH. I haven’t watched The 5th Wave (though I loved the book) but think I may avoid if that’s what they’ve done to Cassie! I will just get too angry haha.
      And I will totally join you in the ‘wrong’ category hahaha. If enjoying books is wrong, then I would hate to be right. And what you said about trying to enhance your mind and not enjoying it is so on point! I have read so many books in the past because I thought they were what I ‘should’ be reading, but while I was suffering through books I was only reading to seem more intelligent, I could have been reading some awesome YA fantasy and fangirling over here instead! 🙂 xxx

  6. This post is…wonderful. Simply wonderful. A few weeks ago I was teetering back and forth in the YA section at the bookstore and I thought “please, don’t let anyone judge me”. I then instantly felt stupid because some of the best books I’ve read have been YA. I love a great deal of adult novels as well, but you nailed it on the head that not all books are meant to learn something from. Sometimes I just want to dull the noise in my brain and read something that will make me smile (or maybe that’s the wine making me smile? Just kidding). Thanks for your post. It’s great that many people share the same views and not everyone thinks YA are meant for just teenagers.

    1. Thank you so much!! 🙂 Yes I’ve had a similar feeling when browsing the YA section of the bookshop! Which as you said is silly – we shouldn’t feel embarrassed about reading books that we love. What I try to tell myself is that nobody else browsing that section of the bookshop is going to judge me, because they love those books as much as I do. Fellow YA readers are the least judgemental people of all 🙂 And completely agree – sometimes you just want a book that’s fun, that you can escape into, and forget all of your daily stresses and worries. I’m so tired when I’ve had a stressful day, the last thing I feel like doing is curling up with a massive, complex tome. Ohh and totally not just you with the wine – the wine definitely helps haha 🙂 And yes, I’ve been so encouraged by all these comments from people who feel the same way – I’m glad there are so many of us out there, and that not everyone agrees with these articles and their narrow views! Xx

    1. Thanks so much! 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve always identified more with YA. I never really read YA as a teenager, and whilst I enjoyed books, I never had such a deep connection with books until I discovered YA and realised that YA books were filled with characters who understood what was going on in my head. I’m glad you still love YA – we should always carry on reading the books we love 🙂

  7. I like your points and you make a good defence of the genre, although I think I got something different out of that Guardian piece than you. To me it seemed to suggest that the adult focus on YA has taken over and pushed teenagers out of it, which is an issue because teenagers don’t read as much as other age groups. And I think the most prominent voices in YA are typically adults, but I will admit that I don’t follow fiction publishing news or trends particularly closely so feel free to correct me if not! Although you know I will always argue that adult books do a good job of tackling issues too 😉 If you want to read an excellent piece about the holocaust I recommend Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is A Man’ btw.

    I like your point about coming of age novels – it’s a funny one. The bildungsroman (exactly the same thing) has been a staple genre of books since the novel was invented, but it sounds much more ‘adult’ than calling it a coming-of-age piece no? It sounds more dismissive I think.

    1. Thanks Kat 🙂 Completely agree – bildungsroman sounds a lot less dismissive, and I hadn’t thought of that as being the same thing as coming of age but you’re completely right. Thanks for the book recommendation – will definitely check that one out when I’m feeling a bit less down as I’m really interested to read more novels covering this period of history. I’m sure that many adult books do tackle issues well – I definitely admit that my reading of adult books isn’t all that diverse, and perhaps I gravitate towards the less ‘issue based’ ones so haven’t come across all that many. I think I play it quite safe in my choices of adult books, so perhaps I need to broaden my horizons a bit 🙂 And about The Guardian article – whilst it did make those points the article also suggested that the content of these books was not what teenagers want to read. I can’t speak for all teenagers, of course, but within the book blogging community there are a lot of teenage readers who are avid fans of these books, and who say these books encouraged them to read. If a teenager is a ‘reader’, they will read all kinds of books (children’s, YA, adult), and I felt that the article was trying to make the books themselves (and adults who read them) the problem, when in reality, teenagers who are less inclined to read avoid books for all kinds of reasons. I stopped reading much for a huge chunk of my teenage years due to schoolwork, issues, spending more time with friends, and while I enjoyed books whenever I read them, they weren’t my priority. I didn’t really touch on this in my post, but the other post I linked to (Paper Fury) discusses this really well.

