August 29, 2011

Smells Like Teen Angst (or Four Reasons Why I Prefer YA Over "Grownup" Books)

Picture this:  Thirty something female walks into big box bookstore, nearly giving herself whiplash checking whether anyone noticed her ducking into YA section.
Now picture this:  Same thirty something female in same bookstore wanders into Adult Fiction section, peruses selection, and yawns from boredom.  

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not all that much.  The truth is I would far rather read most YA fiction than what is available in the Adult market.  There are definitely authors in this latter group whose work I thoroughly enjoy (Lauren Willig, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley...), along with all of the classics which I have no idea how to really categorize (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens...).  More often than not, however, you'll find me curled up with a good YA book. 

So this got me thinking:  What is it about YA fiction that I like better than Adult fiction?  Here's what I came up with (this list is in no way exhaustive):
*Warning:  the follow list contains sweeping generalizations and personal opinions.  You've been warned!*
  1. Romance:  I prefer the less gratuitous, but still completely charged romances of many YA stories.  Yes, there are some YA stories that have more "adult" content as far as the romance goes, but generally speaking you aren't going to find bed-shaking, boot-knocking throwdowns on their pages.  There is something to be said for leaving the raunch to the Adult fiction.  (I am not a prude by any stretch--I've read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and there are love scenes in it that would definitely make some people blush).   
  2. Accessibility:  Have you ever read a book that just made you feel dumb?  You know the kind of writing where basically the author is trying to wax eloquent, blathering on about something super deep, that you honestly don't care about?  I have.  Probably in University, but not really any time since.  The way I see it, life is too short to be made to feel like a tool by your reading material.  YA fiction is accessible because it is also relatable to many readers.  I can relate to so many teen themes because once upon a time I was a teen too.  And the crazy thing is, many of the issues that crop up--acceptance, identity, relationships, and so on--are all things that I still struggle with in my thirties.  I think a big reason why so many adults read YA is that we've all been there.  We might not know what it's like to be a vampire, or a siren, or what-have-you, but we do know what it's like to be a teen and everything that comes with that. 
  3. Storytelling:  I just honestly find YA stories more interesting than a lot of Adult fiction.  Whether it's a romance of the paranormal variety, a dystopian or post-apocalyptic scenario, or even an issues-driven story, YA seems to bring a fresh perspective that a lot of Adult fiction sorely lacks.  These same types of books in the Adult market would look more like bodice-ripping raunch, miserable wasteland where all hope is lost and never really found again, and a literary browbeating telling you how you should feel about a particular issue, respectively.  I would rather not come away from reading feeling like I need a shower, that there's nothing worth living for, or that I've been thoroughly preached at.  Call me crazy...
  4. Covers:  The covers are so much prettier/appealing!  This last one isn't really that serious, but I think it's kind of true.  As much as it pains me to say it, I think we have the cover of Twilight to thank for this surge in eye-catching covers on YA fiction.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like ever since that cover showed up in bookstores, covers on most YA books just became so much more appealing.  Just look at these pretty/interesting covers:   

These are just some observations I've made while reading books from both the YA and the Adult market.  Feel free to disagree :)


  1. Hi Jamie, I saw that you're from Canada. More importantly Saskatchewan. I was born and raised in Regina.

    Great post and all the best with your writing.

  2. Thanks, Ladonna :) Cool that you're from Regina! I'm actually from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and am moving to Red Deer, Alberta in a month, but have lived in Saskatoon now for 2 years.


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