#LetsDiscuss2020 – Why I Don’t Read YA Books – #DiscussionSunday #13.

#LetsDiscuss2020

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.

Discussion Sunday #letsdiscuss2020

Disclaimer:

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:

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!

2020-Discussion-Challenge

This article also qualifies for Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, for the week starting July 3, which is:

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?

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34 thoughts on “#LetsDiscuss2020 – Why I Don’t Read YA Books – #DiscussionSunday #13.

  1. I read mostly YA and MG, honestly. For some reason, I tend to get bored when I read adult books, especially literary fiction. But this is why we need ALL types of books—what’s right for me might not be right for someone else. I did think of Salt to the Sea as a recommendation, but I see someone’s already mentioned it. I second that rec!

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  2. I keep a reading spreadsheet every year, and I always try for 50/50 adult and children’s books. I include YA in the children’s category. The romances are my biggest criticism of YA. Sometimes it feels like the romance is just stuffed in there because love stories are expected in the genre. As I get older, I’m getting pickier about my YA. I no longer like books that mostly take place inside a high school. I guess I’m over that part of my life and have no desire to revisit it in fiction. I’ve read most of the YA books that other commenters have recommended, and I agree with their WWII recs. I hope you find some YA that you enjoy.

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  3. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction either, Davida, but I loved both Code Name Verity and The Book Thief and never even thought that they were YA. The only novel I read knowing that it was YA was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I thought was well done. Anyway, thanks for your definitions of all the categories. I’d heard of New Adult a while back and wondered when we should stop considering grown-up people as less than fully adult. (And yes, I’m in the same age group as you and am still somewhat baffled about the whole YA thing anyway. The just thought of the books I grew up with as novels.)

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    1. Right? When we were kids we moved from picture books to children’s stories then to novels. Mind you, I’m sure the librarians knew which books were better suited to which age groups, but it wasn’t as formal and with special names as they have today.

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  4. As a Youth Services Librarian, I do read a lot of YA, mostly because I work mainly with teens. And partially because when I was a teen the market wasn’t as vast. I read the Face on the Milk Carton, Sweet Valley, and Lois Duncan, which were pretty tame compared to some of today’s stuff. There are a plethora of books now that I would have read as a teen.

    I see others have already recommended Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which is amazing, as is it’s companion Rose Under Fire.

    Some YA books I’d classify as adult based on their content are Sarah J. Maas’s books, but since they are High Fantasy, they wouldn’t be your genre. I don’t know of any NA books that are literary unfortunately, they are all Romance that I know of.

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  5. I think I love YA for all the same reasons you don’t care for it! I tend to love a bit of romance and find that most the adult books I’ve read either have too strong of a focus on it, or it’s such an afterthought that it ends up unconvincing and weak. I also love magic and find that the books I love the most “genre jump” and contain a little bit of everything. I will say that there are A LOT of poorly written YA books. I think there’s this perception that its easy to write a YA novel, so a lot of mediocre writers start there. But there are some really well thought out and intricate and beautifully written YA books. They’re just a little hard to find sometimes. As for YA I think you might like, I second the recommendations of The Book Theif and Code Name Verity. I’ve also heard that I’ll Give You The Sun is more on the “literary fiction” side of YA (although, admittedly, I’ve not read it, and I do think it has strong romantic elements). Happy reading!

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  6. My sister-in-law, a 4th grade teacher, always recommends great middle-grade and YA books. I am a huge romance reader, but realize that the ones she recommends are usually not romance. I just read Long Way Down and have All American Boys on tap by Jason Reynolds. A List of Cages by Robin Roe is amazing. If I remember correctly, there’s a pinch of romance, but that is not what stands out about this story at all. I’d also recommend Refuge by Alan Gratz, that’s more middle-grade definitely doesn’t talk down to the reader. Taking a quick look at the YA I have read, I see you are absolutely right, though. Majority are some sort of romance. Of course, that’s okay by me since that’s the main genre of my reading.

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  7. That’s a super interesting take. I think I’m sort of the opposite of you where I’ve never really cared for literary fiction very much, but will find a couple now and then that I enjoy. I try to cast my net wide but I always end up reading more YA than anything else – maybe because that’s what tends to be talked about the most in my bubble of people?

    This is a really unique take and thank you for linking me!

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  8. I totally understand why you don’t read YA, but for me, I prefer to read it because a lot of the coming of age stories that appear in YA are things that I still have yet to experience even as an adult. And I’m not very far into the Harry Potter series, but I agree with you on the writing. The earlier books really feel like the reader is being written down to as if Rowling didn’t really know how to write for a younger audience.

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    1. Understood. But you should know that coming-of-age themes aren’t reserved for the young. I’ve read many books that I consider COA where the person is fully an adult. In fact, I’ve even read COA books where the protagonist is OLD (like my age… 60+)!

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  9. I am a big YA fan and there is a lot of romance (more than there ever was in my YA life, for sure). I don’t object so long as the heroine is not simply waiting for the romance to happen, although this is certainly the case in several of the authors I loved growing up like Janet Lambert, Betty Cavanna, and Rosamund du Jardin. I give them a pass and enjoy them for what they are.

    I second the recommendation of Code Name Verity (one of my favorite books in the last ten years) and would add I Capture the Castle (of course, I can’t find my copy for my mother whose book group is reading it this month), The Fair Adventure (Gray, if you can find it), and Another Shore by Nancy Bond (so beautifully done I had to travel to Canada where it is set). There was a great series by Ruth Elwin Harris about four sisters, each told from that sister’s perspective. Some found romance, some did not, but it reflected the ebb and flow of life more than any one romantic focus.