  8. I agree with every single thing you said in this! I do love reading a good ol’ rant 😆 When I was younger, I used to read adult books, and had the same outlook as you – that adult life would be swanning around an office in a pencil skirt all figured out. I’m 18 now, so I do fall into the YA category, and I get so so defensive when people look down on the genre. Firstly, because it’s not just one genre, there’s a million other genres inside YA, so to categorise EVERYTHING as fake and unrealistic is just ridiculous. Also, these books are nearly always only classed as YA because the main character is a young adult. That’s it. So how can the character’s age make an entire story less valued? I mean, Room by Emma Donoghue is written from the perspective of a 5 year old…does that mean it’s childish? No, that book get all the praise because it covers difficult topics. So why…why oh why is YA looked down on? Surely any reading at all is a good thing!

    1. Thanks Ashleigh! 🙂 Haha yes, it felt very cathartic to have this rant!! I feel I should do more ranting, I enjoyed it a lot! I’m glad I’m not the only one who got this unrealistic picture of adulthood from reading these books! What you said about YA not being a genre is so on point – it makes me so angry when articles like these make sweeping statements about ‘YA’ as if all YA books were the same thing. There’s so much genre diversity within that category, and I sometimes feel that people who don’t read YA think all YA is set in a dystopian society where a girl is trying to choose between two love interests. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either – those books can be fun to read, AND give interesting insights into politics! And what you said about Room – I hadn’t even thought of that but you’re completely right. What is it about that book that makes it an adult book? At the end of the day, there are good books and bad books (which is subjective anyway) in every category and every genre, and it really doesn’t matter what kind of book it is so long as somebody gains something from it (whether that be learning something, or simply enjoyment!) As you said, the fact that people are reading, rather than what they’re reading, is what matters 🙂

  9. THIS IS ALL KINDS OF AWESOME! Honestly Jess, I absolutely love this post – you had me nodding my head and laughing the whole way through. I read both of those articles recently (I don’t ever take much notice of what The Telegraph says because, y’know, The Telegraph) and I couldn’t get my head around what point the journalists were trying to make.

    This basically sums up exactly why I love to read YA, and why I’m not ashamed to admit to people that YA is my go to: “I mean, being an adult isn’t easy… why should I feel ashamed of escaping into a fantastic book which makes it that little bit easier to cope with?” ABSO-BLOODY-LUTLELY. Being an adult is damn hard and at the end of a day at work, or worrying about money/pensions/just generally trying to be a functioning human being, the last thing I want to do is to try coax my brain into absorbing Jane Eyre for the purposes of growth or self improvement or whatever.

    I’m not saying that these books shouldn’t be read, and enjoyed, but shouldn’t the main point be that every single person who picks up a book (no matter what it is) is a GREAT thing?!

    May have over used caps in my excitement but this is just great. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Sammie! And no need to apologise for over use of caps – SOMETIMES IT’S NECESSARY 🙂 So true about The Telegraph – I never usually give them the time of day, but when they knock Harry Potter, the claws come out haha. I also couldn’t understand what point they were trying to make – especially considering they neither gave many example to back up what they were saying. Particularly the sweeping statements in The Guardian article – ‘much YA is…’ – if you’re going to say something like that, you need to give evidence, because otherwise your words have no credibility whatsoever. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way about YA and reading – reading is a way of ESCAPING from the mundane and difficult realities of life, and a way of dealing with those difficulties in a safe setting.
      I absolutely agree that my brain has no ability whatsoever to process books like Jane Eyre after a stressful day at work. And if I was to only choose books to ‘improve my mind’, the likelihood is that I would stop reading altogether. Reading should be foremost enjoyable – everything else should be secondary. Because even if we are reading a classic, or an educational book, if we’re not enjoying it, we won’t gain those things from it anyway.
      And completely agree with you – it doesn’t matter what we read, as long as we are reading! And any kind of book which gets somebody WANTING to read is a good thing 🙂

  10. I’m an adult reader of YA, but most all, I enjoy middle grade. Why? Because it’s fun. I read for fun, I don’t really read to find answers to life. I can just live and learn for that. I don’t have trouble identifying with characters of any genre because it’s fiction and I’m pretty good at using my imagination. My favorite thing about reading is putting myself in the character’s shoes. Doesn’t matter if they’re children, teens, adults, animals, aliens, etc. And in the end, I always learn something, even if I wasn’t looking for it. That’s what good books do, regardless of the genre.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂 Completely agree that reading should be first and foremost fun. Whatever category that falls into is irrelevant – if we enjoy a book then that book has value. I like what you said about reading to put on someone else’s shoes – I also enjoy doing that, and I certainly enjoy reading about characters who are different from myself, but I think I connect more deeply with characters when I recognise their thoughts or feelings and think ‘I understand that, I’ve felt that way before,’ etc. It doesn’t even have to be something deep and meaningful – just something little which I can look at and think ‘YES! THAT!’ I completely agree with you on learning things – every book has something to offer, regardless of what agegroup is intended for, or genre it’s written in.

