I’ve Grown Out of YA, and That’s OK

I see a lot of posts on /r/books and other subreddits where people defend the merits of YA, and how it’s OK to be an adult reading YA. Which I absolutely agree with! I think that it’s totally OK for adults to read and enjoy YA.

At the same time, I think it’s also OK for adults to say that they’ve grown out of YA and that it’s a genre they don’t read anymore. And I want to provide that perspective with this discussion post.

This isn’t necessarily an ‘elitist’ or ‘snobbish’ decision rooted in the idea that YA is an inferior genre. It could just be because people’s tastes change over time. This was my experience with growing out of YA.

I can see the appeal of YA for adults

According to a 2012 report by Publishers Weekly, 55% of YA buyers are 18 or older, with 28% of all YA buyers being 30-44. And 78% of all adult YA buyers are buying YA for themselves. These numbers are a decade old now, but I still see many adults purchasing YA.

There are many reasons why adults like reading YA. Many adults can relate to the stories told in YA – after all, we all were kids and teenagers at some point in our lives! YA seems to be ahead of adult fiction in offering diversity in its offerings – from setting to ethnicity to sexuality and more. YA books can be incredibly well-written and entertaining. And YA may speak more to readers than adult fiction does.

However, I don’t feel like YA is for me anymore.

Even when I was a teen, I felt like I had outgrown YA. Which wasn’t surprising, given that a lot of the YA in the 2010s was dystopian (The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent, etc.). I was reading nothing but YA, but eventually it got tiring to see so many books following similar beats. As a result, I started drifting away from YA and towards fanfiction and adult fiction. Nowadays I wouldn’t put down a book because it’s YA but I don’t browse in the YA section either.

For example, a popular setting for YA novels is high school, or something similar to it in a fantasy novel, and a lot of tropes ground themselves in that setting. Topics like high school friend drama or anxiety surrounding college applications are things I can relate to – I’ve been there! – but it’s not something that pulls me in anymore. High school was sometimes great, sometimes not, but I don’t really want to go back (in real life or in fiction).

Also, there are other adult genres now that are just exciting me more. I love the puzzle of a cozy mystery, learning new things in non-fiction, and following a relationship in romance. Are all those things available in YA? To varying extents, yes, but they’re also very available in their respective adult genres too. (If anyone knows a good YA cozy mystery, please let me know because I know of zero).

I’m aware that I’d be an adult in a YA space.

If 55% of YA buyers from the Publishers Weekly survey are over 18, that means that 45% of YA buyers are under 18. So, in YA discussion spaces, it should be expected that there will be many people under the age of 18 in that space, perhaps even readers who are in their younger teens. In most Canadian provinces, these readers would be considered minors.

It’s not inherently inappropriate for adults and minors to chat together about a shared interest but when a lot of adults and a lot of minors are together, there is a possibility for inappropriate or troubling behaviour to occur.

This doesn’t just include the illegal. For example, teens might feel very uncomfortable discussing a scene in a book if the adult readers in that space dismiss that scene as ‘childish’ or ‘unbelievable’, even if it’s very believable for the teen readers.

It’s totally OK for adult readers to read and enjoy YA and to discuss it with minor readers. However, the presence of adults, particularly when they outnumber the teens or have louder voices than the teens, may end up alienating teen readers – who are supposed to be the YA audience!

I think that it’s important that adults are aware of our age when we’re engaging in YA discussions, and that we are not the target audience of YA anymore. Personally, I do feel a little bit weird about stepping into a YA space, and knowing that I could contribute to crowding teens out from their own genre.


I don’t think there’s any specific ‘age’ when someone grows out of YA and I don’t think that YA is a genre that people necessarily outgrow. It’s just not for me anymore, because I personally think I’ve outgrown it. Which is a bit of a sad realization considering how much I loved YA when I was younger and how it doesn’t resonate with me as much now, but it’s also exciting to think about all the new genres I can explore.

Do you read YA? How do you feel about adult readers of YA, or adults in YA discussion spaces?

