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.)
Something 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!