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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Guest Post: Why Adults Read Young Adult Books by Patrick Bailey @Pat_Bailey80

Why Do Adults Read Young Adult (YA) Books? 

As with any fictional work, young adult books have a target market and are written to appeal to a certain type of reader. Surprise, surprise, the market for these books stretches well beyond any intended target. Adults read young adult books in droves and outnumber young readers in actual readership. Perhaps a good story is just a good story no matter how old the protagonist, which might explain why our cherished nursery rhymes and bedtime stories stay with us long after our childhood ends. 
So why do adults read young adult books? Let’s find out …

What Qualifies as a Young Adult Book?

While the label, “young adult book” may seem self-explanatory, this genre has a fuzzy age range, both in readership and in the characters who populate these stories. The general range spans from 12- to 17-year-olds but college students and even characters in their 30s have taken prominent roles in these storylines. Perhaps what most distinguishes the young adult category is the coming-of-age theme that runs through these stories.
The tradition of young adult fiction dates as far back as the 17th century with Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a German writer who first brought the coming-of-age story to the masses. Young characters faced with challenges that propel them towards maturity tend to be the dominant theme in young adult books. And while teenagers are the target market, lots of adults read young adult books, making up a whopping 55 percent of the readership for this genre.

Reasons Why Adults Read Young Adult Books


So why do adults read young adult books? One of the reasons may have to do with how jaded adulthood makes us. Most young adult stories have happy endings, which is not something that happens with any regularity in “real” adult life.
Young adult books also tend to be written in straightforward, uncomplicated prose compared to the sometimes convoluted and pretentious writing found in adult fiction. This makes for easy reading and smooth pacing when the story is interesting. Lastly, the innocence aspect allows for storylines to take a more creative bent as opposed to the every day, entrenched issues of adulthood, such as divorce, aging, money problems, addiction, and alcohol rehab woes.

Coming of Age Experiences

While teenagers can benefit from seeing how protagonists in young adult books navigate challenges, life’s obstacles don’t stop once they reach adulthood. The basic, universal themes found in teen fiction also tend to repeat throughout the human life cycle. People continue to grow and change in adulthood and so adults, too, continue to come of age. In these respects, adults read young adult books for the same reasons young people read them: to see the different ways life’s situations can work out.

Seeing Life From a Young Person’s Perspective

It’s during the teenage years that so many of us experience out “firsts;” be it your first kiss, your first love, or your first time behind the wheel of a car. First times carry an intensity and realness that make them stand out, making the second, third, and fourth times seem uneventful. In turn, reading young adult books allows adults to revisit cherished experiences in their own lives. Through this “young perspective” adult readers remember how wonderful life can be when viewed through youthful eyes.  

Just Plain Ole Good Stories

The young adult market spans across all forms of media, from books to movies to full-blown franchises. While young adult books may have an intended audience, the universal appeal that many of these stories have speaks to the power that a good story can wield. By presenting real-life themes in digestible and hopeful ways, the young adult book market has “reset the bar” when it comes to good storytelling. Apparently, a good story is a good story no matter who the intended audience is. 

Sources -
 1 - The Atlantic, “Why So Many Adults Read Young-Adult Literature”
2 - The Visual Rhetoric of the Harry Potter Books, “UK Covers vs. US Covers”
3 - Sunshine Behavioral Health, “Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Options”
4 - The Stanford Daily, “A ‘Coming of Age’ for All Ages”

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