21 thoughts on “I’ve Grown Out of YA, and That’s OK

  1. starlightreadingtx July 25, 2022 / 11:20 am

    I’ve grown out of YA also. I am still leaving room for titles that have characters or settings that I’m really interested in. I cleaned out a lot of them from by ebook collection. I only kept a selective few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 25, 2022 / 12:42 pm

      I need to do a physical purge of my collection since most of them are YA and I can’t see myself reading them again, but I just don’t have the heart to do it yet :/

      Like

  2. Ann July 25, 2022 / 1:53 pm

    I wonder how many man and women buy YA books?

    I read a mix of YA and adult books in my teens and to me YA books were called teen books. It was not until I started watching booktube that they were called YA.

    It seems like a lot of people are not reading YA anymore. I have a feeling that it more then out growing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 26, 2022 / 10:16 pm

      Generally, women read more than men do. I’d imagine that it’s similar with YA.

      I also think YA hit a downturn in general popularity after the dystopian boom of the 2010s and it’s just not as much in the public light anymore. I don’t think there’s been one BIG mainstream book since the time of Hunger Games and Divergent. ACOTAR is new adult/adult and Six of Crows is popular but not mainstream popular. And I’d never heard of either before entering the bookish community.

      Like

  3. Kristina July 25, 2022 / 3:51 pm

    That might be because I got severely ill at only 19- so my brain « stopped aging », or maybe it’s normal?, but I very much feel closer to 19 than I would at 27. 🫢 I also had to grow up quicker as it was my duty to take care of my mother.

    That being said, I rather adult not reading the genre if it’s to comment how unrealistic or unbelievable — because indeed, considering the age and everything, it DOES make sense. One can’t have the wisdom of a 23years old at 16.. at the very least, it’s something reviewers MUST. Keep. In. Mind. 👏🏼 highly a pet peeves of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 26, 2022 / 10:14 pm

      Like the critique that a teen is acting childish… well of course they are, there’s a good chance they’re still considered a child under the law of their country!

      I think there’s also just a potential for additional hurt with the power dynamic that can sometimes exist between adults/kids when reviewing YA books, especially when the adults put themselves in a position of superiority simply because of their age and think that the kid reviewer can’t possibly know what they’re talking about because they’re kids.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kristina July 26, 2022 / 10:31 pm

        Oh yes absolutely!
        Their voices do need to be heard first- even in the workplace, i’ve got some teens get treated so badly by older customers.. because of exactly that! While it’s true they don’t have the same experiences we do, they can be knowledgeable. And they do deserve the same respect!

        They are also allowed to give their opinions, especially if THEY don’t relate to the character their age

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Krysta July 26, 2022 / 6:26 am

    The fact that YA tends to go into trends after a big book (all the dystopians after The Hunger Games, all the paranormal romance after Twilight, and all the heist books after Six of Crows) is what makes me periodically step back from reading YA. There are great books out there, of course, as with any age range, but you have to work hard to find them among all the derivative works. Even hyped books often aren’t that special. It will be the same old tropes but with a different setting or something, but everyone’s raving about it like it’s so original. I actually prefer middle grade books to YA because the MG market doesn’t cycle into trends like this, and I think you get a lot more unique books that are willing to push the envelope and try something that hasn’t been tested and found to be a sur money-maker. MG was also far more diverse way before YA started doing it, but no one ever talks about that.

    Also, yeah, YA tends not to branch out in terms of genres. I have wanted a comedic YA series for a long time now that is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As in, it’s not a rom com and it’s not “dark” humor. But everything in YA apparently has to be bleak. And, as you say, I CANNOT name a YA cozy mystery. It’s all thrillers. Sometimes I think the adult audience buying YA makes publishers think YA has to be super dark and edgy, and they aren’t willing to try different things.

