Adults Taking Over the YA Community

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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:

owlcrate-is-ya-you-dumb-shit

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.


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34 thoughts on “Adults Taking Over the YA Community

  1. Very interesting post! I don’t really know how to word my thoughts on this, so we’ll see how this comment goes πŸ˜†
    Personally, when I see the YA genre, I see it as quite a large target audience…like, someone aged 23 is still a young adult to me, purely because they’re an adult who is still young. So because of the huge age range – say 13 to 23 – there’s a divide in the audience for these books. There’s even a divide in the books themselves, with some YA seeming towards the younger teenagers and some towards the elder. I don’t really get how it works, but I do kind of see it. Like we all seem to have read the same sort of books when young teenagers.
    But it’s definitely not right for adults – young or not – to condescend the younger generations. Like you said, YA is for those people too. And sure, though they may be developing opinions and learning things about the world still, it definitely doesn’t mean they can talk down at them. The love for reading shouldn’t be tainted by someone taking it too far!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely agree with you! I think most YA authors and publishers though don’t consider people in their 20s (even if they’re still only 20, 21, 22) to be their YA audience, as most of the time when a YA “age range” is specified, it tends to be 12-18 (at least from what I’ve seen). And in both the cases that I was referring to in this post of adults talking over or trying to push out teens from conversations about YA books, the person has been 30+ which is definitely not a young adult in my opinion hahaha But yes, I do agree that people who are in their early 20s (like me!) do make up a huge part of the YA audience and definitely still qualify as a young adult, but I think when it comes to addressing issues seen in the YA publishing industry, they need to allow younger teens to be heard and voice their concerns rather than thinking that their opinions are the most important ones.

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  2. I, a 22-year old who enjoys YA, 100% agree with you. and that letter was ridiculously rude. if anyone needs to be “banned” from the group, it would make more sense for it to be people who are 18+ b/c, as you stated, they’re not the target audience. frankly, i’m growing ever more frustrated with the behavior of so-called “adults” (18+) online lately. when did it become okay to be so rude and mean? ugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely agree, Lila! I found the post to be really rude too and some of the comments were just as bad. So many people were saying how they didn’t want to be sharing a group with teens as young as 13 (although most of the commenters didn’t agree that they should be banned from the group either) but I didn’t understand their frustration. If they want to read YA, they should be willing to talk to people who are younger than them and who are the actual target audience of those books. And if not, fine, they can go make their own “adult fans of YA” group or something, but it’s absolutely ridiculous and rude to suggest not allowing teens in a group that’s meant to talk about teen lit.
      Also totally agree with you that adults have been acting terribly online lately. Kind of ironic/funny/disheartening that older adults are the ones causing so much drama and acting so badly in a community primarily made up of teenagers who are the ones that have the bad reputation of being dramatic/mean.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very interesting read! I couldn’t agree more! I’m 21 and have been recently thinking about what it will mean to keep reading YA as I continue to get older. This example is definitely NOT what I want to turn into! Thanks for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! This something that I’ve recently been thinking about and having to remind myself of as well. I still love YA and I doubt that I’ll stop reading it anytime soon, but I feel it’s very important for me to remember that I’m not the person these books are being written for anymore and that I need to keep that in mind, especially when I have problems/complaints about YA books.

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  4. Yes I definitely agree! I sometimes forget that I’m 20 now (considered an adult) because all I read is YA books. But you’re absolutely right, these books are meant for a younger audience and are to try and relate to them, and not the middle aged community. If a YA book isn’t challenging enough then just don’t read it, no need to bash the younger generation when you’re not in a position to speak. I just don’t understand where people like this are coming from…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, same here! I read almost exclusively YA books and there are definitely times where I read certain books and feel that they’re immature or something like that, but as a 21-year-old, I need to suck it up haha It’s definitely important for me to keep reminding myself that I’m not really the person being targeted or written for with these books anymore. I really don’t understand how someone who is 30+ years old can think it’s okay to try to kick teens out of the conversation around YA lit! It just makes no sense whatsoever.

