The Truth About Young Adult Literature (It's Not Just for Young Adults)
I'm an avid reader and writer of young adult fiction. I always have been and always will be. I'm drawn to the story lines, relatably flawed characters, and the unwavering beauty of a young adult perspective. Maybe it's because deep down I'm still a sixteen year old girl or maybe it's because I simply like the stories. Honestly, it's probably a combination of both. But, why is there a stigma attached to my choice of literature?
What is the Young Adult Novel?
A young adult novel is simply a story told through the perspective of a young adult. These protagonists are typically teenagers and the stories usually express coming of age tropes such as first love, being understood, and really encompassing the idea of growing up in general. The target audience of these books are typically between 12-18 years of age. A few examples of popular novels in this category are Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.
Who Reads Young Adult Novels?
Young adult novels are geared toward a specific audience: teenagers. I'm twenty-two and some may say I'm too "old" to be reading novels geared toward adolescents. In contrast, I know people in their thirties who read and love these books. I believe the heart of the issue lies not within the structure of the novel itself, but rather the “intended audience” of the genre. Because young adult novels typically express coming-of-age tropes they are more likely to be read and enjoyed by people within this category, as the story and characters are easily accessible and relatable. However, fiction is an escape from the daily routine, whether or not one can relate to the characters is beside the point. The young adult novel shares universal themes which many people outside of this target audience can relate to. These books are being read by teenagers but they are also being read by adults.
What do you think?
Are young adult novels for teenagers only?
Are these books solely for the reading benefits of teens or can they also be enjoyed by older audiences? This is a debate that has been going on for quite some time now. I'm not sure there will ever be a definite answer. What a reader chooses to read is based on their own personal choice. Are adults judged for reading "kid" books simply because the stories were initially written for teenagers? I feel that if a book is able to reach a vast audience then it has gone beyond the reaches of success in its defined category. The book has done exceedingly well and this isn't a comment on what a reader enjoys reading but rather highlights the beauty of reading itself. Reading connects us and the beauty of the young adult novel is that anyone can identify with it because everyone can share the experience of growing up. Reading doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t matter who the target audience is because that’s the thing: a target audience is just that, a target audience. People older and younger can still enjoy these stories. Take Twilight, for example. Not only was it exceedingly popular among teenagers but it also appealed to women, and some men, of varying ages. While initially written for teens, it was read and loved by more than just teens. It reached an expansive audience. When choosing a book to read it isn't necessarily about finding a genre but about finding a great story.
Young adult novels are written about the experiences of young adults; the main characters are typically teenagers so yes, it's a given that young adults are more likely to be drawn toward stories that encompass their own ideals with characters they can relate to. However, that doesn't mean adults can't also enjoy these stories. For that matter, not every young adult will enjoy young adult novels. Reading is about entertainment, escape from the daily routine, perhaps even seeing through a different literary lens and "experiencing" a new perspective. People are entitled to read whatever they would like, no stigma associated. Literature is literature and yes, young adults novels are considered to be real literature. Why make it more complicated? It doesn’t matter whether you’re an adult reading a young adult novel or vice versa. The important thing is to read and love whatever it is you’re reading. Just keep it simple.
So read. Just read.
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© 2018 Rachel Aldinger