    However, there are many books to read so I don’t really see any reason to spend time on a genre you don’t care for! Except Code Name Verity is very very good if you like WWII fiction.

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  10. Well, I disagree with you by about 100% 😉 I read a lot of YA and manage to avoid most of the romance issues, also don’t read much fantasy. I stick mostly to historical, science fiction and general fiction. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is one I’d heartily recommend to you; also Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel, In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund and Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner.

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  11. I read mostly YA. I have ended up looking more into the conversations of why people don’t read YA lately since there are times when I question why I don’t read more adult fiction.

    All of YA has romance except maybe .0001% by my calculations 🤓. I don’t love that YA has a romance all the time but I do love romance. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been adding more adult fiction (some romance and some not) to my list of read books. I do find that there is a good amount of adult fiction that has a romance like some women’s fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. It’s something inescapable! The difference is how it’s presented in YA.

    I deeply fell in love with books in High School. I’ve always loved books but not with the fervor I did in High School. I guess that’s why YA always appeals to me and honestly, I don’t know the adult fiction world as much as YA. It’s a lot easier to find books in that age group. I also end up finding more books I’m interested in while adult fiction can be iffy. I like the plots but lately, it really depends because I don’t always like the execution in YA books. It does feel very been there done that so I read adult fiction and middle grade to get something new in my life when I feel I’m not reading enough books that really satisfy me. Case in point my five star reads this year have been manga (Manga usually gets a high rating from me) and two adult books that I can’t get out of my head.

    Also, with YA, I do like coming of age stories which you mentioned. Those are some of my favorite books. They’re also a lot of retellings in YA which I absolutely love and don’t see much of in adult fantasy. But again, I don’t know those books as much as YA. I think as I grow older as I have been doing, I will have adult fiction as my number one read and YA as lower down. That’s why I love looking at stats at the end of the year.

    New Adult, from what I’ve seen, is just romance. I don’t particularly like that age group because I’m looking more for characters starting their lives as adults and juggling daily life, not necessarily with a romance but with a friendship or family element.

    https://shesgotbooksonhermind.blogspot.com/

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    1. Wow… thanks for this. I find this very interesting, and appreciate your insights. By the way, the few New Adult books I’ve seen do seem to be romance, but combined with careers, so that’s better. Furthermore, I’ve found many adult books with coming-of-age themes for older adults – even elderly protagonists can come of age!

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  12. I’ve have just scanned my list of YA reads and many are romance, fantasy, scifi, coming of age based. A few are less so. Emily Barr for instance, but her books deal with mental health and medical issues around adolescents.

    Another book that is a dual timeline and begins in the school years, with the second timeline when Biddy is around 30 years old, is a powerful book about bullying. The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen impressed me.

    I also read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, I read it before seeing all the social media uproar about its subject matter of teenage suicide.

    One final book was The Children Of Albion by Jill Turner a hard-hitting novel about children seeking an escape from the brutal reality of their inner-city upbringing.

    I quite like sports fiction, particularly if it features the sport of my youth, gymnastics. Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli was set against the backdrop pf the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I read it way before the games were cancelled. However, it still squeezed in some romance and many of the sports themed fiction for YA is full of romance.

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  13. I wouldn’t say I love YA books in general, but I read a couple for a challenge that were very good. One is Snow and Ash by Theresa Shaver, set in contemporary times but with the caveat that most of the world has been destroyed in a nuclear war. The protag is a strong teenaged girl. There is a slight bit of romance but not explicit sex. The other is Yeshiva Girl by Rachel Mankowitz. This one is about a Jewish girl dealing with an abusive father. There are sexual elements, but it’s mainly just sad.

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    1. Post-apocalypse? Um… thanks but, no thank you. The other one… maybe… sound triggering to me. Also… generally speaking, orthodox girls wouldn’t attend Yeshivas with male teachers – the boys and girls would be totally separate.

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  14. Oh you know I’m going to chime in on this!!!

    I don’t read a lot of YA for many of the reasons you cited….also because many of them include a great deal of profanity. But I do enjoy an occasional YA read.

    Here are a few of my fav YA titles:

    Lovely War
    Fountains of Silence
    Paper Hearts (friendship theme, novel in verse)
    Far From the Tree (I fall hard for adoption stories!)
    The Hate U Give (seeing life from a different perspective)
    Salt to the Sea
    The Glass Castle (memoir)
    The Book Thief

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  15. I think it depends what you class as romance. There are romance novels where the whole thing’s about some dashing doctor or Regency rake and a damsel in distress swooning into their arms, but there are also general books about anything in which, at some point, the main character meets a partner.

    I’ve never heard the term “New Adult” before. If I hear “18 to 30”, I assume it means holidays in Magaluf or Ayia Napa with a lot of drinking involved 🙂 .

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    1. I had a whole discussion post about the difference between romance, chick-lit, and women’s fiction. Romance for me is when the whole story is based on the classic “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl” (although today it would be “boy/girl meets boy/girl…”). If finding a partner isn’t the main motivation for the actions of the woman in a book, then I call it woman’s fiction.

      And yes, New Adult is a newer age bracket, and from what I gather, the themes are about starting out in life – starting or finding a career, and things like that.

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