Friday, January 18, 2013

Adults Reading YA

A lot of adults, myself included, read YA. I love that. The YA market is full of great books. There's no reason why adults shouldn't enjoy the books.

Having said that, I think when adults read YA, they have to read as if they are teens. Here's what I mean. When I write, I write for teens. They are my target audience, not the adults reading YA. It's funny because when I read reviews of YA books, I notice a difference between what adults think about the books and what teens think about them.

When I read a YA book, I tap into my inner teenager. That's not tough for me because she never left. She's my emotional side. The part of me that lives for perfect moments. In short, she's way more fun than grown-up me. And she's the one who loves YA books. They're meant for her. Maybe part of the reason why I enjoy reading and writing YA is because I can relive that time of my life. I can forget adult responsibilities for a little while and be a teenager again. That's a great thing. But I also take that into account when I review books. I know I'm reviewing a book meant for teenagers, not adults. So I let my inner teen out and share her thoughts in my review. It allows me to love a naive character and accept that an MC is making a choice based on her heart and not what she should do.

Do you think there's a difference between teens reading YA and adults reading YA?

68 comments:


  1. There are some books I didn't want to read as a teen anymore than now, and while I'm going to get flack for it, the most recent examples that come to mind are Twilight and Artemis Fowl. I gave them both a chance, I just didn't enjoy them, and I'm okay with that.

    As much as Kelly reminds me how subjective reading is, it does become hard when the market you're trying to reach are in LOVE with a book or author you just don't find as enjoyable. Since I primarily write middle grade novels, being in the shadow of Artemis Fowl and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is HARD. Never mind the fact that I don't wrote about anti-heroes and mouthy, deadpan middle schoolers, I feel like few people understand how I feel torn, like I'm upset over nothing.

    Well, last time I checked, nothing doesn't cause creative turmoil!

    I don't write much YA because aside from not reading much of it myself, I don't relate to the teen audience, even when I was biologically still in it, I don't know why but that's just how I felt.


    Yet all that has me wonder, what about teens reading adults, and no, I don't mean the kinky stuff.
    Seriously, what are the differences when you reverse the scenario?

    I can think of countless writers I know (Either personally or just from their books) that are known for saying they LIVED for adult fiction once they could read beyond picture book text, and without beating myself up too much, let's just say I wasn't ready for Austen, Dickens, James or Tolstoy even at 16 anymore than I am now at 25.

    For all the fair arguments that can be made for books being challenges rather than entertaining, some of us just wanted book that were as fun as the movies and television shows we loved, and I as awoke to writing, it was VITAL to find the FUN books can have.

    Unlike some authors, I didn't struggle with the technical side of reading, it just took a long, lonely time in adolescence to realize books weren't just cold non-electronic information sources, they could be FUN, freeing, and special.

    I often feel left out of discussion writers have about books because their love of literature started so much earlier than mine.

    It's also hard describe my experience, because if you say you didn't reach much, people now think you were dyslexic or had some severe learning disability, and I didn't, learning to read wasn't the problem, I just was never exposed to books I'd WANT to read, as opposed to what I was forced to read in school, there's a difference, and I think teachers and parents especially, sometimes forget that.

    Sorry if I'm not making much sense, but it's how I feel, I can't help it. I do think part of this is out of envy for not being at home in YA, either as a reader or a writer, yet it's fast becoming the most receptive genre, whether or not there's romance, and I SO don't fit in romance.

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    1. The hot age group changes all the time. While I love YA, I think it will take a back seat to New Adult pretty soon. I'm just waiting for it to happen.

      I hear what you're saying, Taurean. I think some readers don't relate to YA. Some prefer MG or even adult. But I do think there's a difference when people in the age group read that age group and when people outside of the age group read it. That's all I'm saying.

