The Label ‘YA’ does not equal ‘Books for Teenagers’

This assumption is something that bugs me. A lot.

Being a huge fan of YA books, it is a given that I try and persuade people to read my favourite books. One of the people I successfully turned into a lover of YA books is my mom. She started out with The Hunger Games, moved on to Divergent, went to the Kiera Cass event with me because she loved The Selection (and Maxon!) and a few hours ago she finished reading Fangirl. She doesn’t read solely YA. But these days she has a special YA shelf, with all the books she read and loved. And it packs some of the best YA titles out there. (I feel like a proud mom whenever I see her reading YA, I just get so giddy when she enjoys one of the books I recommended her).

Lets get back to her reading Fangirl. She had a little trouble getting into the story at first, and I was afraid that I’d picked the wrong book to recommend to her. Obviously my mom is at a very different stage in life than I am. I just started University and I connected with the book instantly, because I could recognize myself in Cath. My mom has had these experiences already, but it’s been years since she’s been there, and she no longer worries about the things I worried about when I started University. I was almost convinced that she would end up disliking the book, but then I saw her smiling more and more while reading. Turns out that she’s started seeing my sister and me in the characters she was reading about. Then about 20 pages before the end, she sighed and said she didn’t want to read any further. Reason? Because she didn’t want the book to end. Needless to say, she ended up loving Fangirl. And I let out the breath I’d nervously been holding.

Bear with me, I promise I am going somewhere with this. After finishing Fangirl, she wanted to read more books by Rainbow Rowell, and looked up Eleanor & Park on Goodreads. Nothing to blame there, Rainbow Rowell is a true wizard when it comes to words. So my mom read about all the awards Eleanor & Park received, awards such as the “Teen Book Award” and “Best Children’s Book of 2013.” Of course this book deserves every singe award it got, because it’s a true gem and one of my favourite books ever. But it left my mom with a question: Does the Label ‘Young Adult’ equal ‘Books for Teenagers’.

It is true that the labels ‘teens’ and ‘YA’ are often used interchangeably. But Young Adult books aren’t just for teens. I can’t say that enough. In my opinion, it’s mostly the people that aren’t familiar with YA that state this. YA only is an age guideline. It doesn’t mean that the books are solely meant for teenagers. While, of course, there are books out there that don’t challenge me as a reader. Books that have simply grown too old for. But, there are tons of YA books in which the main character deals with significant difficulties and hardships. Think of The Fault in Our Stars, about Hazel who’s sick and -lets be realistic- facing death. Or The Beginning of Everything, about how difficult it can be to play the part that people expect you to play and about moving on when tragedy strikes. Coming-Age-Stories, like Fangirl, that delve into the anxieties of an introvert main character, who’s simply trying to find her way in college. Fangirl is a book that helped me a lot. It’s a light and cute read, but there was so much more to the book than that. I was able to connect with Cath on so many levels, and it helped me figure things out about starting University (because I was excited, but pretty damn terrified of starting university this year).

You know what’s even funnier? I attended YALC in 2014, during which Meg Rosoff revealed that 55% of YA titles are bought by adults. Sure, some of these purchases might be gifts for teenagers, but it proves that there are plenty of adults reading (and loving) Young Adult books. My mom being one of them.

I’ve been told that I should read less YA and more Classics, being a twenty year old English student and all. For all I know my mother has been told that she should read more books intended for her age. It’s ridiculous others think they can tell you what to read based on an age guideline. I read plenty of classics when I was 15 years old. I wasn’t too young for them, nor does anyone say that classics are meant to be read by Adults. I read whatever I feel like reading, whatever I think I will enjoy and will be memorable. YA is for whoever wants to read YA. There’s no ‘special age-limit’ just because the term ‘Young Adult’ suggests that the books are meant for young adults.

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  1. 19/01/2015 / 06:39

    I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion. At 56, I love John Green’s books among other YA favourites. I see the YA designation as a bar to be met (at least teenage reading level) and not a ceiling (adults are too old to read these books). Keep reviewing these YA books for us older readers too.

    • Iris
      19/01/2015 / 20:28

      Thank you Sharon! It’s something I absolutely love about YA, the fact that it can be read and enjoyed by everyone.

  2. 19/01/2015 / 07:17

    I totally agree that the category young adult does not mean it should be only read by teenagers. I think the sole purpose of the category ‘young adult’ is to let the audience know that “hey! The main characters in this book are teenagers etc.”. I guess it hints readers that “you’re about to read a young adult book…do you think it would appeal to you? (of course, same thing goes for adult books, graphic novels, etc). I hate it when people are like “why are you reading YA books? Aren’t you too old for that?” I don’t think anybody is too old to read YA novels because there is always SOMETHING from the story that you’ll be able to relate to no matter how big or small it is. I think YA is the mediocre category since it doesn’t have explicit scenes; it’s right in the middle. Now, if a child were to read an adult book…well.. for me that’s a complete different story. That’s a big no no.

