As I’m sure all of you know, there is a huge community of adult readers who love to read YA lit. At 21, I’m one of them (depending on your definition of adult…). And while it’s great to see so many adults reading and loving stories that center around teens, these adults also need to keep in mind that YA lit is not written primarily for them. The YA community is not “for” us. It’s primarily for teens. This shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently, there are some adults who need the reminder.
There are a lot of reasons why adults gravitate towards YA. Personally, I prefer YA because it’s more relatable to me than adult literature is. I’ve gone to high school and can relate to the trouble of trying to find your place in the world. I can’t relate to a 35-year-old woman who is unhappy with her marriage and cheating on her spouse and struggling to take care of her kids.
But what I and other adult readers need to keep in mind when reading YA is that these books are not being written for us. YA characters may seem immature or their problems may seem trivial, but we have no right to complain about these things (at least on a general level; it’s obviously okay to discuss specific critiques of a specific book). If teen readers are complaining about them, that’s fine. They’re the target audience of these books and therefore their opinion should have an influence on the industry more so than adults’ opinions. We are not the target audience and therefore we simply do not have the right to tell YA authors how to write their books or, even worse, to tell teen readers of YA books that their opinions are wrong.
We need to take this into consideration when it comes to online YA communities, too. We can’t shut out the people who are meant to be a part of these communities. If anything, it should be the opposite. But these communities are very accepting and allow, and even encourage, adults to be a part of them. Adults need to show teens respect and kindness in return and not try to talk over them or kick them out of the communities that are meant for them. And sadly, this is something that I’ve seen happening a LOT over the past couple of weeks.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times in my posts that I’m a part of The OwlCrate Society on Facebook. It’s essentially a group for people to talk about OwlCrate and, more generally, books. A couple of weeks ago, somebody posted this in the group:
I could sit here for days talking about the problems with this post. First of all, if you think 13-year-olds only care about My Little Pony, I’d guess that you haven’t spoken to an actual 13-year-old in quite some time. Second, how dare you suggest that a group based on a YA book subscription service should be limited to people who are 18+ and thus NOT the target audience of YA books? How does that make any sense at all? If you aren’t comfortable sharing a page with 13-year-olds, then find a page that was not primarily put together for teenagers. Find a page where members are fine with talking about mature content or using curse words if you are so concerned about being able to post about those things. Don’t take over a space that is meant to be inclusive and appropriate for everyone.
Recently, there has been some Twitter nonsense too with adults attacking and harassing teenagers to the point where the teens feel they need to stay off Twitter for awhile because it gets to be too much for them to handle. This is unacceptable for people of ANY age, but it is even more unacceptable when you are an adult attacking someone who is much younger than you, telling them their opinions about YA books are wrong. Teenagers can and should give feedback on YA books – they are the target audience and they should have a say in what kinds of YA books are promoted and published by the publishing industry. You, as an adult, are not the target audience, as I’ve said about a hundred times by now, and have no right to sit at your computer and try to dictate what kinds of issues are or are not important for the industry to take into consideration. Offer your opinions, sure, but please also take into consideration the opinions of the teens in the community.
This has already gotten to be quite a lengthy post, so I’ll stop my ranting here. Long story short, adults: it is FINE (in fact, encouraged) for you to read and enjoy YA books, offer specific critiques, be a part of the community, etc. But you cannot try to take over YA literature for yourself. You can’t try to push teens out of spaces that are meant primarily for them because you want to highjack these spaces for yourself. And you absolutely cannot attack teenagers for voicing their opinions on the books that are being written for them. You’re an adult; please act like one.
EDIT: It is certainly not my intention to imply that YA is inherently less sophisticated than adult fiction and therefore adults shouldn’t read it. It’s also not my intention to imply adults have no right to voice their opinions on the books they read, including YA. Of course adults are free to read and talk about YA and of course YA books feature a ton of complex issues and are every bit as sophisticated and thought-provoking as adult literature. My intention of writing this is simply to say that if you’re an adult who reads YA and is a part of the YA community, you need to be respectful and considerate of the teens who are also a part of the community and can’t tell them that their opinions are wrong and they just don’t know what they’re talking about. I was not trying to say that adults should not be allowed to be a part of the community but rather that they need to be respectful of the teens who make up the majority of that community. I’ve also updated some of the phrasing in the post to better reflect my opinions.