    I’m okay with adults reading YA. I wouldn’t want them to take over teens’ space or anything. However, I do like intergenerational activities where all types of people can come together and enjoy something together. I think there’s a difference, though, between something like an adult chatting about or review a YA book online, and an adult barging in on a teen book club or something obviously advertised as a safe space for teens. I also think it’s okay for an adult to say something like they thought a teen protagonist was childish (that is their experience or opinion, and they can say it). But, again, it’s different if someone just posts that in a review. I think it would be in poor taste to say that directly to a teen who enjoyed the book. I try to remember not to “yuck someone’s yum” in person. Most people when taking about books they enjoyed aren’t really looking for a lively critical analysis and debate about the merits. They just want to be enthusiastic about it and move on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mint July 26, 2022 / 10:12 pm

      Thank you for sharing such thoughtful opinions, Krysta! I really wonder what kind of demographic information publishers have about YA audiences. What is the cause of trends in YA? Is it publishers picking, guesses based on what the YA demographic likes, etcetera?

      Don’t yuck someone’s yum is a good rule of thumb when talking bookish things, I think, whether it’s with people outside the bookish community or people within it. Especially when it’s possible that someone can feel very deeply about how a book touches them. I do remember feeling very deeply touched by some YA books. There’s a kind of magic with the right YA book that I think is hard to replicate with adult.

      Like

      • Krysta August 1, 2022 / 6:28 pm

        As far as I can tell, people are using the same statistics you cited about YA readership. Which may make sense since most studies aren’t done every year. But I do wonder if anything about the demographics has changed and what kind of data publishers might have access to about who is buying their books. Maybe they can access data from online sales or something that isn’t public?

        For me, there is a real sense that adult readers are the main intended audience for YA–at least I get that from what is being offered. I see a lot of teen protagonists and scenarios that feel like the protagonists are actually in their 20s, but the author just said they are 16 to make it a YA book. Sometimes I wonder if authors even realize that they are doing it. So many YA books seem to be based on what the authors are reading and what is marketable–they’ll often list a bunch of their YA favorites at the end or online. I don’t always get a sense that authors are really tapping into what it felt like to be a teen. More like they’re writing any story and assigning a random age to the characters.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mint August 2, 2022 / 1:53 am

        It’s really a shame :/ Readers of all ages should be able to enjoy YA but I think it should focus on the young adults that the name suggests and consider what it’s like to be a teen.

        If anything, I feel like MG is tapping into that and filling the void for younger teens, but that still leaves older teens without a genre that’s really ‘theirs’.

        Like

  5. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators July 27, 2022 / 2:14 pm

    It’s so interesting because I just wrote a post about the ways I’ve changed as a reader, and one of the things I mentioned was that I no longer read YA! Like you though I still think it’s a worthy and wonderful genre, just not one that appeals to me much anymore.

    What’s interesting is that I’ve seen several people echo the same sentiment recently, where as adults they no longer are reading YA. I wonder if there has been some shift in the genre that adults haven’t enjoyed? Or maybe this is just some weird impact of the pandemic? Regardless, I’m glad that most of the people I’ve heard that are stepping away from YA are adults, because I think the genre is so important for the target audience of young adults to feel seen and have stories designed for them!

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 28, 2022 / 1:21 am

      Being a tween/teen can be hard and I think it’s so important for there to be stories that reflect that stage of life!

      I think a lot of former YA in their 20s and 30s remember the vampire days (from Twilight) and the dystopian boom (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent, etc.), and might be looking for something new. YA nowadays has generally moved away from those beats but I also think it’s still very trend-driven. Which might not be something everyone enjoys.

      It doesn’t help that there hasn’t been one BIG YA book in a long time, so big that it crosses over into the mainstream and adults start picking it up too. So unless you’re really tapped into YA it can be hard to know which books are the gems, especially when an adult might have less time to read as they do post-secondary, start working, and even have kids of their own.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Celeste | A Literary Escape July 28, 2022 / 7:13 pm

