Why I started reading YA as an adult and the books that fuelled it

I was a book snob 

If you scroll through my blog, you’ll see I read a lot of Young Adult novels. But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, when I was an actual young adult I read almost anything BUT young adult. I am ashamed to say that I was a book snob and thought I was above reading books geared towards teenagers even though I was a literal actual teenager. I guess it was teenage rebellion?

About 15 years ago when I was 13, I read Timeline by Michael Crichton which opened my eyes to the world of thrillers — especially science thrillers. I also read a ton of classics while in my teens: (Oscar Wilde, Jerome K Jerome, Bronte) and a ton of science fiction (Star Trek novels, Douglas Adams). But I still turned my nose up at a good chunk of books aimed towards my age group. One of my biggest annoyances is that they were all too short.

Twilight

Now, keep in mind that I was 16 in 2005, which is the year Twilight came out. Twilight, regardless of your feelings about the series, changed the YA publishing industry. It showed that teen books can make a ton of money and so many amazing YA books got published because of it.

Soon after Twilight came out, I was curious about the hype. So I read it. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t for me and only reinforced my dislike of YA.

But, my point is that 16 year olds today get to experience the abundance of great YA books flooding the market that I did not. (Granted, I didn’t exactly go searching for YA books so I’m 100% sure there were fantastic novels out there that I could have read, but to a lesser extent and visibility.)

So what changed my mind?

Honestly, the hype.

I was browsing through Indigo and saw a huge amount of this one book with a gorgeous cover. Which book? Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I read the blurb and it sounded fun, but I left the store empty handed and went about my day.

Later on, I saw a few people gushing over it on Goodreads and on Twitter. Shortly afterwards, I was lucky enough to stumble upon it at the library. Three encounters in a short span of time? I took it as a sign that I needed to read Red Queen.

Not only did I read it, but I also stayed up until 2am finishing it.

A YA book? And me liking it?

It was then that I realised how so very wrong I had been about young adult books.

What’s so good about YA?

    • Young adult books are setting the bar for inclusivity. So many of these stories have a great diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds, sexualities, and abilities. While there is still a long way to go, YA is actively trying to make books more diverse. This is especially important for readers who have never been able to find themselves in the books they read or see themselves represented on the cover.
    • They’re perfect for binge reading. It’s ironic how the length of YA books was one of the reasons I didn’t want to read them in the first place. While I’m still a fan of long books, there is that special feeling of accomplishment and pride when you read an entire book in one sitting.
    • You can find just about anything! Space ships? You got it. Dragons? Check. Time travel? YA’s got your back.

Yes, I’m an adult and I read YA books. I don’t care. I’ve come across so many wonderful stories and characters; who cares that I’m almost 30?

Onto the books!

So, here are eight books that have made an impression on me over the past three years. The ones that I stayed up late reading. The ones that stuck in my head days — even weeks — after turning that last page.

Onwards!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Basically, this whole post is Victoria Aveyard’s fault.

“This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.” – Goodreads


The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
by Lauren James

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe - Lauren James

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Along with Red Queen, the cover for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is also one of my favourites. Read my review!

“Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .” – Goodreads


Rebel of the Sands
by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands Alwyn Hamilton

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Guess what? This cover also rocks!  See my review for Rebel of the Sands.

“Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It’s not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al’Hiza must call it ‘home’.Amani wants to escape and see the world she’s heard about in campfire stories.Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run.

But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan’s army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion…” – Goodreads


Cinder
by Marissa Meyer

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

While Red Queen is the book that pushed me into YA, Cinder is the book that pulled me under. Read my review of Cinder and my review of Winter (book four in the Lunar Chronicles).

“Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.

Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.

But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.” – Goodreads


Illuminae
by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Illuminae is one of the most unique and creative books I have ever read. The inside is a goddamn work of art.

“This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on.” – Goodreads


An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

I’ve seen An Ember in the Ashes categorized as both YA and adult fantasy, but I’m including it on this list. Sabaa Tahir is an effortless writer and I will buy anything she writes! Read my review of An Ember in the Ashes, and it’s sequel A Torch Against the Night.

“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.” – Goodreads


All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

A wonderful standalone novel about time travel!

“Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.” – Goodreads


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Links: Book Depository | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Okay, so I know Simon isn’t a fantasy or sci-fi novel but I couldn’t make this list without it. Honestly one the fluffiest most adorable books out there.

“Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.” – Goodreads

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13 thoughts on “Why I started reading YA as an adult and the books that fuelled it

  1. After The Hunger Games, I didn’t find any YA I liked so I went back to adult/literary while in college. I read some YA but felt like everything was trying to copy The Hunger Games. But lately YA has been exploding. Fantasy, Space Operas, diverse romance, historical fiction, EVERYTHING. There’s even “upper YA” that has people in college or has an 18/19 year old protagonist, so I can relate to that a tad better. I’m a POC so I LOVE that there’s more that represents me. I’m sorry teens, but my little 15 year old self NEEDS these books because I felt like I was weird since YA books rarely featured an awkward, introverted POC.

  2. This is such an interesting post! Loved it! The books you mentioned are so good! I loved Illuminae and Simon Vs. I think what’s so special about YA is how there’s no limits to what you can do or write about. It’s innovative, creative and there is such a big want for diverse books, which is something you don’t see much in other genres I think.
    (I’ve had this open for over a week before I finally got around to read it sorry!)

    1. YA seems to be the forefront for diverse books – almost as though adult fiction is too scared or too set in their ways to even bother. I’m so excited to see what YA is going to bring over the next few years 🙂

  3. I can relate, I wouldn’t finish the Harry Potter series, I had this thing that I had to be different. I don’t have a good opinion of YA fiction but I think I’ve just read the wrong books. I’ve read books that I wouldn’t usually read this year and hope to read more YA and change my opinion. I have one waiting

    1. Harry Potter was the one YA series I actually read (and was/am obsessed with it) but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into any other YA books.

      There are so many great YA books released in the past couple years – I hope you do enjoy the ones you end up picking up! It’s a genre I never thought I’d love, and yet here I am. That said, there are some that I haven’t enjoyed so if you aren’t feeling it there’s no shame in closing the book and starting a new one.

  4. Simon vs and Cinder are absolutely amazing! Funnily enough I have almost all the other books you mentioned in my TBR. And I totally agree with you about YA providing diversity. I had started reading quite young and had accepted the fact that being an Indian I would never be represented in books, especially as a MC. But recently there have been so many YA books on Hindu and Muslim teens my heart just swells in pride.
    I love this post 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂 I hope you enjoy the other books as much as I did (and I can’t wait to see the Simon movie aaah)!

      I’m so glad YA is paving the way for diverse books – and the amount of books featuring Muslim and Hindu out in the next couple years makes me so happy that a generation of young people get to grow up and see themselves represented when just a few years ago they would struggle to find a lot of content. (There still could be more though, for every book featuring a person of colour on the cover we get 15 books featuring a white girl)

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