Why You Shouldn't Be Ashamed to Love YA

In just a few weeks, I’ll be turning 20. The thought is a little terrifying, and while part of me is so ready to embrace the next chapter of my life, the other part wishes I could cling to my teenhood. While I won’t be able to say that I’m an age that ends in “-teen” anymore, I’ve learned that getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you love.

Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by the world of young adult books. Even before teen books were “appropriate” for me, I wanted to be part of the lives that teenage characters were living. They had cool magical powers, they were overthrowing their corrupt governments, and they had all these awesome friends and sidekicks. I remember reading this YA paranormal romance book (Evermore by Alyson Noel, in case you want to judge my tween tastes) way before I probably should’ve and being obsessed with this complex world of magic and ~forbidden love~. I couldn’t drag myself away from the feeling of escapism that these books gave me. At the same time as I was seriously exploring my passion for writing, YA books pushed me to explore my creativity and rethink how I tell my stories.

Half the books I read now are young adult. That’s usually pretty accepted and even common among people in my Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, but when I tell other people I read YA books, I get a few laughs. People seem to stereotype teen books as superficial and cheesy, as if the genre isn’t practically exploding right now. There have been countless movies adapting teen books, so there is clearly a large enough audience for these stories. But there’s a stigma attached to so many things that young people enjoy, so when they see themselves represented in books and other media, older audiences are quick to dismiss the stories as irrelevant. Never mind the fact that the lessons from many YA plots can be universal, and you don’t have to be a teen to relate, just like how you don’t have to be completely the same as the characters in any other book in order to enjoy the story.

I’m here to tell you that it’s fun to read YA, even as an adult. The genre is so exciting right now and appeals to me in a way that others don’t. Authors have been making strides in terms of representation and telling much-needed stories that have long been ignored. Books like The Hate U Give are opening up young people to important political conversations. We’re seeing people of color and LGBT+ people star in their own stories. And even though I loved YA when I was younger, I needed these kinds of books as a growing teen, so I’ll fully support them now for the next generation.

So pick up that new YA release that looks cool. Read the Harry Potter series for the tenth time. Books are wonderful, and no one should feel ashamed for reading.