Why is YA So Popular Among Adults?

Me at 17. What a cheesy smile!

Have you seen the show When I Was Seventeen, where celebrities recall embarrassing moments from their teenage years?  What about the popular twitter hashtag #what I would tell my 16 year old self?  So, tell me, why do we love to recall our teenage selves?  I mean, I think most of us would happily forgo a return to that time in our lives.  Nobody actually wants to relive those years again, do they?  And yet…everyone I know loves telling stories about being a teenager, even trying to out embarrass each other (I’ll leave a frightful tale at the end here). Most of us recall those times pretty vividly and with an odd mixture of dread, anxiety, fear, but always with a good dose of humor, too.  Is it because that’s exactly what being a teenager was like? Terrible, weird, and scary, but also exhilarating, crazy, spectacular…and incredibly memorable.

Maybe that’s why adults love to read YA books—because we get that same experience—we get to ride that same roller coaster but this time knowing we’re going to be okay at the end of it all, because hey, we’ve been on this ride before.  I’m betting lots of us read YA because we get a kick out of reliving those experience, just like we get a kick out of telling each other about all the stupid stuff we did back then.  As a YA reader, that’s definitely true for me.  Let’s face it, being a responsible adult can get boring at times and reading YA makes it a lot less boring.  But, I also have to include that as a YA writer, I’m glad there’s a way for me to communicate with teenagers.  To let them ride the ride, but perhaps with a cautionary whisper from the seat behind them of the dips, curves, and drops ahead.

And let us not forget the incredible talent of YA authors and the quality of the literature they’re producing as another major reason for the popularity of YA lit.  I’ll admit, I’m partial to contemporary, but there are some amazing reads in all categories of this genre.  I’d make a list, but it’ll go on forever.  For some of my favorites, click on my YA Picks and feel free to leave your picks in the comments section below.  Seriously, I can’t get through my reading list because so many great books are being published everyday!

So here’s my promised embarrassing teen story

Okay, *takes deep breath*

Please Hammer, don't hurt 'em!

Before I became the charming Stay-The-Hell-Away-From-Me-I’m-A-Poet high schooler who wore The Cure t-shirts and combat boots, I…I…spent some time on the MC Hammer bandwagon and wore those balloon pants that became all the rage.   To make things worse, the first day I proudly sported them, I wore them to school backwards…and got called out on it.  Sadly, my friends, unintentionally wearing my clothes backwards and inside out was (okay, is) a common occurrence.  I know, getting dressed is not a hard task, but…what can I say.

Anyway, that’s one (of many, many, many) cringe-worthy moments.   Your turn.  Whether it be recalling your first kiss, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, major trouble you got in, or your prom date (mine wore a black vinyl suit and spiked collar—I’m not kidding.  My mom was thrilled…), SHARE, SHARE, SHARE your embarrassing teen moments (and/or favorite teen reads, too)!

Follow me on Twitter @jetchez

This entry was posted in 80's/90's Nostalgia, Uncategorized, YA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Why is YA So Popular Among Adults?

  1. Stace says:

    I think you’re probably right about why adults read YA. I wonder what the proportion is. Sometimes it seems to me there are more adults than YA reading YA fiction. A lot of the young adults I know would rather read adult fiction. It helps them to feel more grown up, like getting a driver’s licence, I guess!

    My bff from high school tells me I walked all the way from the gym to English class with my kilt tucked into my tights, but I don’t know whether to believe her. I think the teenage years are embarrassing in general, because everything is felt so keenly.

    Hormones. I blame hormones.

    • Hi Stace,

      Yes, some of my students used to prefer adult fiction because they thought YA fiction was too babyish. But I think more and more readers are realizing that there’s a lot of YA literature out there that is just as deep, complex, and meaningful as adult fiction.

      Tights in kilt…definitely embarrassing! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  2. Hi Jenny – High school memories are still so vivid for me. I feel like I was just there. I think that’s why reading YA seems completely comfortable for me — I can relate on so many levels.

    There are endless cringe worth moments to choose from…ahhh, sorry — can’t go there right now. 😉

  3. erikamarks says:

    Hi Jenny, what a great post–and as for stories, oh wow–where to begin? For a little while, when I was feeling especially punky, I used to use toothpaste instead of hair gel to achieve a little flip in my bangs…yeah, I know. Scary! Best of all, it wasn’t even the clear stuff.

  4. Indigo says:

    For me reading YA is seeing possibilities of a childhood I definitely didn’t have. Leaving home at 16 keeping myself in school and working a full time job just to survive subsisted of my high school years.

    Yet I do remember a few moments of embarrassment, the high bangs in the 80’s, ripped ripcage high t-shirts. I try to tell myself I was a punk and had my own style, but thankfully I’ve outgrown those days or have I. I still wear converse, combat boots and destroyed jeans and love being a tomboy at heart. (Hugs)Indigo

    • Hi Indigo, thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      I was actually thinking about this post the other day and wondered if I failed to discuss how difficult the teenage roller coaster can be. Lots of teenagers spend their teenage years overcoming/living/dealing with things that most can’t even imagine, so I think you make an excellent point here–YA can be a view into a new world, into a childhood/teen years you didn’t have. And I think this works both ways–it can offer a view of the “typical” but fun and crazy teen years, or the not so typical, like the darker, edgier YA from authors like Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins. Either way, it introduces a time that is new and at the same time familiar.

      And btw, I still love my combat boots and converse, too!

  5. Lu says:

    You do a great job putting into words the appeal of YA. My oldest is an avid reader, and he is probably my biggest inspiration. I didn’t want to write another book he was too young to read.

    Embarrassing moments . . . Well, I was a 90’s teenager. In sixth grade I dyed strands of my hair with red koolaid (probably wearing combat boots, by the way). I was at my friend’s house, talking to a her older brother (crush, of course) when a bee was attracted to the koolaid-dyed strands. It dive bombed my head and I reacted as you would suspect. I haven’t thought about that in probable ten or fifteen years!

    • Lu,
      That’s hilarious! I totally remember the Kool-Aid epidemic–had many friends with tropical punch and cherry-dyed hair! This reminds me of when I wanted blue strands in my very black hair. Had to bleach them first (they became an ugly yellowish color) so of course when I put the blue dye in, well, they came out green. Eh, it worked, but this was the first of many future hair mishaps.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing:)

  6. Lu says:

    Probabl[y]. Man I am all about the typos today.

  7. Ollin says:

    That’s probably why I love children’s books like Harry Potter and LOTR, and why the movie versions make so much money. Adult life IS boring. We need a little escapism. I’ve been reading this book recently that talked about how we have this core that we we’re so in tuned with as a child but lose as we grow older, because it’s covered with all this crap and insecurities. Maybe YA and children’s books help us get rid of that film, and go back to our core? Great post!

    • I think you’re totally right about how we lose something as we grow older. Sometimes when I’m talking to my kids or you know, being a typical Mom, I wonder to myself…Man….when did I get so lame? When did I forget how AWESOME it is to splash in big, huge mud puddles? lol.

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