  11. ugh I hate articles like that too- because you’re right- they are just plain *wrong*! I 100% agree- books are not just about teaching you things but you can learn things from YA! I also don’t find a lot of adult books relatable- so I don’t read them. Personally I’ve always felt that YA books have a lot more imagination- and that’s what I’m looking for in a book. One thing to add- personally I think that those poncy articles at the start are actually missing the point of literature if they think it’s all about learning things- art is not about learning things (though that can be a nice bonus to it)- it’s about *feeling* things. Art is supposed to rouse emotion in you and make you feel alive- it’s not simply a mental exercise. So if YA or Sci fi or even erotica does it for you- then that’s brilliant! (All that said- I’m currently reading war and peace and enjoying it! 😉 )

    1. Yesss I 100% agree with you – feeling something is far more important than learning something – and of course, feeling something is a kind of learning, because it strengthens our emotional intelligence and our ability to empathise with others. Sometimes when a book moves me, I end up learning something about myself, and that’s no less valuable than learning something factual. I’m glad I’m not the only adult who doesn’t find adult books relatable – I really wish I did, but I’m yet to find an adult book which really captures what it feels like to go through this period of leaving university and trying to figure out who you are now you’re ‘on your own in the big wide world’ so to speak! What you said about YA books being more imaginative is so true – I feel like YA authors are so much less afraid to blend genres, whereas adult books are divided by genre in the bookshop, and I almost know exactly what to expect from each. And you’re completely right – at the end of the day, we should read whatever the hell we like, as long as it’s doing it for us haha! That’s awesome that you’re reading War and Peace – I read Anna Karenina last year and I really struggled with it, so I decided Tolstoy wasn’t for me, but I’m really glad you’re enjoying it! 🙂

      1. Yes exactly! I learn so much from art that I couldn’t learn anywhere else! Yeah exactly- I feel like YA tends to be so much more inventive as well and the ideas are a lot bolder. Precisely!! Ahh I’ve read Anna Karenina and personally I think War and Peace is better! 🙂 Partly cos I didn’t like the first and last parts

      2. Ahh, I didn’t mind the beginning too much – for me, it was all the chapters focusing on Levin – I found all the stuff about agriculture really dull and a struggle to get through haha. I liked Anna as a character, but I ended up getting really frustrated with Vronsky so after a while I also got really annoyed whenever he was in a scene! Maybe I will give War and Peace a go one day, if it’s better, as there were still parts of Anna Karenina I did enjoy 🙂

  12. Articles like this remind me of the time when people around me told me that I needed to stop reading what I enjoyed and read something else. I was too old for Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I was too old for Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce. I needed to grow up and read classics and “adult appropriate” fiction. This caused me to basically stop reading. I picked up the occasional book, but I didn’t read like I do now. I was too ashamed. Now I say screw that! I’ll read what I want and I’ll shout it from the freaking roof tops! I am not ashamed to say that I often find YA Fantasy to be better written and more interesting than it’s Adult counterpart. I have also found that it is easier to find a strong female protagonist in YA. That’s not to say I don’t have adult series that I love. Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate and Butcher’s Dresden Files are everything to me. But so its Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t think it matters if a book is arbitrarily meant for a teenager, if I enjoy it then I enjoy it. That’s not hurting anyone.

    It’s time to stop bullying people (which is what these articles are doing) and celebrate reading. No matter what you are reading.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that – I hate it when people shame others for reading what they want to read/what they enjoy! It makes me so sad that this caused you to stop reading 😦 But I’m so glad that you started again! You’re absolutely right – we should read whatever we want, and have no shame! Enjoying a book is nothing to be ashamed of, and if people have a problem with adults reading YA, they are the one with the problem, for getting so fixated on and preachy over something which really doesn’t affect them at all. As you said, we’re not hurting anyone by enjoying a YA book, and people who dismiss it are missing out on some fantastically written books, with strong characters. Which is a real shame. By the way, I also absolutely adore Throne of Glass and Daughter of Smoke and Bone – fantastic books!

  13. I agree with everything you said – just because a book has a target audience, that doesn’t mean people should be restricted from reading it!
    I especially loved what you said about “coming of age” – I’ve never really thought of it like that, and I’m glad someone finally said it! I wonder when we will all magically come of age…
    Great post!

    1. Thank you so much! Exactly – it’s such a shame when people miss out on a great book just because of the way it’s labelled. And those categories are just a marketing tool at the end of the day, not a rule. I understand why they exist, but they can also be very restrictive. And thank you – haha, personally I don’t think I will ever ‘come of age’, ‘growing up’ is overrated 🙂

  14. Great post! I am about twice the age of most YA characters I read about, but I still read a TON of them. Occasionally I come across one where I think, “Ok, I’m too old for this”, but I absolutely love and relate to the majority of the ones I read.

