This is not a new subject for any adult involved in writing, reading and reviewing Young Adult books – we get asked ‘why’ a lot. As in “Why do we ‘still’ like YA, even though we’re supposedly now grown up”?
I have thought about this a few times, especially when I look at my Goodreads list and see one or two ‘adult’ titles amongst twenty or so YA. Will I grow out of enjoying reading and writing fiction for teenagers? Well, I can’t guarantee anything in life – who can – but I don’t think so (and I hope not, looking at the massive collection on my bookshelves, mostly Aussie titles!).
But I have several reasons. There can’t be too many of us who didn’t find our teenage years confusing, embarrassing and occasionally downright horrible. It’s such a time of change, both physically and emotionally, with hormones kicking in and our bodies shooting up… and out.
In my case, I was taller than most of my classmates, but very clumsy, and wore thick glasses until I was finally able to wear contacts (back then, kids couldn’t wear contacts until late teen years). I had constant pimples and oily hair, was no good at sport, and at the time it didn’t seem that many people appreciated the couple of things I was good at – reading and writing. I felt like a fish out of water at high school.
And even if your own teenage years were relatively straightforward, adolescence is that point where you want more independence, but often have little control over your own life. Depending on your family, culture and religion, you may be restricted in how you dress, who you date (or even whom you’re friends with), where you go and for how long. Getting that ticket to freedom – a driving licence – involves money and adult supervision for an extended length of time.
Rules are there for a reason (for your protection, in the majority of cases), but they can certainly feel unfair or restrictive, especially if you have an inquiring nature and/or your friends have far less restricted lifestyles!
So it’s a powerful time of life when emotions and hormones are high, and everything seems magnified to the point of either magnificence or malevolence. Friendships are a battleground of negotiations and changing alliances. It’s no wonder that time sticks in our minds.
And if you’re a teenage reader, books can be an escape from, or an explanation of, what is going on around you. Even just reading about someone like you, or someone going through a similar situation, can be comforting. Many YA authors report getting feedback from kids – ‘I thought I was the only one who felt this way until I read your book!’ ‘I recognised myself in your character and now I don’t feel so weird and alone.’ (Which is also why we need more diverse YA books, particularly from “own voices” writers, for people of all genders, sexualities, races, religions, cultures and backgrounds, but that’s another topic again)
Believe me, YA readers are among the most passionate of all – there’s a million blogs, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and Twitter feeds out there to prove it! Have a read – and if you can’t understand all the acronyms, just google them 😉 Every now and again I still read a book so amazing and beautifully written and heart-breaking that I’m taken back to that passion – and it feels great 🙂
So yes, I think part of me will never really grow up, and I’m happy to keep that part of me. Writing characters and situations has been cathartic for me in some ways. It’s powerful to take a story and have control over the outcome, whatever that is.
While I’ll happily read adult fiction, literature and the occasional crime novel in particular, I turn back to YA because I take joy in both writing and reading about those days.
Besides, what would I do with my time if I didn’t take all those nice photos of books for Insta 😉