Google+ YA Romantics: Breaking News: Adults Read YA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Breaking News: Adults Read YA

Extra! Extra!


Welcome to a special edition of Extra! Extra! Tomorrow's issue will have the usual blog news and updates!

A couple days ago an article landed in my in-box announcing that a recent study by Bowker Market Research revealed that 55% of buyers of YA (young adult) books are actually 18 and older.

28% of all YA purchases are reportedly made by adults age 30 to 44, with 78% of this group reporting that they were reading the books themselves, as opposed to buying books for their children.

I don't think these statistics come as a shock to anyone in the YA book blogging world. They certainly didn't surprise me, being in that over-30 category myself.

The study cites the recent popularity of the Hunger Games series and movie as part of the reason for the trend, but adds that adults reading YA is a "much larger phenomenon."

Um, yeah. And I agree that the phenomenon didn't start with Hunger Games, though that series and movie definitely fueled it.

The trend may have been sparked by two late 1990s-early 2000s cultural phenomena: first, the publication of some wildly popular crossover fiction (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first released in the US in 1998, and the first Twilight book in 2005) and second, the erasure of the so-called Generation Gap, at least in terms of our consumption patterns.

The term Generation Gap was coined in the 1960s to describe the fact that, at that time, young people and their parents just didn't understand each other. Today, we have a sort of "Generation Merge" in which adults often listen to the same music as teenagers, watch the same TV shows, wear the same kinds of clothes, and yes, read the same books.

It used to be that if dressed like your kids, you ended up looking like this.

Jezebel recently ran an article about the rise of the woman-child. This piece painted a somewhat condescending picture of how adult women are "sporting sparkly nail polish to religiously reading every bestselling young adult novel ... reliving their teenage years with real gusto."

Uh-oh, signs of arrested development!

Jezebel only fleetingly mentions the man-child, that over-30 guy who wears jeans and a hoodie, plays video games, and listens to Katy Perry on his iPod.  As a New York magazine article pointed out way back in 2006, the world is filled with adult guys "with the chunky square glasses, brown rock t-shirt, slight paunch, expensive jeans, Puma sneakers and shoulder slung messenger bag." Maybe hiding in that bag is a copy of the Hunger Games...

I do think the fact that large numbers of adults are reading, reviewing and blogging about YA presents some interesting questions.

Do the reading tastes and preferences of adults who read YA differ from those of teenagers? Should publishers rethink the existing divisions between middle grade, YA, and adult genres?

Give me your opinion in comments!

31 comments:

  1. I think the reasons us oldies read YA is because it reminds us of our younger years. I'd rather read about that first kiss and first love.

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  2. I LOVE this post. I can't really put a finger on why I love YA books. I love adult fiction as well, but sometimes adult fiction seems to wax poetic a bit much for me. I think if most adult novels were edited a bit more than I would enjoy reading them more, does that make sense? I actually prefer New Adult reads over all. I think they are somewhere in the middle of the two genres, giving me the best of both worlds.

    And that article on Jezebel was FASCINATING. Some parts I totally relate to (looking at pics of my mom at my age and not feeling as "adult" as she appeared) and some I don't (sorry Katy Perry, I like your music but your fashion sense and cartwheeling abilities are beyond me.) But I can't figure out if that article was positive or negative in it's interpretation of the "Woman-Child"? What do you think, Jen?

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    1. I think that, like many articles about adult readers of YA, the article had a bit of a condescending tone. There's a perception among some people that YA books are "dumbed-down." Which doesn't make sense to me -- I don't see a huge difference in the vocabulary or subject matter or writing level between the average YA and any other mass market book.

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  3. Awesome, awesome post, Jen! But I would like to point out that I don't read YA to relive my own teen years, because other than the whole not having to pay bills ans work bit, my teen years are not something worth revisiting. Maybe I read to recapture the teen years I would have liked (that would explain why I read all of the Gossip Girl books, but that was before I was blogging), but I think I read to be entertained. Sometimes I love a good, meaty drama, or a multi-layered thriller. Sometimes I want something fun. YA of today often contaiba these elements, the quality of writing for the most part is only getting better. But sometimes its okay to let your imagination play, and I happily flip those pages with my purple sparkle manicure whilst listening to the newest Taylor Swift single.

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    1. I agree. I think that most of us post-teens would not go back and live our teenage years again. I don't read YA to relive the past!

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  4. Great post hon!! I agree with Kate, I don't read YA to relive my teen years either, I read it because I just like reading it. I think that maybe since it's teenage characters there is just more emotion than in adult books. Not that I don't love adult books too or think they don't have emotion, but I think just the age of the characters and the innocence (or loss of innocence) in YA is great to read.

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  5. I love YA books! I don't ever foresee myself NOT liking them. I'm 23 (24 tomorrow) and a mom of two. Also...what is wrong with a little glitter polish? LOL Every girl needs a little glitter in her life :)

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    1. Ha ha-- I have a love/hate relationship with glitter. I'm all for the shimmery nail polish, which hides chips, but the kind with real pieces of glitter is impossible to get off!