    1. Thank you so much! Me too – at the end of the day, a good book is a good book, regardless of the age of the character! I’ve been quite lucky that I haven’t found any books yet where I’ve felt too old to be reading it, although I suppose there have been a couple of books where I’ve felt the protagonist seemed younger than they were supposed to be, which in turn made me feel older. On the whole though, I don’t think I’ve changed all that much since I was a teenager, so I usually find something in each of these books that I relate to 🙂 I’m glad to hear that you love and relate to YA books as much as I do.

  15. I really love your point on the ‘value’ of books.👍

    I read books because something about it interests me. It’s either:

    1. That cover! 😍 (sorry not sorry✌)
    2. The blurb is intriguing!
    3. Hyped up.
    4. Recommended.
    5. Looks fun.😁

    I honestly don’t care what genre they’re in. Whether they’re YA, NA, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Romance, Dystopian, Sci-fi and all the other genres out there, I would still read them.😸 After all these years of reading, I managed to broaden my horizon in terms of choosing books to read.

    There’s nothing wrong with YA. I’m 26 and I still read YA and enjoy them. I even read middle grade books and still enjoy them (Percy Jackson)🙋

    So let’s just read what we want to read.😘

    1. Thank you so much! Absolutely agree – we should read what we want to read, otherwise what’s the point? Enjoyment should come first, and no matter what genre or age category, if something looks like a book we might enjoy, we shouldn’t let anyone put us off reading it. Like you, I’m also trying to broaden my horizons, and I’m trying to give all different genres a chance. Before last year, I’d barely read any fantasy books, and now I’m obsessed. Classifications are so limiting sometimes, because if we get it in our heads that a book is too young for us or that we don’t like a certain genre, we could be missing out on some really great books. The way you choose which books to read is exactly as it should be 🙂 And I’m really glad you love Percy Jackson – I’ve got the first one waiting to be read and I’m really excited!!

  16. Beautiful post! If you don’t think you got your mojo back, here is your sign!!! I think everyone should read whatever the hell they want to read! The reading experience is different for each individual. Some people read to educate themselves, some for entertainment, some to escape, some to travel the world, some to understand others better, and some just to relax and veg out. It really doesn’t matter what you read or your reasons for reading, but that you are actually reading. People are always going to “hate” on each other for stupid reasons, this is one of them.

    1. Thank you so much!! 🙂 I couldn’t agree more – reading is such a personal thing, and people read for all kinds of different reasons – it really isn’t anyone else’s business because it doesn’t affect them in the slightest what book floats your boat. You’re the one reading it, not them! And absolutely – reading is the important thing, not what we’re reading. And if we’re made to feel that what we’re reading is somehow wrong, that might discourage us from reading altogether. Which is just plain sad. Let’s just let the haters hate, and carry on enjoying the books we love 😀

  17. Amen to all the above! Also loved your point “C) romantic fiction about women who waltz into publishing jobs unrealistically easily” It made me laugh out loud! I experience this all the time too and wonder “must be nice” – then I realize that I like seeing these fictional people succeed, which in turn gives me hope. All in all, reading is good for the soul! Great blog post! 😀

    1. Thank you so much! Haha, that’s very true actually – it does give me hope sometimes too. When I was younger it definitely gave me the feeling of ‘yess! I can do ANYTHING!’ Reading really is good for the soul 🙂 That’s why I hate articles that shame people for reading a certain type of book. Surely the fact that people are reading at all is the most important thing!

  18. This is fantastic.
    I’m an adult. I own a small business, have an apartment, pay bills, and get my car’s oil changed. And I read YA and adult fiction. Hell, I read middle grade and picture books too. Whether or not a book is good doesn’t depend on which age range it’s supposed to be for. I’ve read terrible adult books and terrible kids books, and great ones as well. It’s just about what you enjoy and what sort of things capture your interest.

    I think this comes down to an us vs. them thing. If you don’t like something, you also don’t like the people who like that thing and vice versa. Human beings like their groups.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂 I couldn’t agree more – there are good and bad books in every genre and category, and dismissing an entire genre with a sweeping statement is just ridiculous to me. Reading is such a personal thing, and even within a genre, what one person likes or dislikes may be the total opposite of how someone else feels about those books. Like you said, it’s all about what interests you personally. It’s such a shame that people feel the need to lump all readers of a certain genre, or all books within that genre, into one group. I definitely like being part of the YA group, but I wish that we could all just respect each other’s groups and get along haha.

