Discussion | Am I Too Old for YA?

am i too old for ya.jpg

I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to stop reading books at a certain age. Adults can read young adult books, teenagers can read children’s books, and I think it’s amazing when a grandparent can enjoy the same books as their grandkids. Just the other day, I saw a man with white hair and a cane walking out of Barnes & Noble with a copy of A Conjuring of Light, and it made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

But in the past couple of years or so, I’ve found myself becoming disenchanted with young adult literature. It has nothing to do with what I think I should be reading; while I do want to read more adult literary fiction, I don’t think that necessarily means I should read less young adult or children’s fiction. I think I’ve simply hit a point in my life where I often struggle to identify with teenage characters, and I’m not sure I want to anymore.

Next month, I’m turning twenty-eight. Which means, when I read a young adult book, it’s a safe bet that the characters are going to be at least ten years younger than me. Which is a lot when you’re looking at eighteen and twenty-eight. (I just finished a book in which the main character’s dad died in Afghanistan when she was two. Which really messed with my mind, because I distinctly remember watching the 9/11 attacks on the news. When I was twelve.) I’m a completely different person than I was at eighteen, and, most days, I’m not a fan of who I was as a teenager. Reading young adult literature, particularly contemporary young adult literature, often reminds me of high school. And that’s not something I’m really looking for in a book. I’m not eighteen anymore, nor do I want to be. So reliving those years through the eyes of younger fictional characters often isn’t a pleasant experience. (I just had the realization that I identified far more with a seventy-year-old male character in A Man Called Ove than with the teenage girl protagonist in the book I just finished. Which might speak a little more to my personality than my age.)

giphy.gifSomething that’s also become a problem for me is that, more often than not, I tend to find stereotypical teenage behavior annoying, rather than cute. (This is true in real life, too.) I’ve lost track of the times I’ve wanted to slap some sense into fictional characters. And yes, I have begun to side with – gasp! – the parents. Sneaking out in the middle of the night to see your boyfriend is a bad idea. Trust me. (Not that I did anything remotely like that when I was a teenager; I was a goody two-shoes to the core.) And no, you do not love that girl you met on the beach a week ago. I promise. Really, my patience for reading about these kinds of things (or watching them on TV) has gotten shorter. It’s simply not fun for me to read about.

I’ve kept reading young adult books, because I think there are so many great ones out there. And yes, there have been YA books I’ve loved. Though to be honest, most of them fall firmly in “meh” territory. It does make me a little bit wary to pick up books I want to read and love (like The Hate U Give). I’ve had more luck with young adult fantasy or science fiction, but I’m still picking up a (probably much longer) book knowing there’s a chance it will annoy the hell out of me.

This is relatively new territory, so I still can’t gage whether or not a young adult book will be a worthwhile read for me, personally. As a reviewer, I feel I have to explain my perspective when I don’t give a high rating to a book meant for young adults (see my review of Lily Collin’s memoir, Unfiltered). I take pride in the fact that I read books of all genres and age groups, but I often wonder if that’s really who I am as a reader at this point in my life.

Have I grown out of YA? I hope the answer to that question is no, because I don’t want to be that person whose reading tastes narrow rather than expand as I get older. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth picking up books I know I would have enjoyed a lot more ten years ago.

I know I’m a bit on the older side of the current book blogging community (not that I’m old, but so many book bloggers I know seem to be in their teens or early twenties), but I’m wondering if any of you feel the same way about young adult literature. How do you think I should handle YA books in the future? Are there any age ranges you avoid when choosing books to read? And, do you still want to see reviews of YA books from the perspective of someone a little bit older (because I do think it plays a huge part in how I’ve been reviewing YA books lately)?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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42 thoughts on “Discussion | Am I Too Old for YA?

  1. Honestly, I think what you read should be up to you. That being said, I have noticed many of the same feelings in myself with regards to YA books over the past while. I was too busy to read at all during my six years of college. I graduated at 24 and didn’t pick up reading again until last year. During that 12-ish year leisure-reading hiatus, my tastes significantly changed. I am 31 now and find I can’t stand most teenaged protagonists any longer because any of the ones in books I’ve read I’ve wanted to slap some sense into. I’ve tried to read “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth” by Lindsay Lee Johnson twice now and find I can’t get past the beginning because the characters are such stereotypical teenagers that I can’t stand reading it. I literally want to put all the characters in detention until they’re 30, lol.

