I write YA and I read YA. Occasionally, I pick up middle grade books but I rarely enjoy them. I also occasionally pick up old adult books and periodically enjoy them. YA books almost always speak to me directly, even though I’m technically more than twice the age of the intended audience.
When I go to book signings and author events by YA writers, there are usually far more adults in the audience than teenagers. And one popular YA book blogger took a poll of all her followers a few months ago and found the average age of her followers to be in their late twenties (not there teens). So clearly, I am not the only adult currently reading YA.
My explanation for why so many adults enjoy reading YA is simple. YA books are good! But why are they so good? What about the teenage experience is so captivating for adults? My answer to that question is also simple, stuff happens to teenagers and so stuff happens in YA books.
The first thing every writer has to ask before starting a project regardless of genre is why. Why is this story happening? Why is this particular part of this characters total life experience the part that needs to be written? There are many events that humans experience that are worth writing about, and not all of those events happen during high school. That’s why there are still lots of great books written for and about adults.
But a lot of things do happen to teenagers. Adolescence is the time when people figure out who they want to be. Most adults rarely experience new things and from one year to the next life tend to look pretty much the same. But teenager’s lives are constantly changing. There are things happening. There are things to write about. There is an answer to that elusive question why.
So we write and we read and the stories that come out are often amazing. And even if the characters are teenagers, a lot of adults still read and enjoy them. Because we all remember when our lives were also changing, when our future wasn’t set, when anything was possible. Isn’t that what fiction is all about – imagining the possible and the impossible alike.