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    2. Well, I'm not sure this is just a fad thing. Remember, when I was a kid in the 90s (Though I obviously wasn't immersed in writing or publishing yet) I've learned from my own of and on research how dead YA was then because the books either weren't there, or were really off the mark at best, and did little to excite and engage teens.

      Then HP happened and things snowballed from there. Yeah, it started in MG land, but from Year 3 on we entered YA+ territory.

      To me, YA books today speaks to a need that has never been filled in with either quality or variety, but was always needed, you know?

      Even if other demographics or genres become hot, it won't have the same stakes and weight that YA as a whole.

      It's like how early on in the recession when picture book authors (New or not so new...) struggled to sell new books, even in strong selling series, simply because all the closed markets and mergers limited the places to go, on top of the expense of art-heavy books to begin with, and while all writers were hurting, and some still are, I do feel non-illustrator picture book writers were hit the hardest.

      Even now as things rebounded a bit, publishers now seem to only be interested in picture books by author/illustrators, for whatever reason, and I really believe it's NOT as simple as just the ease of paying only one person, as some folks say.

      It's also because they're less likely to have the issues us non-illustrator writers struggle through, even we know how to think visually, it's hard to make your words matter when artwork is the main focus, and I feel agents and editors can act like they don't get that, even though their concerns are valid, too.

      While there's truth to what you're saying, I don't YA's ever going to go back to what it was a decade ago, think of the reader backlash, and lost sales, and too many writers like you at home with YA, but unlike you are as easily versatile in other age groups would have a very hard time.

      Besides, given what I hear from other authors, New Adult seems to focus only on hot and heavy romance stuff, and unlike you, that's just not my area, and I don't say that in disrespect, really.

      But it's not as simple to write good romance as it might look to some, even if they're more comfortable with reading/writing it than I am, I still can only go as far as the first kiss or imply the intimacy, and while you always say there are degrees to romance, it still seems like books that resonate the most with teens are all or nothing in the sexual escapades department.

      That said, you're right about keeping the target readers in mind, but just because the book wasn't written for me (The adult) it doesn't change the fact that as writers, we have to look at books different than lay readers, and we shouldn't diminish what we have to go through to even reach the young readers we're trying to engage, and understand when I said I didn't get into AF or Twilight, I was speaking to when I first tried to read them when I was still a teen myself, and still didn't like them.

      That wasn't me being a "Snobby Elitist Grown-up."

      I know you didn't imply that at all. I'm just clarifying because I know I can phrase things in off-kilter ways. Especially to people who don't know me as you do.

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  2. When I read YA, I try to think about what I am reading in a few ways. I read it as I would have a teen. I think about what my daughter who is 16 yrs old would think to the book, and I also read the book as a parent and think about how age appropriate the books is. I also have to say old habits die hard and I used to work in a book shop so I also read from the point of view as a book shop retailer/sales assistant.
    I love the escapism of reading YA too.

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    1. I love the escapism, too! It might be my favorite thing about YA. ;)

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    2. I agree reading is great escapism, but for me, it's MG and adult fiction.

      YA often brings back years I don't want to relive, I don't the fuzzy memories Kelly has.

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  3. I don't read a whole lot anymore, only when I have the time, which is usually when on vacation or taking long rides. I think the reason I don't read YA is because I feel like I can't relate. I'm so far removed from my teen self. I was a mega geek, so I don't think there's much out there I would connect with. :D

    Romance books are okay for me, but the characters usually need to be between the ages of 24 and 30 for women and between 35 and 40 for men.

    Yea, I feel old. hahahahaha

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    1. If it helps, Diane, I also don't relate to a lot of YA fiction, and my teen years aren't "Forever and a Day ago" though I'm under 30, not married.

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    2. Diane, that's perfectly fine. You should read what you enjoy and can relate to. :)

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  4. Well, my fourteen year old and twelve year old girls are like aliens to me some days. I don't understand or relate to their emotions or reasoning, even having been there and done that myself at one point in life. I do realize that the books have to be made for them, but I find it nice if they're still enjoyable for me, especially at the point a tiny bit earlier in their lives when I was still reading books aloud with them.