    So I for one can’t stand YA books, especially given the type of genre it seems to have evolved into over the last decade. I read reviews just because, but I often find myself shaking my head with my jaw on the ground at the stuff that makes up the YA genre now.😳

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    1. I agree! While I have found a few YA books recently I loved, for the most part, I don’t really like the direction it’s heading in. (Though it is difficult to determine whether it’s really evolving, or just my tastes are.)

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  2. Hi, I am in a similar boat. I am 27 and am finding I get bored with most contemporary YA. I still enjoy YA fantasy and scifi though. Sometimes things are hectic in real life and I need a bit of light escapism.
    I actually didn’t head back into YA until I had my baby. Do you have kids? I found that it was really easy to leave the story when I needed to care for baby and also easy to jump back in when she was napping. Doe that make sense.?

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    1. Definitely makes sense. I don’t have kids, but I worked as a nanny for two years, and found I was far more likely to pick up YA or chick-lit (for lack of a better term) whenever he napped. It’s just easier to get into. But I do ultimately find other books more fulfilling.

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  3. I read YA fantasy but I’ve started to notice a distinct disconnect between myself and the characters if I try a YA contemporary. I’m 24 but was never much of a typical teenager (the diplomatic way to say it is that I’ve always been a bit prematurely middle aged!) so I just find most of them a bit too… dramatic?? I’ll never stop reading YA fantasy but I’m now a bit pickier with my YA contemporaries.

    Whenever I go into Waterstones i head to the YA section and it immediately makes me feel old because the people hanging round there are teenagers. When you’re starting to be ten years older than them I think that’s when you do have that creeping realisation. I have no answers for this haha just thoughts!

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    1. I’m the same way! I was never really a normal teenager. Which I think makes me more likely to be annoyed when reading about stereotypical teenage characters. Definitely too dramatic! But it is definitely weird when you notice that big age difference. I was born in the 80s, and most young adult now are 2000s babies. There’s a big gap there, both in age and in how we grew up.

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  4. I regularly go back and read books meant for younger audiences and love them; however, it is true that I find children’s literature ironically survives far better than young adult literature does as you get older. Give me the Hobbit or the Edge Chronicles any day; the Hunger Games? Meh.

    (as an aside, I recently wrote a post on a similar topic. You might be interested in it: https://aparadoxicalmillennial.com/2017/04/22/all-the-pretty-pictures-literature-childrens-fiction-and-art/)

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    1. Thanks! I think you make a great point – I can name so many children’s books I still adore, but not very many YA books. I’ll definitely check out your post when I’m back at a computer (my phone won’t let me click the link).

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  5. I too have been finding myself less enamoured with the majority of the YA I read these days, and definitely pick up far fewer of them than I used to. As with you, it’s the melodramatic, angsty behaviour and reliance on tropes that I’ve lost patience for, but that said, I understand that when aiming to attract a younger audience, a more upfront approach to its themes is fair enough, I just prefer my literature a little more nuanced and mature.

    I think it’s totally normal for our reading tastes to develop as we get older and our perspectives change, and as long as we allow ourselves to read the things we want and don’t beat ourselves up about it, then that’s absolutely fine.

    There are certainly gems out there in the YA world though, so I absolutely like hearing about them from an older viewpoint that I feel more affinity with. 😊

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    1. Great! I do think there is value in reviews written from different viewpoints, and I want to be honest in my reviews. There are definitely gems out there, but I’m in a weird stage where I find it difficult to figure out what there are before reading them. I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading young adult literature, but my tastes have changed and, like you, I need to be more selective.

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  6. Honestly I completely get where you’re coming from because I’ve been feeling the same way. I’m 21 this year and even though that isn’t too far out of the teenage years I just don’t really relate with young adult characters and their problems. I want to read about things I can relate to and really be invested in, but my problem is that I find a lot of New Adult books are all romance and I’m not really interested in that. I want some YA type books but with NA characters and situations if that makes any sense at all. I still love YA but I don’t feel the same about it as I used to!

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    1. When I was your age (not that I’m THAT much older), all I wanted was a new adult book that wasn’t romance, so I totally understand! I still haven’t found that book. As an aspiring writer, that is one of the biggest things I want to attempt.

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  7. I’m 34 and still read YA. Yes, some are too young for me and I don’t relate to them. I’ve had to force myself to do a lot of research on the books I pick up to make sure that I will like them. Contemporary books are almost always too young for me but fantasy is usually fine.

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  8. Great discussion post Stephanie! I’m sad to say that I really worry about this sometimes too (even though being 22 isn’t too terribly old for YA haha).

    I have noticed that I get more and more annoyed with the way some YA characters act too and I think that’s due to the increasing age gap I have with them. Also though (like you said) sometimes YA characters act ridiculously immature sometimes and I know I definitely never acted that way at that age either!