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  5. I understand where you’re coming from Kourtni, and to an extent, I agree.
    However, just because a reader isn’t the target audience doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it. It’s like when you take your boyfriend to go and see a chick-flick, he’s not the intended audience, but I would still consider his opinion to be interesting and important.
    It’s the same with YA. The genre has grown so much in the past few years and the age range of readers reflects that. I agree that more mature readers shouldn’t try to monopolise the community, but by the same token, younger readers shouldn’t judge those older than them for still reading YA. It’s a two-way street.
    I guess it’s all about acceptance really. I found this post really interesting, it certainly got me thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I’m not at all suggesting that adults shouldn’t or can’t read YA. Like I said, I’m 21 and depending on who you ask, may or may not be considered “too old” to read YA but I still read YA almost exclusively. And of course adults can voice opinions on the books they read, regardless of the targeted age range. I don’t have a problem with that. But when the adults try to push teens out of the community (like in the post I screenshotted) or go on Twitter and attack teens for voicing concerns about YA literature, there’s a serious problem. I think most teens are super accepting of adults in the community unless the adults start patronizing them and telling them that they’re too young to understand the things they’re talking about.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely agree that teen events, projects and such should be focused on teens. If, for instance, the OwlCrate forum is looking a little R rated, it seems the obvious answer is to require posts be kept at a PG-13 rating. Why someone’s first thought was to ban teens is beyond me. And, yes, I think it’s good to keep in mind that there ARE teens in the community (because, obviously). It’s easy to forget when it’s easy to be anonymous online and everyone seems on an even footing. However, if you think someone’s thoughts sound young or less complex or something, maybe keep in mind there are high schoolers in the community and not every book blogger has a master’s degree. Be kind.

    Nonetheless, I admit I really dislike the growing argument that “Young adult books are not for you, adults! Keep in mind you’re an interloper here! Stay in your place and remember you don’t really belong!” The community has spent years pointing out that anyone should be allowed to read whatever books they want and not be shamed or harassed or made to feel bad about it. I honestly see this statement as on par with the “It’s silly for adults to read YA books” arguments. It’s making adults feel bad for reading YA because the books “aren’t actually for them.” Yes, they are. Books are for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Somewhat related: There’s been some shifting in the publishing industry because publishers know that adults to a large extent ARE the target audience for YA. They read a lot of it. They buy a lot of it. I believe publishers are trying to cater to this in some sense,while balancing the fact that a large part of the audience is, of course, teens. This is also true for companies like OwlCrate. Sure, the box is YA-focused, but is the company’s target customer base really teens? Adults with stable jobs are probably far more likely to be purchasing their products, not teens who may have no income or have something like a part-time retail job. Maybe adults will GIFT the box to teens, but I think companies know that if they want money, they need to target people who have money–adults.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true. I honestly don’t agree with publishing trying to make YA appeal more to adults though. There’s already a whole market of adult fiction and adults were drawn to YA before the industry was specifically targeting them. At the same time, I think most YA authors see themselves as writing for teens, not for adults. In fact most of the YA authors I follow on Twitter make this very clear and talk about how important it is to them that their books are able to help teens who need to have access to certain kinds of stories (for example, writing LGBTQIAP stories for teens struggling with understanding their identity). That’s not to say they don’t want adults to read their books, but rather that they aren’t necessarily writing with the intention of appealing to adults.

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    • It certainly wasn’t my intention to suggest adults shouldn’t read YA or be able to be a part of the community. Like I said, I’m 21 years old and still read almost exclusively YA even though I’ve been told I’m “too old” for it and clearly I’m part of the community, haha. What I mean to say though is that adults shouldn’t assume their opinions on YA are valued more than teens’. Of course they’re welcome to read YA and offer opinions, but when they try to drown out teens’ opinions on YA or outright attack teens who are offering valid critiques of books and patronize those teens by suggesting they don’t know what they’re talking about, that’s a problem. I don’t think it’s right for adults to be a part of the YA community if they’re going to turn around and disrespect the teens who make up a BIG portion of that community.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I see others have posted variations of my comment, but I wanted to add that I don’t believe publishers and authors write primarily to teens. The age band lets parents know that maybe a fourth grader isn’t ready for the reading level or the content of a book, but it doesn’t mean that people not in the age encompassed by the age band can’t read the book. YA is more financially successful than just about any marketing category precisely because it has crossover appeal–anyone from middle schoolers to adults can and are reading it. It’s not a secret that “millenials” (much as I don’t like that term) especially are buying and reading YA. YA is probably comparable to films like Toy Story 3, Harry Potter, and Fantastic Beasts. It’s appropriate for teens and teens consume it, but at the same time it’s trying to appeal to the audiences who liked these things when they were younger but now grew up. And adults are usually the ones earning money so it makes sense to market these works to them.

