Monday, October 13, 2014

Forever YA?

I love YA books. I love them. Reading YA is not just a hobby, but a passion, so intense that I put hours into maintaining two blogs so I can talk about the genre.

But YA has not always been my category of choice. As a toddler I forced my mom to read picture books to me for hours on end, and as a kindergartner I started reading them to myself. After that, I graduated to easy readers that allowed me to rank my reading level in color-coded increments. I devoured series like American Girl, Goosebumps, and Nancy Drew, then scoured the middle-grade shelves at my local library, picking up anything that caught my eye. In seventh grade, YA started to bleed into my reading repertoire, and by my freshman year of high school, I was reading the genre almost exclusively.

My age has always dictated my reading habits. Now that I am 16 and a high school junior, I mostly read about fellow high school students between the ages of 14 and 18. And this makes me wonder—what if, when I become an adult, I lose interest in YA?

At first, the idea sounds ridiculous. YA is my favorite genre—it is versatile, focused on telling engaging stories, and full of intelligent authors with magical ways with words. Despite what YA scorners would have you believe, it is full of tales that can make you laugh, gaze at gorgeous writing, or change your life, no matter what age you are. Besides, look at all the YA readers over the age of 18. Adults make up more than 50 percent of YA book-buyers, and some of the most popular YA book bloggers do not fit into the YA demographic. These days, it is absolutely possible—common, even—to read teen books at any age.

However, one of my favorite things about YA is my ability to see pieces of myself in the characters; being the same age as them, I often share some of their issues. What is to say that, ten years from now, a character's struggle to keep up with the daily pressures of school or communicate with her parents will still resonate with me the way it does today? I hope to remember the emotions and experiences that entangle me right now, but fresher in my mind will be my shiny new adult life, suppressing some of my teenage memories. And while I have loved countless YA books not in spite of, but because of, the fact that the protagonist and I are complete opposites, I will miss encountering those occasional characters who make me think "you are me in fictional form."

This dilemma is especially pressing for me considering I want to work in publishing. What if I spend all four years of college blogging and making contacts in the YA book industry, only to realize after graduation that I would rather read adult novels? For the past two years, I have pictured myself working in YA publishing, but in two more years, my career goal could look different.

I pondered this "Will I always read YA?" question when choosing my blog name. I knew I would always be a reader, hence the "forever." But since I was unsure what I would be reading, I followed the "forever" with a broad term encompassing every genre of literature.

Now, when I think about my blog name, I try to focus on its first word. My reading future may be uncertain, but I will be reading something, just like I have my entire life. My habits may change, but the underlying passion will remain the same. That, more than any individual novel, or even any individual genre, is what matters in the grand course of my life.

Teenage YA readers: do you ever worry you will lose interest in teen fiction? Adult YA readers: tell me about your experience with YA. Do you ever struggle to connect because of your age?

16 comments:

  1. I'm in my 30s and read an eclectic mix of just about everything, including YA. I read good books. Period :)

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  2. I've definitely started to see my reading tastes shift! I'm now into discovering a lot more non fiction and "adult" books but most of what I read is still YA. At this point, I'm not worried and if I do end up moving totally away from YA, I don't think it'll be something to worry about or be scared of. By then, YA probably isn't my interest so why would I hang around reading something I'm not interested in any more? That's how I feel now anyway, I don't know if it'll still be the same years later but at least for now, I still love YA hardcore and that probably won't change for a while!

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  3. Now that I'm coming close towards the end of my "teenage" years, I'm a tad worried as well. What if I don't relate to it anymore? It's the biggest question and it scares me, to be honest. You hit the nail on the head with this discussion. I'm worried about where I head. But technically I shouldn't be because I'd still be reading. I have gotten to a point where I'm extremely picky about the YA I read though. I can't stomach the more "juvenile" ones (if you get what I mean) anymore. And I've been eating adult fantasy up for lunch. I don't know what this means but hopefully I'm still reading a variety as I grow up!

    Jess @ My Reading Dress

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  4. That's something I definitely worry about! Right now, I adore YA and will likely continue to love YA for the next couple years. I guess you could say I'm in the prime of the YA genre right now, as I've reached the age where the majority of characters are 15, 16, 17 years old. There have been a few cases where I've leaned more towards adult or non-fiction, but those categories do have a tendency to leave me bored and sleepy if I pick the wrong book. Another worry: WHAT ABOUT MY BOOKSHELF!? Right now, I have so many beautiful, amazing YA books on my bookshelf. If I do end up veering away from YA in terms of reading taste (which wouldn't be the end of the world, so long as I was still reading what I enjoyed) would I really want all those books on my bookshelf still? Still, I don't know. I was reading YA before I felt like I could really connect (like when I was 12, 13, and 14,) so who knows? You ask great questions. My thoughts have been thoroughly scrambled.

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  5. Well, I'm an 'adult' now (STOP LAUGHING :P), and I still love YA. It's just a story that follows a young protagonist, so I don't get why people think you can 'grow out of it'.

    Now, as I've got older my tastes have matured. I won't deny that. I can't read any old YA, I need one that's really developed and intelligently written. Whereas when I was younger I was happy to read bog-standard romance YA with no substance.

    So, with YA itself, I don't think stopping liking it is the issue. I just think you'll come to expect more from the books you read in general and sick out books, YA or not, that offer that little something extra.