    I really love that you added that you hope your reading tastes will keep expanding rather than narrowing, and I definitely hope that will be the case with me as well! 🙂

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    1. Thanks! I honestly can’t tell if it’s just the age gap, or characters are becoming more and more immature. I think I just need to be better about researching what I’m reading, especially when it comes to YA. The nice thing about having reviewer friends with the same tastes is we can rely on each other. 😊

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  9. I don’t think the problem is with you as much as it with the YA. A well-written book should be able to engage you -regardless- of your age in relation to the book. I love reading middle grade books (and I’m older than you, btw), and while there are some YA books I love, the trend in the past several years has been all on hormones, love triangles (ugh), and dystopians that have been done so many bloody times its like reading the same book over and over and over again.

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    1. I definitely do agree with you (though sometimes it’s hard to tell). But YA has gotten fairly cliche and when I do like YA books, they tend to be something different than the normal tropes – love triangles annoy me, too haha. Thanks so much for your input! And I’m so sorry for the delay in my reply – your comment somehow ended up in the spam folder, and I’m not great about checking it regularly. But I’m glad I found it!

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  10. You should definitely read what you want to. Books are meant to be enjoyed, not bore you or annoy you. I get were you’re coming from, although I can’t say it about YA, since I’m only fourteen. I experience the same thing with MG fiction. I used to love it and I still read it sometimes ( mainly when I need a break from romance, but that is a totally different discussion.) However I feel like I’ve grown out of it, just like you with YA. Personally I try to read an arrange of books from different age groups and if that’s what you want as well, they you should do it, but only if you want to. I think you can definitely still review YA books. It’s valuable to get opinions from all ages, so definitely give yours!

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    1. Thanks! I stopped reading middle grade when I was your age, but actually have been getting back into it, so maybe we all go through reading phases. I definitely try to read books for a range of different ages, too. I think it’s a good thing we all have different tastes, because that means there’s room for more books in the world!

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  11. I have been in the same boat for about a year now. I don’t think you have to give up YA. I haven’t given up on it, but I’ve outgrown it and I’m in a different place in my life now. I do read more adult fiction now and I find that it satisfies the nagging “wanting more” feeling from characters and plots in young adult books. Plus, you can escape annoying high school tropes and insta love, yak.

    For me, it was just time to move on. Not for good, I do read a YA novel every once in a while, but it’s always meh. I haven’t ran across one in a while that I would label as five stars.

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    1. I think I’m in the same space as you with YA. I definitely feel more fulfilled after reading adult novels, and rarely find YA books that I absolutely love (though I do have much better luck with fantasy and sci-fi). I like the way you put it – outgrown, but not given up on. I just need to be more selective when choosing which YA books I’m going to read.

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      1. I would definitely stick to the genres you love in YA where you get the most fulfillment, like fantasy and sci-fi. I really liked contemporary YA growing up so every once in a while I get an itch to read a YA book. 😊 Especially during the summer! How could I turn down a beachy-themed YA read during summer?!

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  12. I really get where you are coming from, especially since I see a lot of blogs and booktubers who focus on YA. They sounds interesting, but when I pick them up, I just can’t seem to relate to a 16 years old problems any more I’m 25. My biggest problems are not boy related, I have a job and a mortgage haha. That all being said I do still pick up YA, because they are fun and I don’t need to work to read them, I also just read a middle grade book, fist time in a long time, and it was a 5 star book for me. So the quality is there in the younger books just have to find the right one and be in the mood for it. Great post 🙂

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    1. I have actually been getting more into middle grade, so maybe I’ll like YA more in ten years haha. I definitely struggle to relate to teenagers now that I’m almost 28 – there’s a big age gap there. But I still am drawn to them, because they’re definitely fun. I just need to learn to be more selective.

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        1. Definitely! My when I’m in a reading slump, I often try reading some fun chick lit (for lack of a better term), which has pretty much the same effect. Sometimes, I just need a book I don’t have to put that much thought into.

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  13. I’m 19, turning 20 this year, so I’m closer to the average YA reading age, but I find myself bored and annoyed with a lot of YA tropes too. I think it might be partly because I’ve never been the kind of person who, as you say, sneaks out in the middle of the night. A lot of older readers love YA, and a lot of younger ones hate it, so I think it’s more about interests than age.

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    1. Same! I’ve never been that person, so when I see them in YA it just annoys me. Especially now that I’m old enough to fully realize how dangerous and irresponsible it is haha. I think that’s a great point – definitely more about interests than age. (Though I do think the more mature I get, the less I tolerate immature characters.)

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