Intern Laura Talks Reading YA as An Adult

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Observation of the Week: Reticent (YA) Readers

Yes, I see you, not even touching the YA section with a ten foot pole. And I’ll admit, I used to be guilty of this too. Sometimes the only way I bought YA novels was if they were hidden subtly between some hefty classics. I had a literary reputation to uphold, after all!

But back up a minute. This is crazy. I am by all accounts a young adult. So why did I feel such embarrassment at the idea of someone seeing me read an S.J. Maas novel? I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I can be a book elitist. So I’d like to take some time to dispel any lingering doubts you (and I) have about this wonderful genre.

I’ll start off with what comes to mind first: the story. There’s a reason so many YA novels are being adapted into movies and TV shows. These authors are experts at pacing – I think any writer could learn a thing or two from them. The stories are intricate, well thought out, and just downright entertaining. One can only feign so much interest in an old white guy’s hunt for an equally white whale.

This brings me to my next point: diversity. For some reason it’s easiest for me to find books with POC or LGBTQ+ characters in the YA genre. Another refreshing thing – many times the plots don’t even revolve around the characters’ differences. Yes, two boys are in love with each other, but a majority of their problems are coming from an evil sea-demon intent on destroying the world, not other people’s prejudices. They’re gay, it’s great, but there are other important things in their lives than just that one trait – just like real people (of course real people don’t have to worry about sea demons, but still).

I think one of the core reasons for avoiding the genre is tied in here. People can be embarrassed about reading romances. I am 21 years old and I already know that love is what life is all about – familial, agape, and, yes, romantic. It may be cheesy but without cheese what would be the point of crackers, wine, or anything really? (Sorry for the digression, I just really love cheese). And I love reading stories with romance as a strong component. Because part of the reason I read books is to see different relationships between humans, and what is a more important relationship than a romantic one?

So why should you or I deny ourselves that happiness? It hurts no one. In fact, it could help encourage those younger than us to pick up a book too! We shouldn’t be embarrassed about the things we love or feel like it’s a “guilty pleasure.” And even if YA is still not quite your cup of tea, it’s the whole literary community’s job to be supportive of books and fellow readers, especially those younger than you. So pick up a YA novel, get yourself a wheel of cheese, and just enjoy life!

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