When I turned twelve years old, one of my happiest memories was being allowed to check out books from the adult section of our local library. Yes, I have been a life-long lover of fiction. Flash-forward more birthdays than I care to remember and I often find myself browsing the young adult section at my local library.
No, it’s not because I’ve become less mature (although my husband might disagree). Today, I not only devour young adult fiction (also known as “YA”) as an adult reader but I’ve also authored a YA series.
I didn’t set out to write a young adult novel. In fact, the main character of my YA series was originally a twenty-something-year-old guy. During a workshop at the Brooklyn Public Library, the voice of a teen girl came to me in a free-writing exercise. I knew I had to bring this character to life in a novel. She refused to be forgotten.
I ditched the millennial dude and titled my YA novel, The Atlantis Twins. The story is about Alysa Grey and her quest for her missing twin. It combines a coming-of-age fantasy suspense story with mermaids and a touch of romance. One book soon became two, three, and then four. The Mermaid Curse urban fantasy series was born. I was hooked. And luckily for me, so it seemed were my readers.
As the Mermaid Curse books gained traction, I started to receive fan mail. I felt inspired and grateful. I wanted to learn more about my readers. What I learned was that most readers were adults ranging from twenties to senior citizens. This gave me an aha moment. For the same reasons I loved writing YA fiction, adults also loved reading the young adult genre.
Young adult novels are not just for teens anymore (if they ever were). In fact, according to a survey by Bowker Market Research, 55% of young adult books are purchased by adults. But why should adults read YA fiction? Here are five reasons you might want to add the young adult genre to your reading list:
- Reading about younger characters can help you feel younger. Various studies have shown that mindset has an enormous impact on health and general well-being. There may be some truth to the adage you are only as old as you think you are. Aging is unavoidable. But feeling old? Ask Irene O’Shea who went skydiving for the first time at 100 years-of-age. Perhaps she reads plenty of YA fiction?
- Young adult fiction helps develop compassion. Reading books geared toward young adults can help foster compassion for the teens in our lives. This might mean your own kids or the skateboarder who almost sideswiped you on the street. Compassion and empathy keep people feeling happy and connected and makes the world a better place. Social connection has many proven benefits for health and well-being.
- Reading about teen life can help to heal the past. If you’re like me, your teen years were anything but harmonious. Reading teen fiction can be an important step to releasing pain from the past. Resolving emotional wounds can heal, and yes—may help you feel younger.
- Reading young adult books can help trigger a mindset of appreciation and gratitude. Not all of us suffered through teen angst. If your teenage years were blissful, dropping back into a youthful state-of-mind can trigger gratitude. Gratitude has been shown to help improve sleep, life-satisfaction, and resilience—all of which help preserve youth.
- Openness to novelty and new experiences helps maintain a youthful brain. Adults often become creatures of habit. We drive the same route to work each day, eat the same meals, watch a certain type of TV series and perhaps read the same genre of book over and over. Staying mentally flexible is key to maintaining a youthful brain. An important component is novelty: in other words, exposing ourselves to new things. Novelty helps to increase dopamine, a brain chemical related to motivation and happiness. In fact, openness to novelty is so important that researchers have used it as a predictor of longevity.
If you haven’t read the young adult genre before, now is the perfect time. If you already read YA fiction—bust out of your habitual genre. There are young adult books in every flavor, from action-adventure to mystery to romance to zombies. I can’t promise that you’ll take up skydiving when you turn 100, but I can promise enough vicarious teen adventures to last a lifetime.
I love writing novels for young adults. Being a teen is a time of intensity and raw potential. For me, my teen years were fraught with anxiety. Writing about that time of life has allowed me to explore and heal some of my various wounds. What about you?