I recently read a post by Faith over at Fangirl World about moving on from YA (you can read it HERE) that really made me think about where I am as a reader compared to where I once was. I’ve been an avid reader now for seven years and for most of that I’ve been reading primarily YA; but where I once could read a fluffy YA contemporary I don’t think I could anymore, and the drama filled YA contemporaries I once read kind of disgust me. If I was to re-read some of these books I once loved I’d have very strong differing opinions, I wouldn’t be so quick to tell others to read them.
Of course we all know this is about growing up as a person and a reader – you don’t start out as a mature reader just like you aren’t born a mature infant. That sounds kind of funny, but hear me out. When I started reading I wanted a fun escape, I wanted what I didn’t have in my own life which was romance, adventure and friendships. I wasn’t looking for an exquisite piece of literature that would help my mind grow, I was looking for an idealized piece of fluff that would entertain and distract me from my own life. Part of that hasn’t really changed, I still read to escape, but now I also read to grow to better understand the people around me. Maybe that’s just me; I haven’t exactly been exposed to many walks of life and I’m a curious person, I want to understand why people do what they do and how what we experience can shape us. I think that gravitation can be seen in my development as a reader.
While what I read is still categorized as YA or Romance there’s been a clear shift in the actual books I read. Instead of fluffy high school contemporaries I’d much prefer to read a YA book about mental health (Eliza and Her Monsters, A List of Cages, Kat and Meg Conquer the World, Fangirl), instead of those drama filled romances I’d prefer to read… Basically anything but that (no more teen pregnancy, unrealistic abuse or drama for the sake of drama). The real difficulty in navigating change from a young teen to a young adult reader for me is with fantasy. Fantasy is by far my most read genre (okay that’s probably romance because I’m still single and living vicariously through fictional characters): It is a genre that has so many sub-genres and has gone through a lot of changes in the past seven years. When I first started out as a reader I odviously hadn’t had a lot of experience with generic plots, cliches or tropes. So every book was fascinating and exciting; never-mind that they all had a Mary-Sue protagonist, a bad boy who has a secret, a best friend who disappears (whether literally or figuratively) and of course absent parent syndrome. And don’t even get me started on the whole ‘you’re the only one who can save the world (or the secret world you knew nothing about) despite having no known skills or abilities’ trope – cliche?
I was too young and under-read to know that none of this actually equaled a good book, that these tropes were the same thing played over and over again, book after book. But as I’ve matured I’ve grown tired of that same thing. I no longer pick up every fantasy that gets hype in the community because for the most part they follow the same pattern – protagonist has a boring life, meets sexy stranger, discovers powers/royalty, must save the world. It’s hard to be original when YA is such a popular genre nowadays, but it’s still possible and it’s when I find a book that either deviates from that construct or reinvents it in a way that makes it feel new that the book sparks my interest.
I suppose the day will come when YA no longer appeals to me, already I see myself gravitating towards older protagonists and NA/Adult romances over YA ones.
Looking back I can also see how problematic some of the themes were and it makes me so proud that today we have the #ownvoices movement occurring in YA fiction. The world has changed a lot in the past few years and looking back its easy to see how the waves of what was published coincided with waves of social and political issues. And with the growth of the book community on platforms such as Twitter readers are given a space to bring forth their concerns about how certain values and issues are portrayed in media.
I’m not really sure where I went with this; so I’ll close this post by saying that moving on from YA is a perfectly natural thing – odviously. Will I still read YA fantasy in my 30’s? Probably, if it stands out and catches my attention. But my interest in primarily YA has certainly dwindled, as evidenced by what I’ve read recently compared to previous years. When I started reading YA I was a young teen. I was in the target audience and demographic. I’m a young woman now and I’ve learnt a lot from YA but now I’m also learning a lot from New Adult/Adult books. My point is we grow with these characters, and there comes a point when we outgrow them. It’s natural and something I’m grateful for even though the idea of moving on from YA and that part of the book community is sad – the adult book community? It’s just as wonderful, if not more so. So I’m embracing it.
When did you feel like it was time to move on from YA?
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