For a very long time, I’ve been shamed for reading YA. I would only buy books on my Kindle so you couldn’t see what I was reading. I only shared my reads with close friends I knew wouldn’t judge me for reading YA. I talked even less about them online to avoid trolls asking me why an adult is reading childrens’ books. People would purse their lips at me, judge me for my questionable taste, and guilt me for reading books that brought me joy. Why? Because I’m too old to be reading Young Adult books…or so they believe.
Recently, I started watching this new (to me) anime series called Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s the story of a fifteen year old boy who somehow is roped into piloting a larger than life mech that defeats evil monsters that attack their town. In watching this series, I realized that a lot of what I like about anime reflects in many of the YA novels I read.
There were a few things I noticed. First off, a lot of anime is centered around teenagers who are put into both ordinary and extraordinary situations. Some are romantic, some are just contemporary stories, and others are genre stories running everywhere from horror to fantasy. They all face struggles with their world be it learning how to use giant robots or learning who you are deep inside.
Secondly, they are short. They only last about a season or two before becoming cult classics within the anime community. I imagine YA stories (outside of the Epic fantasies) are very much the same.
Finally, they read like YA. While they may not have the same tropes as YA novels do, the experiences and the reactions feel very much like an anime. The impulsivity, the secret keeping, the love stories; they all feel like YA stories.
When you’re a kid and you grow up with certain things, those kind of remain with you. I loved shows like Sailor Moon and Vampire Princess Miyu because they were impossible stories happening to average people; specifically girls. I always imagine that I’ll get my super powers one day and that feeling sticks with you regardless of your age. So when I found YA novels, it was like reliving that dream again. I could imagine a world where super powers exist and fighting battles and learning about yourself in the process.
As an adult, there are certain standards arbitrarily set saying that this is the life you have to live. You have to raise those kids. You have to make that money. You have to be responsible and there’s just no time for enjoyable things. And to that, I say hooey. There’s no magic fairy that comes down at you when you turn 25 that says “time to get those kid dreams out of your head, you’re too old for that now.” These are self-imposed thoughts. These are what society has told us is the right way to live your life when you reach that threshold. But if you live for yourself and live how you want, you find much more enjoyment in an existence that’s as fleeting as a butterfly’s life.
I believe in the concept that you’re never too old to do anything. Going back to school and getting a degree, bungee jumping off a 100ft bridge, or finally publishing that novel at 60. The world is too big and life is too short to limit yourself because you think it’s not adult.
Where in any book did it say that once you hit adulthood you have to let go of everything you loved about childhood? Does that mean eating Firecracker popsicles in the middle of summer is considered too young? Does that mean going on rollercoasters is too young? Does that mean learning a new trade or diving into your personal emotions is only reserved for those who haven’t fully lived life yet?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an adult and reading YA. For some folks, it’s about the nostalgia of being young and others an escape from the reality of their lives. We shouldn’t shame adults for reading YA especially when a lot of stories feel less like books for children and carry some very big messages.
I think the one thing that anyone can get out of YA is stories most adults are too afraid to share. These are the stories inspiring so many young people to take action, to care, and to find out their true selves. What’s so wrong with reading books like that?
If you’re a YA reader and maybe a little too old for the demographic, raise your books up loud and proud. The days of what it means to be an adult are long gone and while people can argue that until they’re out of breath, one thing is still true; you can read whatever you want. No one can take that away from you.