    For the most part, as an adult in her 30s, I do enjoy YA. I read it and I buy it. But I also do so with the expectation that the characters are not fully mature (nor are their emotions or how they handle situations) and that spice won’t be ghost pepper level. Readers who expect that need to perhaps move on to New Adult/Adult spaces, in my opinion. Now, I will say I gravitate more towards the older range of YA books than the younger range for those two main reasons I just stated: because they tend to have more emotionally mature characters and maybe we’ll get a cute kiss. I think that’s why I found THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH THE SEA so disappointing: it was marketed as YA, but the marketing, in my mind, didn’t really indicate it was on the younger side. So I found the characters and their relationships underdeveloped/shallow. Perhaps if my expectations had been different, I wouldn’t have been so surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 31, 2022 / 8:49 pm

      I think it doesn’t help that so much of the YA audience is adults… so the publishers end up marketing both to kids but also adult YA readers too. I could see a publisher being wary about marketing a book too young for fear of not attracting enough older readers?

      Like

  7. abookowlscorner July 29, 2022 / 9:58 pm

    I’m with you on a lot of this, Mint! Even though I never could have imagined it a few years ago, when YA still constituted the majority of what I read, I find myself drifting away from that age range more and more. I still like reading YA every now and then, but adult has definitely overtaken it in terms of the category I read the most books in, and I also find that the YA books I stumble across and really end up loving have become much fewer. But, like you, I think that’s a normal consequence of growing up!Fast-paced plots about misunderstood highschool teens single-handedly trying to save the world and fall in love just don’t ensnare me as much as they used to anymore, particularly when I feel like I’ve seen them before and handled with more complexity elsewhere… But every once in a while there’s a YA gem that reminds me of why I love reading so much in the first place or I’m in the mood for a bit of a quicker read, so I doubt I’ll ever give up on YA altogether! Besides, I really like how much branching out there has been in YA in recent years – I feel like there’s a lot more diversity in literature now than when I was a teen!

    I don’t really see it as problematic when adults read the same books as kids or teenagers, though, even if they’re not the intended target audience. I think it’s great if everyone reaches for what interests them and gets their thoughts out there! Of course, it would be a bit strange if adults suddenly barged into teen discussion groups and completely took them over, but from what I’ve experienced, that has never been the case. Rather, I like getting thoughts from people at different stages in their life! And even though there might be some who criticize YA books because they’re “too simple” and “promote inappropriate teen behavior”, I feel like those people are in the minority and simply wonder why they keep reading YA if they hate it so much 🤔 I actually usually find reviews like that rather entertaining! But maybe I just haven’t had the negative experiences some people have…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 31, 2022 / 9:01 pm

      Yes to the diversity! There are still ways for YA to improve with diversity, but it’s a lot better than a lot of other adult genres right now. And the improvement over time has been quite impressive.

      I do think that sometimes, YA authors/publishers underestimate their readers a bit by thinking that they need to be ‘talked down to’ or messages simplified to make it understandable, and that’s where the “simple” critique can be more fair. Which kind of goes back to the issue of adults in YA communities, I think. Even if an adult doesn’t intend to take over a YA community sometimes, they can end up being influential figures within communities because they’re seen as ‘older’ and ‘smarter’ or because they see themselves that way. And it could be a positive thing, like an adult fanfiction writer mentoring younger writers, but there’s room for negative outcomes too with that kind of power imbalance.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Samantha @WLABB July 30, 2022 / 2:47 pm

    I have been reading a LOT less YA then I used to, but it has more to do with them all seeming to be issue heavy these days. I miss those fluffy YAs from back in the day (and I still do tag in for releases by some of my favorite YA authors). I worked in a high school for over a decade, so I never dismiss anything I read. Teens are like all other people, they are unique and not a monolith. I am happy that many of the YA authors I have enjoyed in the past are writing adult books though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mint July 31, 2022 / 8:53 pm

      Maybe issue-heavy books are part of the new YA trend? Or maybe it’s just an evolution of the issues from 2010s dystopian literature, but in more explicit ways. I’m still impressed by how Mockingjay deals with the aftermath of revolution in all its messiness, particularly with its portrayal of Coin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Samantha @WLABB August 1, 2022 / 3:21 pm

        Very valid point, but I guess it doesn’t hit as close to home when it’s in a fantasy world

        Like

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