    I agree that we should be sensitive to the younger readers in the community (assuming we can even identify them unless they explicitly write that they are teens) and that adults should not be clamoring to get teens moved to a separate forum. If anything, the adults should bear the burden of creating a separate forum for themselves if they feel the need to discuss things they believe are unsuitable for younger audiences. However, I think this is a separate issue from adults not being the real consumers of YA–an argument that also threatens to suggest that YA is too “juvenile” for adults and that adults ought to be reading more mature material “meant for them.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like I said, I have no problems with adults reading YA. I’m 21 and still read almost exclusively YA even though I’ve been told I’m “too old” for it. And I do agree that YA has a ton of crossover appeal and that’s why it’s been so successful. My intention certainly was not to suggest that adults couldn’t read YA or that YA isn’t “sophisticated” enough for adults to read, but rather that if, as an adult, you’re going to read stories about teens, you need to be respectful of the teens who are also reading those stories and not try to tell them that they just don’t know what they’re talking about and that’s why their opinion differs from your own which is sadly something I’ve seen happening frequently especially on Twitter. If you love reading books about teens, then you should also be kind and respectful towards teens in real life. You are right, though, that this isn’t necessarily tied to adults being or not being the real consumers of YA but I think there are times when the issues overlap. For example, it’s not unusual for me to see adults asking for x or y issue to not be in YA books as often even though those issues are very relevant for a lot of teens. I see comments from adult readers of YA pretty frequently complaining that characters talk about boys too much or are too concerned with fitting in with their classmates when that’s something that a lot of teens struggle with and I think should therefore be represented in YA. The issues aren’t necessarily the same, but I think they do impact each other.

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      • I think it depends on how the argument is phrased. Obviously no one should be telling another reader that their opinion is wrong just because they are younger. However, the book community is full of adults who have opinions on YA and how YA works and what we’d like to see more of in YA. I think it’s fair for an adult reader to say something like “We’ve seen a bunch of books about proms or that includes love triangles or vampires, but I’d like to see us more beyond that.” I daresay it’s largely college students–adults–who have been driving the call for more diversity in YA. Should we ignore that call unless we determine that a majority of teen readers want to see diverse protagonists?

        Obviously adult readers can critique YA books or the blogosphere wouldn’t be full of adult bloggers, review magazines wouldn’t be able to operate, etc. The reality is that YA literature has always been created and mediated by adults, not teens. Adults write, publish, market, and, yes, buy them. They have to appeal to the adults at schools and libraries and bookstores who will buy and market them. Yes, YA is for teens, but it’s always been about what adults think teens want and/or should read. We can respect teens and be respectful to others online without trying to make YA books either for teens or for adults. They work for both.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I absolutely agree! Adults can and do offer many valid critiques for YA. My problem is when they don’t listen to the critiques offered by teens and think that their opinions are the only ones that matter. When teens say “I’d like to see X in YA,” adults shouldn’t respond with “no, we don’t need or want that in YA.” They can absolutely offer opinions, but they still should take into consideration the opinions of teens.

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  8. This is a great post, Kourtni, and you’ve brought up tons of important points! Tbh I mostly stay away from social media right now because it just makes me feel so sad and negative, and I don’t really have the brain space to be in that kind of mood right now, but I agree with you re: adults shouldn’t push teens out of the community… but on a more larger note, I kind of just personally feel like if everyone could be nice to everyone else, we could have a more welcoming community. I’ve seen all the “drama” on Twitter and while I understand what people are trying to do, I don’t think calling out people and “attacking” them (so to speak) are a good way to change people’s minds.

    But I digress! I agree with most of what you said except for the part where you said we as adults shouldn’t complain about immature characters or trivial problems – I think that’s part of our prerogative as readers and it’s our right to comment about all the things we want to comment about (within limits, perhaps). That, and having spoken to publishers before, I’m sure many actually include “adults” as their target audience. In many of the cases that I’ve seen, I think we are actually the HUGE spenders, many of us having an income and all that. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! I think generally online communities can be really rude and offer a lot of opportunities for people to be meaner than they should be (or would be in real life).
      As for complaining/critiquing, it’s not that I don’t think that adult readers should be allowed to complain about things. All readers have the right to say “I didn’t like X in this book.” I guess I was thinking more generally, when adults complain about these as problems of the entire “genre” of YA. I get frustrated when adults make broad statements like “YA characters are too immature” because that’s less of a specific critique and I think it shows the (adult) reader is not connecting with the genre or wants to change too much of the genre, rather than there being a specific issue that can be addressed, if that makes sense. And I do think that adults are included from the publishers’ point of view, especially in recent years when YA has become so popular among adults, but I know that a lot of YA authors (at least a lot of the ones that I follow on Twitter), especially contemporary authors, view their “job” as a writer as being making stories accessible to teens who need them (i.e. writing LGBTQIAP stories to help teens who are struggling to figure out their identity) rather than to entertain adults. I hope this all makes sense, haha.