  19. I love this post! I’m barely an adult (20), and I definitely relate more to YA books. Have I read adult books that I can relate to? Sure. But there’s something about YA books that really captures the nature of human existence. They focus on a time in life in which you’re very obviously figuring out who you are. What I’ve realized recently is that nobody ever truly figures out “who they are.” It’s a dynamic process that is life-long, so the internal struggles that are captured in YA are usually relatable throughout life. Reading about characters having these struggles can be incredibly comforting – a feeling that mainly YA books seem to be able to give me.

    1. Thank you so much! Completely agree with you – figuring out who we are is something we do for the whole of our lives, and I wish more books reflected this. It’s the reason I find YA so relatable – because I still have all of these questions and fears and I’m still on that journey – it’s not something which ends as soon as we become an ‘adult’. And it really is comforting to read about characters who feel the same way. I feel like these books are ‘guiding me through it’, if that makes sense 🙂 I you have any recommendations for adult books that are relatable and have the same comfort factor as these types of YA books then please do let me know 🙂 I’d love to find an adult protagonist I relate to in this way.

      1. Hmm I think maybe the closest I’ve ever come to an adult book giving me that feeling is Vicious by V.E. Schwab. If I’m remembering correctly, there was a lot of character development/analysis happening throughout the book, but if you read the summary, it probably wouldn’t seem like the type of book that would give you that feeling haha.

      2. Oooh thank you – I’ve heard amazing things about Vicious, I definitely want to pick it up at some point 🙂 I’ve got V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic on my kindle at the moment, and I keep meaning to start reading her books but haven’t got round to it yet!

      3. Just remembered another – The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks. That one definitely discusses the whole growing up throughout life thing!

      4. Ooh awesome, thanks for the recommendation – I’ve just checked this one out on Goodreads and it looks really interesting! 🙂 Thanks so much!

  20. Hear hear! I don’t think you should put a label onto anyone. When I’m (really) old and (really) gray, I am absolutely certain that I will still love to read YA and Children’s books 😊. Awesome post!!

    1. Thank you!! 🙂 Completely agree – labels are so restrictive, and lead to people missing out on great books just because they feel something has been marked as ‘not for them’. It’s the same with gendered marketing of books – I think it’s so sad that boys are pushed out from reading certain types of books because they are packaged and pushed as being ‘girly’ and vice versa. I’m 100% with you – when we’re old and grey, let’s wear our YA Book Club badges with pride 😀

      1. Definitely! The gender thing is ridiculous.Yes, the majority of book bloggers who are fangirling (another term you can’t use as a boy) about YA are also women, but is that because it really is girly or because it scares away the boys, thinking it’s too gay or something for them to share their enthusiasm about it. I’m already old and semi grey :’) *shows off badge* xD

      2. It really is! I think you’re right about the majority of book bloggers being girls – I’ve seen some great male book bloggers around, but the majority seem to be women. I think you could be right about how enthusiasm is perceived – I guess it’s seen as a girly thing to ‘fangirl’ but enthusiasm shouldn’t be gendered – that’s so sad 😦 I also think it has a lot to do with how the books are marketed and the covers. If a cover looks ‘girly’ it puts off a lot of boys, and vice versa if a cover looks really ‘masculine’ It’s a shame because stories are for everyone. 🙂

      3. Stories are for everyone! 🙂 Maybe they should make more blue/greenish covers. I really like those and it’s definitely less girly 🙂

  21. This is a FANTASTIC POST, and I think I am in love. I don’t know if I still fall in the “YA category” since I’m 22 but I love these books because they make me FEEL everything. They are SO, so true, unafraid, and REAL. They make me travel, dream, BELIEVE. And I love it. 🙂

    1. Aww thank you Marie! 🙂 YES to everything you just said!! That’s exactly how I feel – YA books just seem to have that special ability to make me FEEL all the things! I sadly haven’t found many adult books which make me feel the same way 😦 I think it’s especially true of contemporary books – romance in YA is so much more intense, and I feel like adult books forget that falling in love as an adult is just as intense and feels just the same way as falling in love during your teens. Love doesn’t become less exciting the older you get!

  22. I read a ton of YA books. My husband and I were talking about this earlier today. YA books are not the children’s books I gee up with. My he teenagers of yesteryear read The Black Stallion, National Velvet and/or Dear God, It’s me Margaret. I’m sure there are books similar to those being written today, but the lessons in these books are told in a different more adult manner. Part of that may be because the kids of today are more adult so books geared towards them have more adult topics. I like them, and I read mostly fantasy YA, because they are good stories that don’t involve a ton of sex. Adult book authors could learn something from heir YA counterparts.