    YA is varied and intelligent enough to have something for everyone. There are things for the younger folks but there are also so many more 'literary' YA books for the older folks

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  6. I'm not going to lie, I've thought about how I might not have an interest in YA when getting older. Just like you, my reading has matured and changed as I've grown up, and I feel as though my taste of books will change to adult rather than YA. Then I think, "Oh please," because I've got such a love for YA fantasy, dystopian, mysteries . . . So I doubt that I'll ever stop loving YA.
    This is a super great post, haven't seen one like it before!
    - Cambrie @ and so the book begins (http://andsothebookbegins.blogspot.com/)

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  7. Definitely not! Young adult is mature and interesting and though my taste may broaden to include adult fiction as well, I don't think YA will ever leave that soft spot in my heart! Besides, they quite often stick a different cover on a popular YA novel (ie. Hunger games) and then rebrand it is an adult novel! Bit cheeky really, but just goes to show, YA is enjoyed by people of all ages :3 Great blog! I shall be following you on bloglovin :D

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  8. I kind of went the other way to you - as a teenager, I loathed YA, although admittedly there wasn't the choice there is now (I'mjust going to interject that I'm 25, not 80!). Then when I hit... 22, or so, I suddenly became much more interested and now I read them all the time.

    I think I get different things from them that a teenager does. I don't often recognise bits of myself in the characters, but I don't need that to enjoy a good story. I rarely read Contemp or Romance YA because I'm that little bit older, but Dystopian and Fantasy are great

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  9. Hmm...this is a really interesting question Emily! As a teenager myself, I definitely worry about whether or not I'm going to love YA as much as I do now 15 or 20 years from now. I wonder whether or not I'd still be able to connect to the characters and the situations they're in if I've already went through those experiences. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

    I'm sure wherever your tastes lead you, you'll still love to read and, in the end, that's what matters, right?

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  10. This post is amazing, Emily. I've been sitting here and you're making me think about it a lot. Like you, I loved my picture books and then MG books. But in junior high, I had my MG (American Girl FTW as well as others), AND I actually started reading adult, not YA. My mom had some Christian books and I was dying to read something else. So I devoured hers and read solely adult. It wasn't until about Hunger Games/Ally Carter that I went more into YA. BUT I still wonder about YA. I think about a lot of adult books and consider most of them boring. However, what's to say that I won't think that about YA when I'm in my late 20s or 30s? Will they be juvenile to me like my past books are now? It's actually a little scary, especially since CAREERS are planned around it. But I'd like to think that whatever happens, we'll be warned. If you start to drift from YA, you'll realize and make adjustments. I can't really help with advice, but you did make me think ;)

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  11. Interesting topic. What's funny is that I probably read more adult books in high school than I do now (I'm 24 and in graduate school). Starting my blog and reviewing books really brought me back to YA and I fell in love. I still read adult titles, but I love YA books too. I think it's easy to still remember things from when you were younger, even as you get older. Plus, some things don't change all that much. You might be beyond your first love and things like that, but you can still relate to or understand love stories, etc.

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  12. For me it has ALWAYS been about whether the book is good or not. Vicious by V.E. Schwab was my first venture into adult books and at first I thought "oh god I'm going to hate this" but I LOVED it. Pride and Prejudice was my first classic and I thought "I'm not gonna finish this" but I LOVED it. Basically: I read good books. I'm VERY picky about what I read in YA + NA now. But I also don't like contemporary, so relating to a character's struggles isn't important to me as far as school/parents go. Those books bore the hell out of me. Authors like Sarah Dessen who can write about familial issues that will ALWAYS be applicable, or relationship issues that will ALWAYS resonate with me -- those are contemporary authors I can read and will always read.

    When I'm 25 I might read a lot of books in a lot of genres, but YA will most likely always be my niche. It's a great genre that will only broaden, so I would never want to leave that behind. Awesome discussion!

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  13. Amazing post Emily, and great question! At the moment, I don't see myself getting out of YA anytime soon, and I don't think that when I get older I'll be getting out of the genre- I just like reading GOOD books, and I find the genre has some of the best. Also, I already have started reading some fiction novels that ARE NOT YA (yes shocking) and I find that they are surprisingly good, but at the same time, it's just like the YA genre, only that the characters are just put into more "mature" situations than those in the YA genre (although I feel like some YA books can compete with said adult novels by their emotional stand point). I think the next discussion should be on maturity levels between Adult and YA genres! Maybe we should do a joint post!

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  14. I just turned 30 this May and I can't ever see myself shifting from YA. I read a lot of Children's literature too (and watch the standard teenage tv shows). I'm in the process of getting my Master's in Creative Writing and I want to write YA novels so maybe it's different for me because it's the world I want to work in, but still, it's always been a huge part of my life and though I've read novels that don't fall in the category, I mainly stick to what I love. :)

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  15. I think it depends on the book. Some are definitely more juvenile than others, even if they're both YA.

    I can feel myself pulling away from more and more YA though, and I'm 23. A lot of the high school / boy drama / love triangle / first crush stuff weighs down on me. It just feels like I'm so past that point and have little patience for it. I prefer more mature and confident main characters than you get in a lot of YA.

    That being said, I'm not done with YA. There are plenty of YA books that have pretty nature characters and I still enjoy those. It's also easier to enjoy fantasy/sci-fi YA.

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  16. Well, to ease your mind a bit, I am a sophomore in college and I still read a lot of YA. Although I do enjoy a great new adult fantasy from time to time, I still have maintained my healthy addiction of YA paranormal and urban fantasy as well. As an adult YA reader, I have to say that I usually have no problem connecting with the characters of YA novels. Honestly, regardless of age, most problems we face never really change, they only evolve. We all are looking for love, no matter our age. We all are fighting oppression, whether it be from our parents, our friends, or our bosses. The underlying problems never fully change, they only morph into something different. But not something so different that it's impossible for me to relate to YA characters. I hope what I'm saying makes sense.. I know exactly what I mean, but it's difficult to put it into words! One thing I wanted to say is: Don't worry, your reading styles may evolve over time, but as long as you have a book in your hand, life cannot be that bad! (:
    Morrighan @ Elysian Fields
    ( http://ufbooks.blogspot.com )

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