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  6. I read that same article about the study the other day and the entire time I was read I was like "Duh! Have you even bothered to look at the blogging world?" There's almost nothing I love more than my YA books (and colorful and shiny nail polishes)! I read YA because it's very entertaining, not because I'm trying to relive anything. No matter what kind of story I'm in the mood for I can always find something great on the YA shelves. I think the boundaries between adult and YA have merged enough that they're really almost one and the same, one just happens to be about younger people. It's funny because when I was a young adult I hated reading YA. I felt it condescended too much. I never really gave it much of a chance, choosing instead to read authors like Michael Crichton or Dan Brown. I'm just sad I didn't realize how many great YA books were actually out there sooner!

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    1. I agree -- when I was YA age I don't think there were as many great YA books as there are now!

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  7. Ha ha ... I wouldn't say I'm reliving my youth through YA books -- I just like the writing and the stories. I'm in my early 30's and like reading a QUICK story with heart and feelings, rather than an adult book, which usually tries to be so literary, but usually comes across as boring.

    And I don't think we need to make more lines between books -- I mean, a book is a book. You'll have kids reading adult books, adults reading kids books, and people who don't read anything at all. Do we really need to have divisions of book types?

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    1. I agree -- when I was a teenager I wanted to read adult books!

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  8. As much as I miss the 90's (and the late 80's) I have zero desire to go back to my high school years.

    I didn't start reading YA (except for THG, HP and Twilight) until I started my blog and discovered how many well written YA books are out there. I read YA in elementary school and then moved on to "adult" books by middle school. At that time most of the YA books were not really well written (ok, a lot of them were very, very, bad) which is why I moved on.

    Now that I've rediscovered the awesomeness of YA I read it because it's entertaining, and a majority of the YA books I've read convey the emotions that "adult" books do, so why not!

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    1. I agree -- when I was a teenager there were some great YA books but not nearly as many as there are now!

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  9. I read YA because I find it a lot more exciting-things actually happen! I'm also psyched about a genre that is dominated with female authors and main characters-I do read and enjoy stories about men but I'm pretty much always going to prefer one starring a female.

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    1. That's a really great point -- I hadn't thought about it, but you're absolutely right.

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  10. I'm part of that 55%. YA gives you something fresh to read I find.

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  11. I just really like YA, I like to sit and read something easy and fun. Plus there are so many amazing ones out there, I didn't even realize how many great YA books there are!

    I still read adult books and classics, but YA is my preferred! As long as people are reading, who cares :)

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  12. I love to read YA and I loved my teen years and wouldn't mind going back at all. School would suck though but I loved high school and college and part of my enjoyment in reading YA is getting to go back. I also just like reading books where people are not married and have kids. I am enjoying the new development of the New Adult genre since it includes more good reads of people in my age group. I love adult too but if I have to read one more line about Susie taking little baby Tommy to daycare I will never read adult again.

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    1. Ha -- you are the only one I can think of who says that they'd go back to high school! Maybe if I could go to a different school...

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  13. I can't imagine not loving YA's! I'm in the same over 30 category and I just love them. The teen years are such a time of growth and discovery so it is great to read about that time in people's lives. And relive some memories from our own. I often look back and miss all the freedom, when we could do and be whatever we wanted and not be held down with reality. That's why I read it.

    I love the pretty picture with the awesome ARCs and sparkly nail polish!

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    1. The ARCs are mine, but I borrowed the nail polish. I'm really boring, nail polish-wise -- see my comment above :)

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  14. i'm a teenager so YA is aimed at me but i started reading the genre because my mum had a few YA books laying around the house and gave me them to read.Now i read & buy my own books thanks to my mum introducing me to YA novels . i don't believe just because a book is aimed at a certain age group means that only they will enjoy it. it goes without saying the teenagers also read books aimed at adults too because they like to read things a bit more mature , just like some adults like to read books that are more about growth. I read books mostly from YA because i like to read about people my age with issues that related to me but i've also read books shelved as adult. Both genre have amazing authors who write amazing novel.
    - Books are meant to be enjoyed, it doesn't matter by who. -

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    1. That is a great point. It's ridiculous to suggest that people are only allowed to read books about characters their own age. When I was a teenager I was incredibly annoyed if someone suggested I could only read books in the YA section. I wanted to read the books that interested me. Just like now. I read memoir, and mysteries, and literary fiction and YA.

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  15. I think YA is just good for everyone. Personally, it helped me deviate from the crazy world I live in, into a world where I can somehow live a different life and keep my sanity in the one I actually live in.

    Now, there's even a newer genre called New Adult. I don't even know what that's supposed to mean... For me, I just read whatever interests me. I feel like contemporary is more the teenager category now. I don't quite enjoy contemporary, maybe because I feel like it's not interesting enough. Not enough action or conflict. But then, I find a nice contemporary book and I love it. Complicated, right? Yeah... That's me...

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    1. Oh my gosh. I just thought of this.... If I was as good a writer as those other famous authors, I could write a dystopian novel where people are only allowed to read those in their supposed age bracket. (idea came from your reply above-ish..)

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  16. DUDE... I read that article last week and was SOOOO offended. My reactions included: Don't tell me how to be a woman and If you want to have classy dinner parties instead of game nights, maybe you should find new friends instead of bitching like a bitch on Jezebel, because that is SO mature.

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