    I think if you can enjoy a piece as a teen and as an adult, you're doing well. I am always shocked when my twelve year old comes home and tells me that her friend reads my blog and thinks it's funny. If I can demand a range of 70 year old men to 12 year old girls, I feel I've broken some kind of space-time continuum barrier.

    You would naturally like to read YA because you write it. I admire the fact that you can still pull out your inner mini-me and sell it. I'm not sure I could accurately pull off that time in my life. But then, I'm a lot older than you are, so it's harder for me to remember ;0)

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    1. Cindy, I'm not surprised kids enjoy your blog. I'm not sure anyone wouldn't. :)

      I think I resisted growing up. When I think of hold old I am, I'm sort of in disbelief. I still remember my teen years vividly. It's hard to accept that they're my past now. Writing about them makes it easier for me in a lot of ways.

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  5. I agree that adults view YA books differently than most teens. And I know what you're talking about with the reviews. Some adults think I was talking down to my teen audience; most teens I know appreciated that they could read about ancient Greece as easily as they could read a contemporary novel. That being said, I think YA authors (myself included) still have to be very careful not to talk down to teens (or the adults who read YA) b/c kids are smart and they will figure a lot of things out.

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    1. Definitely! I taught 8th grade for seven years and my supervisor always said I got my students to do what most high school teachers tried to get the seniors to do. My answer was that kids will rise to the occasion. Treat them as equals and they'll act very mature and meet those standards. I never doubt kids because of that. I love what working with kids has taught me. :)

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  6. I think it really depends on the book. Some YA is very teen, so I think it demands that you get into that teen mindset. Other YA books feel more mature to me--especially if the character is an independent teen--so they don't seem to require that teen attitude. I just read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE which I loved but which felt rather adult to me.

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    1. I totally agree. There's older and younger YA, and they definitely have different feels to them.

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  7. As an adult reading YA, I have to really be excited by the plot, the quality of the writing and the imagination of the author. I also read for research into what's been written in the field.

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    1. Reading for research is great... and fun! :)

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  8. I think that's an excellent point and one that YA authors need to remember when they read reviews of their books...most adults don't consider who the material was targeted towards when they make their comments. Early on I myself had to go back and revise my own reviews after I realized this piece of information. :)

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    1. It's something I always consider when I'm reviewing. The books really weren't written for me. Maybe teen me, though.

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  9. I agree wholeheartedly with your post, Kelly.

    I write YA, and pretty much only read YA, although I am not a young adult. I do, however, consider myself a teen at heart! So, I totally get the "inner teenager" thing.

    When I write YA, teens are my target audience, of course. When I read YA, I try to remember that it's the same for other writers/authors...(as an adult) I am not the target audience. It's important to consider that when reviewing for YA, as well. It's a simple/logical concept, but it's often overlooked by adult readers of YA.

    As always, thanks for your insight.

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    1. I think those who write YA consider this more than those who don't. Readers read for enjoyment and don't always think about who the intended audience is.

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  10. When I started writing YA, I never thought about my target audience. I just wrote my book. I still don't think about my target audience, but since I still act like a teen it usually works. But I read YA because most adult romance is more sex than romance. I don't want to have to read a book like a teen, but they don't write adult books for people like me. ....And adult clean romance is a hard sale, trust me.

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    1. Yes, it is a hard sell. It shouldn't be, but it is.

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  11. It depends on the books. Something like The Book Thief (which was actually written as an adult novel, but marketed in the U.S. as YA) I read with an adult mindset. With others I channel my inner teen. When I'm writing YA, I'm writing with teen readers in mind and also channeling my inner teen. :)

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    1. Yes, I've read a few books that are marketed as YA that I feel are adult. There are exceptions and as someone else pointed out there's older YA and younger YA, too.