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      • Yeah, I get your point! In my experience, though, those who generally complain about these elements (i.e. “YA is nothing new! YA is for teens! YA’s characters are all immature!”) are generally those who DON’T read the genre… and therefore probably shouldn’t comment too much on it or make assumptions about it.

        But I agree that YA authors, from what I’ve seen, still see YA as a strictly-for-teens when it comes to their intended audience. Maybe it depends on the kind of genre – I feel like contemporary authors tend to view their jobs as more for teens (bc their works usually make some sort of a direct commentary) than SFF authors, whose works I think are more intended for purely entertainment. I’m really just generalising my experience, though. πŸ˜‚

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      • You’d be surprised by how many bloggers I’ve come across who read a lot of YA but complain about over half of them for having immature characters, haha. I don’t understand why you’d read books about teens if you find them to be so immature and irrational. But yeah there are definitely a LOT of people who haven’t read YA in YEARS but still make broad assumptions about the genre, despite the fact that it’s changed soooo much since they’ve read any YA. And yes, that’s definitely true! I think contemporary YA authors definitely do view their work as being strictly for teens more so than authors of other YA genres, probably because things like SFF can deal with so many different issues whereas contemporary kind of “has” to stick to real world issues that are less relevant to people across different ages.

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      • I completely understand! Tbh I probably have commented the same thing – ironically about Scarlett Epstein, which you’ve mentioned in your recs for YA books with Jewish characters. She just bugged me so much and irritated me so much, haha.

        I think SFF is very much kind of an imagination thing… or at least, I kind of read it to satisfy my imagination. I don’t really look to it to decipher the meaning of life or as a social commentary or anything like that, haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha there are definitely some characters that are written that are too immature but if someone complains about it constantly to me that seems like they just aren’t connecting with YA characters, know what I mean? If they feel that most YA characters are too immature, I think they’d just be better off reading adult fiction πŸ˜› I think I actually remember reading your review for Scarlett Epstein now that you mention that, haha.
        For me it depends on what the book is about. Some SFF can be really focused on exploring real-life themes whereas others are very much an imagination/escapism thing for me.

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  9. So agree with your thoughts. I saw that thread and stayed out since I hate fighting but the group is for everyone I might not fully agree with cursing but we have all share. In general I try to censor espcially when I’m in group knowing some younger peeps are in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, same here. By the time I had seen it, people had pretty much already said what I was thinking so I didn’t bother getting involved with the drama, haha. But yeah I just thought it was so ridiculous that she wanted to ban teenagers from the group so she could swear all she wanted and didn’t have to watch what she said.

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  10. I totally agree with you on this one! I’m 28 and read a LOT of YA. While I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at what I see as immaturity in the books, I have to remind myself that these are TEENAGERS and their reactions are often spot on for someone of that age. I think it’s really sad someone wanted to make the OwlCrate page an 18+ limited page! WTH?!? How does that…well. Just does not compute, for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here. There have been times where characters make decisions that just seem so ridiculous to me or that seem really immature but… they’re teens. It’s OK for them to do that, haha. And yeah someone trying to make an OwlCrate page for people 18+ didn’t make any sense at all. It honestly made me really angry.

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  11. As a teenager, I actually relate so much with what you’re saying (I know I fit into the target audience but hear me out). There seems to be such a gaping hole between YA books and ‘adult books’, and as someone who seems to have read every YA book out there it’s quite hard to find anything to read when – like you said – I can’t relate with a single, struggling mum. I wish there were some books out there that filled that gap, because I know some adults think the YA fiction I read is geared more for their age group, which is sometimes a little frustrating!
    I’ve just written a blog post on New Years Resolutions that I’d love you to check out if you have time
    Keep reading
    CrowdedVlogger xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree that it would be great to have more books that fill in the gap between YA and adult fiction. There is new adult but right now it’s all romance (at least from what I’ve seen) and it’d be nice to see NA include other genres too. πŸ™‚

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