How Do You Know When You’re Too Old for YA?

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Hello everyone! Long time, no see! I ended up taking not an intentional break from blogging, but it became inevitable, and good for me. To begin with, I was intent on trying to get my final draft of Volume 4 FINALLY FINISHED BECAUSE FINALLY MUST ONE DAY FINALLY ARRIVE. Ahem. And then I got a nasty cold the week before Thanksgiving, and was really out of commission for many regular things, so taking on additional (unnecessary) tasks was simply not advised. Anyway, now I am doing better, and hope you all had a lovely holiday!

And now, it’s time to broach the subject that will almost certainly get me into trouble, but that I feel is kind of overdue for discussion here. A few years ago, I did write a blog post detailing why I felt it was not only totally acceptable but also beneficial for adults to read YA and children’s fiction. So, I swear I’m not throwing myself — or many of my blogging friends — under the bus when I say what I’m about to say:

I do believe I’m done reading YA fiction. Okay, probably not done in the way people give up a bad habit or a negative thing — first and foremost, because I stand by THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ADULTS READING YA, and also, because there are surely future publications aimed at the under-18 audience that I will stumble upon and be drawn to. BUT, in the last several months, I’ve been noticing stuff about the genre, and about myself as a reader in this stage of my life (post-The Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything) that has tipped me off to impending shifts in my literary consumption.

One: I can handle familiar plots, character tropes, and recycled settings. When I can’t relate to the content itself anymore, that’s a red flag for boredom and dissatisfaction.

I’ve made no secret of how old I am, and memories of high school amount to the lingering sense of dull, repetitive days that I generally daydreamed through — without the frenemy drama that apparently every teenager in the 21st century goes through. The internet wasn’t even a thing yet (and nobody had to turn their phones off in class, because their phones were all wired up to their kitchen counters), so to say that in some ways I will simply never understand the world of screaming adolescent fanfiction, texting your bestie at 2 a.m., and shopping for your prom dress via Amazon is a huge understatement. I do have an 18-year-old child, I am quite aware of present teen lifestyle and mentality. But, in the same way that kids today just won’t grasp “Be Kind, Please Rewind,” I merely remain out of the loop when it comes to contemporary YA fiction.

Two: Being expected to feel invested about subjects I’m just not invested in means I do not, er, invest.

I’m an only child. I’ve always been an only child. While most of the people around me do have siblings, I simply don’t, and therefore the brother or sister character that almost always comes as part of the YA package (whether it be contemporary, historical, or fantasy) has begun to grate on me. Yes, sibling relationships are even an important part of my own writing! But since most people do have brothers and/or sisters (my own kids included!), I knew having “too many” only children characters would not feel realistic to readers. But for me, as a reader, diving into the latest teenage sibling rivalry tends to feel like “going back” to high school for the hundredth time — I am over it.

Three: While I appreciate the excitement and ooey-gooeyness of first love, I cannot keep reading about it again and again and again.

First love is SUCH a hardcore part of any YA series, and while it tends to be a touchstone for publishers and many adults are convinced it’s age-appropriate, here are the cold, hard facts: Most kids experience their first crush in middle school, NOT the age of 16, and the relationship is NOT marriage material. Kids worried about acne and braces and how to spell the words for intimate anatomical parts will NOT be having epic love stories. The trend in YA since about 2010, that every first love is perfect and “fated to be” and will survive the infamous love triangle (with the “correct” person picked every time!) is LUDICROUS. I am SOOOO done with that part of it, too.

The final verdict is: I definitely feel over YA, at least for the foreseeable future. For very good reasons, and this is a solid decision I can — and should — feel confident about.

The next question, naturally, becomes: What do I read now? Luckily I am building up to my annual Barnes & Noble splurge, and I’ve already elected (autism efficiency for the win!) to explore the cozy paranormal section, which has grown tremendously in recent years, and provides a nice mix of fluff and relatable substance, while certainly maintaining the escapism I beg my reading material for. Most of these authors write long series as well, so I’ll have plenty to sink my 2022 literary teeth into! I’m already looking forward to new characters I’ll meet, tropes I may fall for, and the awaiting adventures! Here’s to new horizons!

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