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  12. Kelly, that's an interesting point. I wonder how many YA authors are writing for an adult audience instead of the teens the genre is based on.

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    1. That's a good question. Personally, I don't. I write for teens, which is why I think teens understand my books better than some adults. I say some because I think many adults reading YA understand that the books weren't written with them in mind and they can channel their inner teen while reading.

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    2. MG is the same way in this regard. Think how many kids love Captain Underpants, and how many adults loathe it, that said even my 8 year old self would not have liked it, but I respect those who found it their gateway drug to reading books for the fun of it.

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  13. I never really thought about it, but you've got a point about adults reviewing YA. I know for a fact that I hold books to a higher standard now than I did when I was a teen, but I read a whole lot more now and I think that is PART of the difference. I think that a book if a book is really good the people who commonly read that genre will see that regardless of their age. I guess there are some teens that will like a book even if the M/C is super niave and dense, but most teens don't like that stuff either.

    It's weird to think about though... I read and write reviews on books that aren't written for me... haha! Well anyway I do know that a good book makes me feel the same way today as it did when I was 14. I want to think that when I read I think as a teen, but who really knows?

    If adults didn't read YA, I wonder what the sales would be like?

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  14. Michelle, Blogger won't let me reply to your comment, so I'll post it as a new comment.

    I agree that sales would drop if adults didn't read YA. I'm glad they read it. I mean, it's mostly what I read. :) I think teens are more forgiving when an MC can't see the bigger picture because his/her emotions are getting in the way. Teens are all about emotion and they let that override judgement sometimes. I know I did. Now, I look back on things and think, what was I thinking? But back then, I couldn't see that. I was too into the moment.

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  15. I like when you said "the reason why I enjoy reading and writing YA is because I can relive that time of my life." Similarly, like the Twilight Series, YA books plays to our wishful thinking. That time in my life was full of name calling and bullying so reading YA books was like a second childhood. Great post!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Auden. Reading and writing YA is like having a second chance at being a teen. I'd love to go back and be a teen for a day again. Maybe just a day though. ;)

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  16. I think adults reading YA books is the best!! My mom will read books from my TBR pile and it's fun to discuss them with her. She has an easy time letting out her inner teen which is great. Though sometimes her adult voice/experiences will interfere with her feelings. ;) Haha. I have to get on to her about that! :P Loved this post!!

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    1. Glad you liked it, Bailey. Yes, adult views can make a difference if we don't let our inner teen come out.

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  17. This is one of the reasons I love YA. I can yell at a character for her bad choices and at the same time smile at the memory of the time I would have made the same bad choice.

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  18. As adults we have so much personal baggage - experiences that we learned from or can't forget. I think you have to set that all aside to really enjoy YA as an adult. Lots of "Oh no! Don't do THAT!" moments.

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    1. Exactly. We have to put that experience aside and read as our teenage self would have.

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  19. It's so true! I teeter on the verge I suppose. Lol I'm 21 so I still remember high school vividly, but now as I'm entering the adult world it's awesome to tap into the YA books. Everything feels so fresh, so vivid and in essence more alive. Things aren't jaded like some adult books. In YA and below you're free to imagine all possibilities and, like you said, go with your heart.

    THAT is why I write for children :)

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    1. Same here. I love how YA and MG are open to so many possibilities. You don't see that much in adult novels. I'm not sure I'll ever grow out of YA books. ;)

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  20. I do notice differences in reviews by adults and by teens. They like or dislike a book for completely different reasons. I think the only main difference is adults care more about good writing. I've seen some dreadfully written books (by some famous authors) that are adored by teens - but I couldn't get through the first chapter.

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    1. That's an interesting point. I didn't even look at it that way, but you're right. The writing would stand out more to adults, most likely.

