Young Adult Fiction: A Place for Adults?
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Young Adult Fiction: A Place for Adults?

Widespread Internet controversy over whether or not adults should read YA fiction.

Young Adult Fiction: A Place for Adults?

"Young Adult Novels."

Depending on the biases you semi-consciously carry with you, this phrase has an equal ability to thrill and/ or exasperate you. Whether or not you obsessively read novels by John Green and know which Hogwarts house each of your housemates belongs in, it doesn’t exactly date you anymore. While young adult novels are traditionally written with a teenage audience in mind, more and more adults are buying these books instead and the internet is all abuzz to explain why. gives a multitude of reasons why the popularity of YA fiction is both positive and negative, in relation to the new adult audiences. One of the reasons that they cite why this is is that young adult novels often feature a struggling teenage protagonist who makes a variety of choices that do not reflect mature reasoning capabilities. This is largely due to the fact that the teenage psyche has not developed to its full capacity. We expect adolescents to behave in certain, questionable ways, which is why it is so concerning when many adults absorb YA fiction. Although adults may be reading these novels for the pure entertainment of witnessing bad decisions or indulging in nostalgia for their own days filled with poor choices, it is still a concern that these adults will start to reflect the childish thinking conveyed in such books.

Ruth Graham, a freelance writer who posted an anti young adult fiction post for the Slate and defended her thoughts on, has received a substantial amount of criticism for posting her opinions on why adults are becoming interested in YA fiction. She states, “Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” The idea here is that grown individuals should be inclined to require more from their literary endeavors; more character development, more complex subplots, more realistic dialogue. At the same time, the fiction that adults surround themselves with should be true to life while also offering insights that they may not have had previously.

What is perhaps most intriguing about this newly found fascination with teen angst and paranormal romance so prevalent in young adult novels, is not in fact the content of the novels themselves but what their appeal says about the people that they attract. Critic and journalist, Porter Anderson, is primarily interested in this aspect as well, saying, “I’m always sorry that some people seem to think the ‘why would adults read YA?’ question is about quality. Or even about YA. I don’t think that — in its best iterations, at least — it is that at all. I think it’s an honest question more sociologically based than literature-based, and I do think the question has merit. … The question really is this: If our adult and senior-adult readers find stories of teens told from the teen perspective, what does that say about these readers — not about the books, not about YA.”

Therein lies the fear of the adult fascination for young adult literature. Of course, it is understandable that some teachers, parents and siblings may attempt to read these works for the sake of discussing the themes with their students or loved ones. It should also be mentioned that not all young adult fiction is of lesser quality than other works made for more mature audiences. What is concerning here is the preference for these novels over others. Are we as a society reusing to emotionally develop as adults? Are we attempting to prolong our adolescence? By indulging in teenage fantasies, we are also exposing ourselves to the teenage ways of thinking. While this is not necessarily a crisis, and people do have the right to read whatever they choose, it is something to consider as we age.

So if you’re one of those older fans of young adult literature, go ahead. Enjoy “The Fifth Wave” and “Eleanor and Park” and other YA fiction. I won’t deny that these books do have a lot to offer readers. Venture out, explore, and enjoy your guilty pleasures whenever you see fit. But also try to search out works that reflect the struggles and thoughts that you experience on a day to day basis.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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