Most of the books I read were written for young adults, and I’m not alone. Over 50% of YA readers are adults. I can’t tell you why other adults are flocking to the YA section, but there are a few reasons why I mostly read and write YA books.
First, an insight into my YA origin story. I spent my late teens and early 20s studying law at university, so reading for pleasure took a massive hit. When I’d finished studying, a book from a Florida Virgin Megastore (of all places) pulled me back in. It had a shiny black cover with a red apple in the centre and a tantalisingly melodramatic quote about a girl being in love with a vampire who thirsts for her blood.
That book was, of course, Twilight and I spent the next two days fishing it out of my bag whenever I was stuck in a Disney ride queue.
I don’t know if I’d be as obsessed with Twilight as I was on that first reading. I just know that the first three books had me counting down the months until Breaking Dawn came out.
I think I’ve been chasing that compulsive need to read ever since, and I often find it in YA books. I’m not saying I love every YA book, or that there aren’t adult books I find deeply satisfying. It’s just that most of the books I want to reread, collect in multiple editions and recommend to anyone who will listen are YA books. So, what is it about YA that has this effect?
Books for young adults can cover just about every imaginable subject, but at their heart there’s often some element of coming of age. I think everyone can relate to figuring out who (or what) you are and growing into yourself.
I’m also drawn to the intensity of emotion often found in YA books. You find characters who want to change the world, pursue their interests, take down an authoritarian regime and everything in between.
I also really like the pacing of YA novels and how so much often has to be crammed into a shorter word count, especially in my favourite horror and thriller genres. I think a lot of people found it hard to concentrate in 2020. Thrillers were great escapism for me, and the structure kept my attention from wandering.
There are so many reasons why I enjoy reading YA, it’s probably no surprise that I write it too. I may write for a different audience at some point, but at the moment every idea I have falls firmly into the YA category. The voice of new characters always sounds like teenagers. I think part of that is because I love YA so fiercely, some of it has bled into the way I write. But I’m also interested in exploring those same themes, tropes and situations that I seek in my reading material. Writing YA is just as much a form of relaxation, self-exploration and fun as reading it.
I’ve decided to end with a few recommendations. It was almost impossible to narrow it down, so here are a few favourites by genre:
Fantasy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
Horror: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis.
Horror/thriller: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy.
Thriller: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky.
Historical/romance: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood.
Paranormal: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James.
Magical realism: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
By Amy McCaw