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  21. Stephanie@Fairday's Blog has left a new comment on your post "Adults Reading YA":

    Take two! My first comment wouldn't publish,

    I like to read YA because I get in touch with my teen self. I think that some adults read YA with different eyes. I think it is important to read YA while remembering who the target audience is and keeping that in mind. :)

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    1. Stephanie, sorry Blogger was giving you trouble. It ended up posting your comment to my email instead of here. No idea why.

      Anyway, I agree with you. I think as adults we really do need to keep the target audience in mind when we read YA.

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  22. I don't find a difference in my own reading because I refuse to grow up. That being said, yes, I can see how an adult would look differently at a YA book than a teen would. Teens deal with different emotions and life situations than adults (generally speaking). I agree that we have to go back to that time if we are going to enjoy reading (and writing) YA books. It's easier for some people than others, and they are your true market.

    Good topic!
    Michelle

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    1. Exactly, Michelle! It's like we are sharing the same mind. :)

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  23. Since I'm a perpetual child, I don't seem to have that problem. But I do hear people judging YA characters rather harshly and it's because they're viewing it through an adult lens with all of the baggage and experience that comes along with it. I agree with Michelle, if you really want to enjoy it you need to set that adult brain to the side and tap into what you felt as a teen.

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    1. Well, you can still NOT like a book without that issue, too.

      Besides, think of the horror stories we hear about teens being forced to read adult books in school. If you forced me to read Dickens to graduate high school, I'd be stuck in 10th grade.

      I ultimately didn't graduate high school, but for different reasons than what I'm hypothesizing.

      While LOTS of kids and teens read up these days, some are fine taking things slowly, the problem being school and parents can push reading (If not certain books) in the wrong ways, you know?

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  24. I agree with you - the people who read my YA stuff enjoy it best when they tap into their inner teenager. The ones who are 'sniffy' it is always because they think it should be more 'grown up'. But, hey, I write YA - not adult! I see no reason why YA shouldn't be enjoyed by adults, lets face it, much of the time it is mucvh better written because kids are sharp, and they will let you know if you write sloppy, but readers have to be aware of what they've got. It's salmon, guys, not cod!

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  25. Oh yes. Big difference. Adults bring years of life experience to a book, they relate differently to the characters than teens do. I find that the adults who read my books find things in them that teens don't and visa versa. Very interesting.

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    1. Exactly. We just have to remember that our adult experienced have altered the way we think. We probably wouldn't have thought the same way as teens.

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  26. Reading YA books definitely taps into the emotions and experiences of the time. I like to see paths of discovery with the characters, mistakes and all.

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  27. My inner teen never left the building either -- probably why I write so much pulp! Loved that stuff when I was growing up. I think if most adult readers of YA are honest with themselves, they'd admit their teen selves still demand to be entertained.

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    1. You're probably right. My inner teen is still hanging around an demanding my attention.

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  28. For me there isn't a difference. If the story and characters are compelling I don't care. I slip into the story and stay there until the end. Sometimes it's amazing and I am taken on a wonderful journey and better for reading the book, but sometimes not so much. It just depends on the writer of the story, you know?

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    1. That's the way it should be, Brenda. At least in my opinion.

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  29. I've read some YA. Admittedly, I'd probably be viewing it through an adult lens.

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    1. I think it's hard for some people to separate the two.

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  30. I'm a reader who loves to read all types of books, so I admit I also read YA. And love to read it!

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    1. It's great that you can enjoy all types of books, Nas.

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  31. I read more MG than YA, but I know what you mean, Kelly. Despite this, I think adults reading MG or YA usually have more fun than teens!

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  32. I know what you mean! There's a few books I loved as a kid/teen that I've revisited as an adult, and they read like completely different books. I know the print hasn't changed -- the person reading it has. I have to try to silence the adult part of my brain and approach YA as a teen, but it's not always possible. I think adults do approach YA differently, and it's just because of our different life experiences.

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    1. That's a great point, Nickie. Sometimes being an adult and having those life experiences can make us appreciate things in books we read as teens and didn't quite get at the time.

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