    1. Completely agree – the ‘YA’ books I grew up with felt a lot ‘younger’ than those today, and whilst I enjoyed them, I always wanted to read adult books as a teenager, because I felt more grown up reading them and wanted to explore those adult themes. I think it’s great that today’s YA authors are giving younger readers the opportunity to explore these topics, and doing so in such an entertaining way. I also really love YA fantasy – it’s a shame that some may miss out on these amazing books just because they feel the YA classification makes the books too ‘young’ for them. A good story has no age limit 🙂

  23. I’m 20, and I mostly read YA. From the ages of 13-16/17 I read adult romance and supernatural romance. Then I got out of reading for about a year and a half, because so many stories were so similar. When I got back into reading it was because of YA and fantasy books. They’re what I read most, along with random nonfiction. I hate the idea that YA is somehow ‘dumbed down’. The only real reason why YA is considered YA is the ages of the protagonists. And their stories are just a varied and true as the real teenagers who do read them.

    1. Thanks for commenting! 🙂 I definitely had similar reading habits to you during my teenage years. The only real ‘YA’ I read was paranormal romance, and the majority of books I read were adult romance books (as in women’s fiction, not erotica haha). YA also got me back into reading. While I was at uni, I barely read books for pleasure, as I was studying literature and had so much reading. After I finished uni I read The Hunger Games series and it really got me back into reading. I agree that YA can be enjoyed by anyone – a good story is a good story 🙂 I hate when articles like this suggest that YA is inferior/a dumbed down version of adult ficiton – it’s pretty insulting to those who are the intended age group, for a start. And as you said, real teenagers are complex people, and they absolutely need books like this – they don’t need books to talk down to them, and be made less ‘adult’ because that would be treating them like children.

  24. THIS POST! OMG I was living with my great aunt for a couple of months and I almost always ended up buying fantasy and YA and they would laugh it off but they probably thought I was juvenile for buying ‘teenage books’ when in fact, they are so much more than that. I love YA books and NA books because the characters are real, so much more and what sucks is that the adults don’t realize that. My own mom jumped at the idea of adult coloring books so I bought her one and she loves it. It’s helped her be more mindful and she just enjoys it so thoroughly. If, for one moment, these adults got off their high horses and truly and honestly picked up a YA book, to read and not to criticize, maybe they’ll finally see why age is no bar when it comes to people of all ages reading YA.

    1. Absolutely agree – there is so much more to YA books than their classification, and it’s such a shame that the classification bars certain people who may LOVE them from discovering them. I feel the same way about the characters – for me they are so real and I relate to their experiences so much for than I do adult protagonists. I guess I still feel like a teenager in some respects because I moved back home after university, so for me the only thing that makes me feel like an adult is having a full time job. I’m still the same person I was as a teenager in a lot of ways. And I love adult colouring books too – they are great for mindfulness, and I think that’s very important, because life is stressful, and we absolutely need to do things for enjoyment and relaxation. I LOVE what you said about critics getting off their high horse and actually picking up a YA book – I got the impression from these articles that neither journalist had bothered to actually read a YA book, because neither gave examples to back up their points!!

      1. The arguments they give are baseless and more often than not based on film & television adaptations of those books. Unfortunately, YA has suffered in that department but the books are still great. And the best part is, in the past 8 – 10 months, there is a HUGE burst of diversity in YA, more so than adult books AND IT IS FREAKING AMAZING. It helps adults understand their children, grandparents understand grandchildren, bridge gaps, strengthen relationships. Classifying YA as ‘children’s books’ is the worst thing to say considering, like you said in your post, they’re more mature & accommodating & exciting than adult books

      2. So true – so many YA film adaptations miss out on important themes within the books, especially by overplaying the romance, because they think they are making the story more commercial. When actually – the way the story was written was perfect in the first place, and didn’t need those changes to make it appealing. And absolutely agree with you on diversity – I think YA authors have answered the call for diversity so well, and I love the fact that YA books help me walk in so many different shoes. I love what you said about bridging gaps – that’s exactly why we need diverse books. And it has really highlighted for me that there is now an even greater need for diversity in adult books – they really have some catching up to do, because YA books are outshining them by far!

  25. This article was amazing! I am 20 years old which means that technically I am not a teenager anymore. I will start my Master’s Degree in September, but I don’t feel ready to be an “adult”. I do read adult fiction, but I do not relate to it at all – though I really enjoy it, my favourite book, One Day, is an adult fiction. But I cannot really relate to characters in adult fiction. However, I usually can in YA books, even though the character are often younger than me. Just because they’re 16 (or whatever other age) and I’m 20 doesn’t mean I can relate, on the contrary. Either I can relate because I have been there only a little time ago, or just because I often feel the same right now. There is no age to read YA! I think one of the main characteristics of YA is the fact that the characters are teenagers, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t read it!

