One of my blogging friends recently put up a post where she seemed to have a very hard time trying to find both adult and YA books that don’t have romance in them. While I don’t seem to have that problem with the adult books I read, it occurred to me that I might have found one reason …
Why I don’t read YA books.
These are my personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I’m certain that many will disagree and/or even hate many of the things I’ve written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your own opinions – be they contrary or comparable – in the comments section.
With that out of the way…
On my blog’s book reviewing policy I state very clearly “If you write YA books that don’t have at least one strong, female protagonist, meaning one that has a life that isn’t all about chasing after some good looking boy or girl (or trying to get some boy or girl to look at them), or if your book is in a genre from the paragraph below, then I’m not your target audience.” The paragraph below that line details what I mean by women’s fiction (which is not romance) and also talks about the genres I don’t read, which include romance, fantasy, horror, and erotica.
That said, maybe we should define YA fiction. According to most sites, YA fiction is written for readers aged 12-18, and targets issues that this age group face as they move from puberty into adulthood, such as friendship, first love, relationships, and identity. The reading level of these books was developed to help these younger readers move from children’s fiction to adult fiction. However, it seems that the transition wasn’t smooth enough because there are now two more age-specific reading groups. One is the middle grade books (for ages 8-12) and the other is New Adult, which I understand is for the 18-30 age group. By process of elimination, that means that books written for anyone aged 30+ would be adult fiction, and anything for under the age of eight is children’s fiction. Be all that as it may, I understand that most sources believe that at least half of the readers of YA fiction are actually adults! Obviously, I’m not one of them… for the most part. And I was wondering why.
To start with, I see that Wikipedia says that those YA novels with stories that focus on the specific challenges of this age group are sometimes referred to as “problem novels” or “coming-of-age stories.” Obviously, the classic example of the latter being “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger. Again, both of these types of novels fall squarely in the literary fiction area. All four of those above YA/New Adult books qualify under these categories. Mind you, there are plenty of adult novels that I would call “late-onset coming-of-age” books, and some even have quite elderly protagonists. So, my not reading YA/New Adult books isn’t because I can’t relate to the specific challenges of an age group I’ve left (very) far behind. As a “boomer” when I read books like that, I can say that I’ve “been there, done that” and I’m sure I even bought the T-shirt (but it probably no longer fits, or has been turned to rags by now). Therefore, my advanced age isn’t a problem.
I should now admit that I have read and reviewed four books that I consider to be YA fiction or New Adult fiction. These are:
- “My So-Called Ruined Life” by Melanie Bishop
- “Ostrich” by Matt Greene
- “The Universe versus Alex Woods” by Gavin Extence
- “The Lark” by E. Nesbit
Thinking back on these books, the thing all four have in common is that they’re all contemporary (for the year they were written), and they’re all literary fiction. By that I mean that these are all stories that take place in the real world, with nothing fantastical or unbelievable. Furthermore, of the four, I’d say that the only one that has any romantic elements would be The Lark, and the small amount of romance there is played down to the bare minimum. Mind you, that’s also the only one that might be considered New Adult (although these age categories didn’t exist back when it was written).
By the way, I have read (but never reviewed), most of the original series of Harry Potter books. I know how popular that series is, and I give Rowling a whole lot of credit for helping bring younger audiences off of their cellphones and back to reading books. I liked them well enough, but they didn’t have me gasping for the next in the series. I think my biggest problem with them is that I didn’t find the writing style to be terrible attractive, and there were whole sections that I though really needed to be rewritten and better edited. More importantly, I felt that Rowling wrote “down” to her audience – meaning I think she simplified the prose so that her younger readers wouldn’t find them too difficult to read. But you know, if you can ignore these problems, the stories are fun enough. Plus… all that magic… again, not my thing, really.
Now, it might me just me but it seems that most of the YA books I’ve seen over the past several years – both in reviews and on NetGalley and Edelweiss – are not literary fiction books. The number of fantasy books and romance books for the YA crowd seem practically unending. There are also tons of YA books that are science fiction or horror novels. Some books seem to include several, if not all of those genres in them! This is probably the main reason why I don’t read YA books – the selection seems to be almost exclusively in genres that I wouldn’t read in an adult novel.
However, if my readers know of some YA and/or New Adult books that are literary fiction books, that are written in a way that doesn’t feel like the language and/or style are patronizing to younger readers, I’d be very pleased to receive your recommendations!
So… what about you?
If you love you YA books, do you find they’re mostly fantasy or romance?
Would you like to see more variety of genres in the YA books you find?
Or is that why you like YA books?
This post is my 13th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!
WHAT MAKES A BOOK YA?
Inspired by this tweet by Samantha Shannon, what makes a book YA? Do you think some books by female authors should have been Adult and were unfairly classified as YA? What are some things that definitively make a book YA for you? What are some YA books you think should be classified as adult and vice versa?