Why Do Adults Read YA Books?

It’s understandable why teens read young adult (YA) novels. The books are geared toward them. Rarely do you find teenagers interested in middle age and old age issues found in mainstream literature. So why is it that middle-aged and older adults read YA books?

In a June 5, 2014 Slate.com article, Ruth Graham wrote, “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

A September 2012 survey by Publisher’s Weekly found that adults buy 55% of YA books. Publishers designate the YA audience to be kids between the ages of 12-17. Perhaps these adults are buying the YA books for their children.

Wrong! The market research survey showed that 78% of the time the older readers bought the YA books for themselves.

So why do so many adults read YA? There are a few reasons.

First, let’s not forget nostalgia. YA books remind older adults about their youth. And who doesn’t think back to the days of yesteryear when we looked at life from a different perspective? YA books provide that focus. It’s just fun to relive one’s childhood vicariously through the stunts and adventures of teen characters.

Goodbye Tchaikovsky

It’s also about, “What if?” For example, at the age of 44 I lost most of my hearing. I became curious about what my life would have been like if the hearing dropped out at 12. Thus evolved Goodbye Tchaikovsky, a YA novel about a teenage violinist thrust into the deaf world.

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Finally, a lot of YA books have morphed into movie hits. Think Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner. Older adult readers are curious about what their kids are reading/viewing. So their curiosity turns toward YA books.

Yes, a lot of YA literature embraces a hopeless belief in love and happy endings—a perspective adolescent audiences crave. But tweens and teens aren’t the only ones seeking affection and a joyful heart. Older adults enjoy smiling too about the memories of their youth or how their lives could have been. YA novels provide this escape.

Michael is the author of four published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura and Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner writing articles about parenting and education. His blog features YA authors and books.

One thought on “Why Do Adults Read YA Books?

  1. Joe Bock Reply

    I am 72 years old and I read and thoroughly enjoyed Goodbye Tchaikovsky. Although it is a YA book anyone could relate to it.

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