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 I relate completely to what you said about not being ready to be an adult – I feel this way too, and I find YA books extremely comforting because of this. I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to relate to adult books. Ooh I love ‘One Day’ too – in fact, that is one example of an adult book which does have characters I can relate to, probably because they both lose their way a bit (well, in Dexter’s way a LOT) after leaving university. That book does a great job of showing how confusing that period of change after leaving university really is for some people. And I agree – in your 20s, your teens aren’t so very far behind you, and you haven’t changed all that much. I think that’s why I relate to YA protagonists so much – I don’t feel there is such a huge gap between them and me.

      1. Exactly! I feel like as long as I’m a student I will always relate to YA books. (And glad to see I’m not the only one to feel like this about One Day!!)

  26. I completely agree with you. Ditto to everything that you said. I have been trying to question myself in the past year that why I’m still reading YA and shouldn’t I be reading more of Adult Fiction?! But you cleared up everything for me. I’m 24 right now and I still relate to young adult books. And omg even I read more of adult fiction when I was a teenager. Nowadays there is so much in the YA genre. And YA books are becoming more realistic with each passing year. There are adult books with dysfunctional families and weird marriages but since I’m not going through these things in life I am not able to relate that well. I just want to ask you one thing, may I please repost your article on my blog?

    1. I’m so glad you feel the same way! I had the same experience – I got to the stage where I was reading exclusively YA and I found myself wondering whether it was weird, or whether I ‘should’ be reading more adult books and classics. But then I realised that it doesn’t matter WHAT I read, just that I’m reading. And why shouldn’t we read books we enjoy and love? I agree that YA books are so much more realistic these days – I wish that these kinds of books had been more available when I was a teenager. Haha you hit the nail on the head with ‘dysfunctional families and weird marriages’ – that’s so true. I find a lot of adult books very formulaic and samey these days, and don’t feel it has progressed or diversified over the past decade, whereas YA is full of imagination and becoming more and more diverse these days. And yes, please do feel free to reblog this 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting!

  27. This is fantastic! Thank you for putting together such a cohesive and ACCURATE defense of YA books. I especially like your points that 1) Why is reading for entertainment bad? and 2) Teen fears/struggles are not inherently different from adult fears/struggles.

    I mostly read classics and adults novels when I was a teenager, and it was only once I left my parents’ house and become an adult that I fell in love with YA books. There’s no “proper” time to read a story.

    1. Thanks so much Tricia 🙂 I had pretty much the same reading habits as you during my teens – I discovered YA after leaving university, and it got me back into reading for pleasure after 3 years of only reading books for my English degree, which I think is a really important thing. Entertainment and enjoyment is crucial –but this year I made a pact with myself that I would only pick up books I was drawn to, and not read anything just for the sake of saying I’d read it. But absolutely agree that there is no proper time to read a story – a good story is a good story, no matter who it’s marketed at, and it’s such a shame that some don’t see that and dismiss a great book simply because the protagonist is a teenager.

      1. Yes! I think this weird “hard things are better than fun things” applies to all sorts of pop culture – why are pop music or superhero movies broadly considered lower forms of art? (And why do I sometimes care about that?)

      2. Absolutely! I’ve been told so many times that boybands don’t make ‘proper’ or ‘real’ music, and that ‘chick flicks’ aren’t good films and I should be watching something better. But I think what is ‘good’ is so subjective – and I believe the things that I like are ‘good’ because I like them – they are ‘good’ to me 🙂

      3. I agree! Let’s start a campaign that states “good” just means it makes me feel good, so please stop talking down to me.

  28. It is so great that you wrote this post. I completely agree with you, as soon as I read the title of the post I knew I would agree. You made so many great points. I definately relate to YA books more than adult books. In fact, I don’t really try to read many adults books anymore because I find most of them boring. I love how YA books make me feel alive. I can get lost in their world, I can relate to them, they can give me the major feels, just like you said! They are just more interesting to me and I enjoy them more, and that’s why I read! I read because I enjoy it and it makes me feel good about myself. So I am going to read what does that for me, which is YA books. 🙂 Shame on those who expect people to stay within their “age limit”!

