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  • Writer's pictureT.R. Slauf

YA Books & Adult Readers

Many adult readers prefer to read YA (Young Adult) books. This often times, is due to a preference of tropes, themes, and the overall 'feel' of YA literature, mainly YA Fantasy. Some of these theme and tropes are: young characters, coming of age, rebelling/getting into trouble, forming lifelong friendship bonds, social identity, first romantic or sexual interest.

Many of these readers state it makes them feel young again. It reminds them of when they were teens and first discovered the joy of reading and the thrill of staying up all night reading 'just one more chapter' to see what happened next.

"If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book" J.K  Rowling

I think that's a wonderful thing!

Readers should be allowed and encouraged to read what tickles their fancy. Forcing people to read books they hate happens so much in schools and I personally think this contributes to adults who hate reading.

So, if anyone is allowed to read what they want, what's the issue and why am I spending my time writing this?

Well, the issue is not with adults wanting to read YA, the issue is that publishers have taken notice and are exploiting it.

More and more, books with adult content are being marketed as YA. Why is this an issue?

YA books are categorized as books appropriate for ages 13 to 17.

Publishers and bookstores are placing books with explicit sexual and/or violent content in YA sections.

You see the issue?

Yes, some YA books will explore sexual relationships and sexual interest, but they do it in age-appropriate manners. Same with violence. However there has been an increase in explicit novels being placed on YA shelves.

I want to make clear, I do not agree with censorship, rather I strongly advocate for age-appropriate material. I also do not place any blame on the authors for writing this material, write what you want and if you want female characters exploring their sexuality and enjoying it, go for it! Rather, I ask the publishers to pause and consider how they are choosing to market these novels. Sure some 15(+)-year-olds may be mature enough to read this content, but are they in the minority or the majority?

One famous author whose novels have been experiencing this issue even stated she was 'surprised that her novels have been labeled in this way, seeing as there is a “three day sex marathon” in one of her books.' (Read articles here and here)

A lot of publishers and book stores seem to forget there is another category 'New Adult' that could be used. Admittedly, New Adult is not nearly as popular as YA. Afterall the abbreviation NA doesn't have the same ring to it nor is it as well-known as YA. Afterall, even non-readers know what YA is. Which is a shame because I truly think we could benefit from the popularization of NA.

I've read some fabulous NA books that feature all of the tropes listed above but had heavy and graphic imagery or mentions of consensual intercourse, rape, and/or violence. The NA category fit these books to a T for this exact reason. As an author myself, I am vocal about my novels being dark and graphic, jokingly giving them R ratings on social media. I do this because I would hate for a young/immature reader to unsuspectingly pick up one of my books. This is also why I am careful with my book covers.

Oh yeah, book covers are another issue. While I don't read much romance, I see the book from following fellow authors and readers on social media. I've recently noticed an uptick in cartoon-style covers for contemporary romance. I didn't think anything of these covers at first, thinking they were fun and eye catching. Then I saw a teacher interview where stated her students (roughly age 12) were bringing books such as 'Icebreaker' to class thinking they were middle grade books. That's when I realized these books had explicit scenes in them, but the covers looked kid friendly.

A bookstore display of romance novels with cartoon book coves.

It is important to note, for traditionally published authors the authors themselves often times have little to no say in some of these matters. It is not uncommon for publishing houses to decide the title, cover, and classification of the novels (YA vs Adult etc) As such, the authors are not the ones to point at when these things happen.

Again, I want to make it clear I have no issue with smut or spicey books being written or read. The joy of reading is to be able to read what you want. I only ask publishers, bookstores, etc. to please be more considerate in how they label, shelf, and market these books. I wouldn't feel comfortable with a child reading a graphically violent novel by Stephan King, George RR Martin or Joe Ambrose, so why would I be comfortable with them reading graphic depictions of sex?

Is the answer to this going back to the cheesy book covers of couples embracing while the wind catches their flowing hair and unbuttoned blouses? Not necessarily, unless you're personally a fan of those (I always find cheesy covers to be fun!) Rather I think we need more open discussions about 'book ratings' and classifications to help readers know what they are picking up.

But I'm curious to know your thoughts on this topic. Let me know what you think below!

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