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.