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have the same issue with adult books – I find a lot of them boring. The only ones I seem to find exciting are genre specific things like horror or fantasy. I think a lot of adult books are lacking what you mentioned YA does for you – adult books don’t make me feel alive. They actually make me feel a little bit lost to be honest, like I’m not a proper adult and I’m not doing adulthood right. YA books speak to my feelings a lot more! And absolutely agree with you that enjoying a book is the most important thing – there is not point reading books we don’t enjoy just for the sake of it, or because we feel we should. If YA is what we enjoy, it’s important we read it, or we wouldn’t bother to read at all. Age limits are all kinds of stupid 🙂

  29. YES PREACH IT. I was nodding along the entire time as I was reading this. I’m now 19 so I’m still sort of part of the ‘target audience’, but these people make it sound like once I turn 20 I should throw out all my YA books and replace them with adult ones and classics and stuff. Um yeah no I’m going to read whatever I want. Adult books usually don’t appeal me, and while there are quite a few classics that I do want to read, I’m not obligated to.

    1. So glad you agree! 😀 Absolutely – 19 to 20 isn’t so big a leap that all of your tastes completely change the minute you stop being a teenager! And we should absolutely read whatever we want – reading should be about enjoyment first and foremost! I have the same issue with adult books – I very rarely find them as appealing as YA, and if it’s a choice between I will nearly always go for YA. There are obviously some adult books I enjoy, but so many simply don’t hold my interest. I hate it when articles like that try and dictate what we should and shouldn’t be reading – reading is such a personal thing, and people should be able to read whatever they want without being shamed for it!

  30. You want to know the big, huge secret of what the difference between a YA book and an adult book is in publishing? YA novels are novels *where the protagonist is 13-19 years of age.* That’s it. That’s the difference. It is a marketing term designed to help people find the books about the demographic they want to read about. It isn’t a genre, it’s just a subset of ALL genres. Adults saying they won’t read YA is about as absurd as declaring they won’t read books about people age 63-69 or books where the protagonist is under 6’2”.

    As someone who deeply loves the classics (even more so than YA, I’d say) I think there is so much merit to the stuff that has stood the test of time and all readers should dip their toes into the amazing library of the western canon. I read some of these old tomes to improve myself, but more so I read them because I enjoy them and THAT is the more important prescription I would give to anyone who reads…read what you enjoy. It really is that simple.

    Also, these huffy articles…they act like before YA we were all reading Shakespeare in our freetime, when really I think most of the now-YA-adult-readers were just reading light romance or westerns or sci-fi with protagonists who weren’t even at as interesting places in their lives.

    Great article, Jess.

    1. Thanks Audrey! 🙂 Exactly – it’s such a shame that something so trivial as the age of the protagonist prevents people from giving some truly great books a go. Articles like this seem to forget that the term YA is just a way for publishers to market books, and have started to talk about it if it were a genre. When of course, as you said, it’s a subset, not a genre – there’s so much genre diversity within YA that to make any kind of sweeping statement about YA books or their readers is just ridiculous!
      Absolutely agree with you that there is a value in reading classics, and that we should all give them a try at some point, but I also think we shouldn’t read them for the sake of reading them if we don’t enjoy them. I studied English at university and count many classics as favourite books, but there have been some I’ve found difficult to get through and unenjoyable, so I’ve decided to start giving myself permission to put a book down if I’m not enjoying it, and not just read it for the purpose of saying I have (which I’ve done a lot of over the years!) At the end of the day, like you said, reading what you enjoy is the most important thing of all 🙂
      Also love your point about what people were reading before YA came along – personally I didn’t make habit of sitting down and relaxing with a spot of Shakespeare – before YA my reading actually wasn’t very diverse at all, and the majority of books I read were romance. YA is the reason I got into fantasy books, and started stepping outside my limited comfort zone of the genres I was used to.

  31. Well said! I completely agree with the points you make in this especially about finding comfort in reading narratives where the protagonists haven’t got their whole lives figured out. Reading for me is about escapism especially when the real world right now is so dark and twisted, what’s wrong with delving into a high fantasy if it brings you enjoyment? There shouldn’t be any shame in wanting to read YA books I find this difficult doing an English degree where YA or teen books are seen as ‘too young’ and not ‘educational’ or ‘stimulating enough’ for uni students – Well I share your sentiments and say to all the neigh-sayers out there *inserts THAT IS BULLSHIT GIF* Haha thanks for an interesting post, I feel inspired to write a rant of my own now! 🙂

    1. Yay, ranting is the best – I look forward to reading that 😀 Completely agree with you about escaping the real world right now – we need books to bring us comfort when it seems like the whole world is falling apart at the moment, and if YA brings that comfort then we shouldn’t be ashamed of that whatsoever. And absolutely – I didn’t read any YA at all whilst I was at university studying English, because I was under the illusion that everything I read had to be a classic, but I missed out on so many awesome books because of that – I literally started reading YA after I finished my degree (I started with The Hunger Games) and I haven’t looked back 🙂

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