Why I’m not ashamed of reading YA novels

When I was in high school, I went through young adult novels like it was nobody’s business. During my freshman and sophomore years I probably read three quarters of the YA novels available in my high school library. I read nearly every single Sarah Dessen book, and my list of favorite books about teenage outcasts was about as long as my geometry textbook.

I was about 16 when I realized that I probably wasn’t going to love books featuring 16-year-old protagonists for the rest of my life. This genuinely upset me and made me dread being a boring old person with a copy of some other boring old person’s memoir on my night stand.

It seems expected that books about high school teenagers are to be read by audiences of high school teenagers. So when I came to college, I attempted to move beyond my adolescent reading habits. I purchased several classic novels and left my extensive collection of YA novels back home.

In reality, this switch in reading habits just made me lose my love for reading. I read less, I finished fewer books, and I spent my time doing other things. It was like reading switched from being a means of entertainment to being something I felt obligated to do.

This all changed when I decided to listen to the audiobook of a The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen on my drive back home from college. I had previously read this book when I was in high school and remembered it fondly so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen to it during my four-hour trip across the state.

Hearing the story years after reading it reminded me of the way I used to get so invested in stories and their characters. I missed the process of falling in love with a book. I missed the short relationships that I used to have with characters between the first day I opened a book until the day I put it down.

This habit of listening to YA books in my car quickly evolved into a habit of reading YA novels alone in my room because I honestly craved them, but didn’t want to advertise to my fellow classmates that I was reading books about fifteen year olds.

When I turned twenty, I was once again forced to reevaluate the number of YA novels on my to-read list. It seemed like at this point I had actually hit that wall where I wasn’t a teenager in any sense of the word and was probably too old to be reading about sophomores in high school.

I was highly discouraged until I found an article called “Can You Get Too Old For YA Novels?” written by John Green. “Reader or writer, we love stories about teenagers, because although they can be cynical about many things, they aren’t cynical about love, hope, and the stuff that really matters, like the future,” Green said.

“While I am profoundly glad I will never be a teen again, I am thrilled to read (and write) about them because, deep down, it’s their enthusiasm and curiosity that we can all admire and wish to emulate long after we’ve reached proper adult status.”

John Green’s words helped me realize that I had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. YA novels are about people who are still figuring things out from the perspective of characters that are not hiding their emotions.

Maybe I’m just immature, but these raw stories of passion and growth are still entirely entertaining to me. In a life where I’m assigned 50 pages of rigorous reading every night, it’s nice to recognize that books can still be genuine pieces of comforting storytelling.


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