It’s 2022, and Apparently People Are Still Bashing Adults Who Read YA (Here Are All the Things They Get Wrong)

Introduction

On January 28, Beth @BooksNest tweeted that someone doesn’t need to read the classics to be a “reader” and the replies were . . . interesting. For some reason, many of the replies were not even about classics and why one should read them (hey, I like classics myself!) but about why YA books are garbage and adults who read them are stupid and juvenile, possibly creepy. You know, the usual insults people have been throwing at adult YA readers for at least the past 10 years.

This “debate” has been going on for so long, in fact, that a couple years ago, Krysta published a post here at Pages Unbound arguing that it isn’t even much of a debate anymore, that, sure, some people will always be around to hate on YA and its readers and the topic is always good for clicks for mainstream media, but the general consensus, especially in the online book community, is that YA books are valid book and no one cares if you read them.

Personally, I find the people who complain about YA laughable because, frankly, they tend to not even know what they’re talking about. Here are some things that they seem not to know:

1

People Can Read More Than One Type of Book

This is apparently news to a lot of people, but readers can read more than one kind of book. Reading YA does not mean a reader (whether a teen, an adult, or a child) does not read other age categories and genres. Reading YA does not mean someone has not ALSO read the classics. Or adult contemporary. Or whatever type of book is supposedly “better” than YA.

I have a master’s in English literature, and I would laugh my head off at someone who told me I wasn’t “well read” because they saw I was reading or had reviewed a YA book. It’s very possible I’ve read more classics than they have.

2

Many YA Books Were Originally Written “for” Adults

YA is just a marketing category. While many authors are very thoughtful about writing for and appealing to a teen audience, other authors write a book they personally find interesting, and then their agent/editor decides it should be marketed either as adult or YA. I remember going to a talk by Julianna Baggott where she said she’d written Pure as a adult book but was told by her publisher it would do better marketed as YA.

The YA Market Isn’t Twilight and The Hunger Games

Any time someone says YA books are bad, there is at least a 50% chance they are going to bring up Twilight or The Hunger Games as their example. One could debate whether these two books are bad or not, but an indisputable fact is that they were published over a decade ago, and anyone who can’t name a more recent YA book clearly has no idea what they are even talking about. (And I would suspect half of them didn’t read Twilight or The Hunger Games when they came out either; they just read about them in the media.)

four

Related to people who bash YA not even knowing what YA is, I have seen many of them giving examples of “trash YA books” that are, uh, not YA books. Think books like Circe, The Poppy War, A Court of Mist and Fury, The Night Circus, The Bear and the Nightingale, etc. Again, I suspect most of these people have not even read these books; they see a popular book by a woman and liked by many women, and apparently that makes it YA, and that makes it bad. But it’s absurd to mock people for “not reading adult books” when the books they are reading are literally adult books.

People Can Read What They Want

The most obvious point: People can read whatever they want, and it’s not really a commentary on whether they’re smart or “able to handle” the types of books they’re not reading.

Briana

28 thoughts on “It’s 2022, and Apparently People Are Still Bashing Adults Who Read YA (Here Are All the Things They Get Wrong)

  1. Jackie says:

    This topic has been talked about in the book community for way too long, and I am so tired of people being shamed for what they read. Reading is a hobby, why are people worrying about what others are reading? I agree with every point you make in this post!

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure every six months there’s a “Adults can’t read YA!” debate and most of the time it’s fueled by some mainstream publication publishing some stupid think piece about it because they know it riles people up and gets clicks.

      Like

  2. Janette says:

    I think the YA label is often unhelpful. It sometimes seems as though any fantasy written by a female author is labelled as YA. I would never have put Poppy War in that category. When I was in my teens, I read Agatha Christie but nobody would deny that she is an adult author.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I know many teens who read adult authors! I read adult books as a teen, too. Now I get annoyed because sometimes I see adults who think teens should only read “teen” books and seem confused when they want to read an adult book. The labels are meant as guides, but some people take them very literally.

      Like

  3. dinipandareads says:

    Great post—I agree with all the points you made! I hate myself for reading some of the comments under that tweet, lol. It’s just absolutely ridiculous and I don’t understand people’s need to be so judgemental of what others read. If it doesn’t affect you, why are you so bothered? It’s tiring 😮‍💨

    Like

  4. mphtheatregirl says:

    That last thing- “people can read what they want”- so true

    I have found some of my favorite books in both the YA and Adult sections at the bookstore. I mainly read adult and middle grade; not so much YA, but what is the problem what people read?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. addyinbookland says:

    I agree so much. Honestly if reading YA brings someone joy, let them have their happiness. And I cannot stress enough that people can read whatever they want. I hate how you have to read either a certain amount of books or only be into certain categories to be considered a “reader.” There’s so much more out there and it’s no one’s business what someone else likes to read.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      It’s also ridiculous because close to no one consumes ONLY high art. The people in my English PhD program would read YA or romances and spend their free time avidly following Keeping up with the Kardashians. These people want to accuse people with doctorates in literature of being stupid and not real readers. :p

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Roberta R. says:

    “Any time someone says YA books are bad, there is at least a 50% chance they are going to bring up Twilight or The Hunger Games as their example. One could debate whether these two books are bad or not, but an indisputable fact is that they were published over a decade ago, and anyone who can’t name a more recent YA book clearly has no idea what they are even talking about.”
    Ha! Exactly!

    “it’s not really a commentary on whether they’re smart or “able to handle” the types of books they’re not reading.”
    👏

    I didn’t know some books started out as adult and then morphed into YA. Anyhow, YA is first and foremost an age range that applies to the characters, not to the book’s leading level. I’m 55 and I love YA (though I consume lots of adult spec fic – mainly sci-fi) and I will die on this hill. Thank you for this post!

    Like

  7. Lais @ The Bookish Skies says:

    omg i recently stumbled a tiktok that basically said the exact same thing and your #1 point basically says it all. people can read more than one thing lol. i think the tiktok said something along the lines of “go read crime and punishment instead”, as if you can’t do both: read a classic AND a ya book.

    i think the most annoying thing is when people say that they’ve “grown out” of YA, as if people who are adults and still read YA are kids and are going to “grow out” of it eventually. especially when you consider the lack of diversity in publishing, it makes sense that people will reach out for these titles now because they didn’t have YA books that they could see themselves in back when they were teens.

    also, the idea that some type of literature is superior than other is just sooooo old and dumb. i feel like we’re constantly circling back to it and it baffles me that some people still try to argue otherwise.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I wonder if the people who have “grown out” of YA have some overlap with the people who really need to “relate to” the characters in the books they read. I think it’s fair if, say, you’re 27 and have a stable career and maybe a spouse and kids (or some major adult issues like medical bills or finding affordable housing) to realize you don’t have much in common with a teenager worried about joining math club and finding a dress for from. But personally I don’t care about reading books where I relate to or have things in common with the characters. Sometimes it’s even nice to read about the youth and their “minor” problems! :p

      Like

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