It’s fair to say that since turning 40 last December I have spent more time than ever preoccupied with my age. The age I am in comparison to the age I actually feel is like a gaping chasm. I therefore do have to draw a comparison to the way I consider age in books, specifically in relation to YA. I make no secret that I love YA, even though with the presence of Upper YA and New Adult it feels like an often blurred line, many of the characters act with a maturity, physicality and presence of mind that 16 year old me would not even dreamed of. So it’s no wonder then that I never really picture these characters as the age they are written to be. I’ve been pretty accepting of my viewpoint until another blogger on Twitter said that YA was written for 16 year old girls, which was not said in a complementary way, and that kind of irked me. Not only because books are written to be read by any age or gender, you can take it’s categorisation as a guide granted, but ultimately as long as it makes you happy as a reader, whats not to love?
But me being me, I dwelt on it, and started to wonder more about age. I know I am not alone with being an older reader of books for a younger audience, and indeed the evergreen appeal of the Harry Potter books and also The Series of Unfortunate Events would show that too.
Lets start with the basics of why I love YA though and I’m speaking from a very much Fantasy and Sci-fi standpoint, I seldom if ever read contemporary for the exact same reasons I rarely read “adult” fantasy. I find it to be pure escapism, with wonderfully unencumbered characters who find themselves in easily accessible worlds. Personally I just struggle to get into more traditional fantasy which feels needlessly complex at times and lets face it, often (not always – calm down) with little respect for women. I have an upsetting day job so the easy escapism of YA is exactly what I need. So now we can move onto how I view myself. I still picture myself at what was probably best time of my life of late 20’s to early 30’s, and because I see myself mentally in that age bracket I will read pretty much every character in a book to that age too. Unless there are frequent and obvious reminders, like a school setting, I will rarely read a character as they age they are portrayed to be. Therefore I never really read a YA book feeling like I am reading a YA book if that makes sense? To me I’m reading adult fantasy, just with a story that is more fun and often with characters who are afforded an element of being more carefree.
I then started wondering if I was alone in this view, so what better way to gauge if i’m just weird than to do a poll. I asked on Instagram and overwhelmingly 74% of those who voted said that they read to their own age too, rather than book age. I know that the majority of my followers there read YA books so I feel that this is a good indicator. This to me would show that a lot of readers read YA for the same easy escapism, not because they are the age bracket the story is written for. So next time you look at a YA book and consider it’s not for you because it’s written for teenagers maybe think again about how you read characters in the genres you prefer. Age isn’t a barrier to dismiss an entire genre if you’ve never even tried it and honestly there is a lot to love within YA, well I think so at least. Also be kind to readers, if a genre isn’t for you don’t condescend and just move on.
I am happy to put forward recommendations of books that I have loved if you are looking for somewhere to start! Also please be kind to me, this is the first time I have written an opinion piece for a long time after another’s cruelty almost made me hang up my blogging hat last year and off the back of Mental Health week I think that kindness is more important than ever.