    • Iris
      19/01/2015 / 20:31

      Exactly! You’re never too old to read YA, there’s always something to relate to, because we’ve all been there at some point!
      And I agree, children reading adult books, there’s a mighty big difference there!

  3. 19/01/2015 / 08:12

    I absolutely agree that YA is not only for teenagers. I’m 28 and I read YA a lot though I read classics and adult novels. And I’m tired of questions like “Why do you read so much young adult books? You are too old for them!”. That annoys me greatly. I think that if the book is good it doesn’t matter how old you are to enjoy it.

    • Iris
      19/01/2015 / 20:38

      That’s an absolute truth right there!

  4. 19/01/2015 / 11:56

    I LOVE THIS POST! I think it’s so fantastic that your mom reads YA. I also really hate the idea that someone who studies English needs to read Classics or bestsellers.

    I actually have a huge problem that I would have loved to talk about on my blog… except it’s about my mom. And she reads my blog. So I’m going to talk about it here instead! >:D

    I think my mom kind of looks down at me for reading YA. Or she thinks YA is only for teenagers. Whenever I’m talking to someone new and it comes up that I’m a “reader”, my mom always jumps in and says:

    “But she only reads ‘Young Adult’.”

    Then she kind of gives the person a knowing wink that, in my mind, says, “I know, it’s silly. She’s way too old for those books.”

    But she says it as if it’s something that ALWAYS needs to be disclaimed. It’s like she’s saying, “Yes my daughter is a reader, but she won’t have read anything that YOU read because she only reads books for teenagers.”

    And it just crushes me every time! I guess I really need to talk to her about it. But I always feel like I’m getting put down just because SHE doesn’t like or read YA. I think she’s also one of those people who immediately think that:

    YA = fantasy / vampires / wolves
    Fantasy is for kids.

    She was shocked when I told her one day that there are CONTEMPORARY young adult books. It’s like she had no clue. X_X

    Anyway, sorry for venting. I guess I just hate that my mom thinks I always need to disclose that I read YA as if it will change something. Like, as if I’m not a real reader, I’m just a YA reader. UGH.

    • 19/01/2015 / 20:19

      Hey Ashley,
      I read lots of ‘official’ literature, but also YA, and pretty much everthing that sounds interesting. Lots of genres, some are YA and some are Adult. I hope your mom will be more understanding in the future.

    • Iris
      19/01/2015 / 21:01

      You should talk about that. I can only imagine how crushing it must feel. It hurts me every time somebody I don’t know says that to me. Most of the time people don’t even realize they’re coming across as patronizing, unless I point it out to them.

      I am so glad my family supports and understands why I love reading so much. While I read tons of classics, and quite some Adult books, my main genre is YA. There’s so many beautiful contemporary YA books out there, but also so many fantasy books (think Throne of Glass). The way these books are written, the beautiful writing, it gets me every single time.

      YA is a beautiful genre. I sincerely hope your mom will see that someday! (you can always try giving YA books for her birthday, or Christmas presents… it’s what I did. I’m devious that haha. Everyone loves a good book, and YA has PLENTY of good books!)

  5. 20/01/2015 / 05:11

    I wholeheartedly agree. This is something that bothers me. I tried to recommend a book to my older sister, who is only 20, and she responds that she can’t go back to reading young adult after transitioning into her adult life and reading more sophisticated books. I have nothing against adult literature, but losing the -teen suffix to your age doesn’t mean you are “too old” for YA.

    • Iris
      25/01/2015 / 16:35

      Agreed! I think you limit yourself if you aren’t open to reading all kinds of books (which include YA).

  6. 21/01/2015 / 10:47

    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE. I like this quote by CS Lewis (I can’t remember the exact wording) but it kind of says that a children’s book that’s only enjoyed by children isn’t a good book at all. Or something like that. XD Anyway, the basic point is that BOOKS ARE FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO READ THEM. I will admit to loving Middle Grade and I even enjoy analysing picture books when I read them to my preschooler nephew. It’s fun. It’s all story telling and it just shows how people can show their stories and art on different levels, right?! LOVE This post. So cool that you converted your mum. ;-)

    • Iris
      25/01/2015 / 16:37

      I like that! I like it so much that I looked up the quote :) The exact wording is: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
      And this quote fits this post perfectly!

  7. 25/01/2015 / 19:42

    I agree. I read whatever I like and I don’t care which section of the bookshop or library it was in. I hate that people are made to feel bad for liking what they like and I do always feel like people judge me when I spend time browsing the ‘Teen’ sections but I don’t really care anymore. YA books have something for everyone; whether you are experiencing similar now, in the past or will go through it in the future.

    • Iris
      26/01/2015 / 13:00


  8. 27/01/2015 / 17:21

    You are so right. YA is a guideline, like when you grow up and you go from easy books to more advanced books. It is a way to say, these books are about teenagers; that doesn’t mean they are ONLY meant for teenagers. I think people should let go of all these categories and judgmental ways of looking at things. Just read whatever you want, the end.

  9. 06/02/2015 / 17:14

    YES! My co-blogger runs a book club called ‘YA for ADULTS’. Yea, it isn’t just for teenagers.

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