Reading YA as an Adult: Survey Results

Posted September 27, 2015 by Carlisa in Discussion, Let's Talk / 2 Comments

Reading YA as Adult surveySO, if you didn’t see…I’m in a Young Adult literature class right now. Which is awesome. Because if what I read can be put and studied in a University-level course, then I’m justified, right? Anyways, we’re doing a paper that can be able anything YA-related. My professor’s only stipulation is that the topic is something we’re genuinely curious about. We start with a question and explore it.

And as a book blogger, I see many, many, many adults who read almost all YA. I’m 20 and I read almost all YA. My mom will read whatever books I tell her to read, which is almost all YA. So I was intrigued by this concept of adults reading YA literature and whether or not that’s considered “okay.” Because I feel like there’s a stigma about it. YA literature isn’t as sophisticated or complex…and, therefore, it’s lesser.

So I’m writing my 12-page paper on this topic. And I sent out a survey to people to get some ideas flowin’. I wanted to get more of my blogger people’s opinions but not many responded on Twitter so most were from Facebook sharing. I had requests to share the results on my blog, so here I am…sharin’.

The Demographics

I had a total of 117 people take the survey. Unfortunately, I can only analyze the results of the first 100 (sorry for those 17) because I’m cheap and don’t want to pay $50 a month to get the gold membership on SurveyMonkey. Anyways, so 100 people.

The Ages

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So the majority of people (47%) were 25-34 years old, followed by 18-24 year olds at 23% and then 35-44 year olds at 17%.

The Genders

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So, obviously, we see a huge gender difference here. Out of the 100, only 8 were male while the rest were females. Shout-out to those eight guys. You’re awesome and deserve a slow clap for participating.

The girls deserve a slow clap, too, of course.

Basic YA Lit Questions

What approx. percentage of books you read are classified as “Young Adult”?

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If you read YA, what are your favorite genres?

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If you read anything other than YA, what are you favorite genres?

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Reading YA as an Adult

If you read YA, list all the reasons YA lit appeals to you as an adult

For this one, I have a ton of answers. And when I say “a ton,” I mean 281 answers….so I’m just going to focus in on them and tally them up and give you the results because a lot of them are similar.

  • 56 people answered that it’s usually “cleaner” than adult fiction–in terms of violence, sex, or language. Many mentioned that there’s just less gratuitous violence/sex/language…if it’s there in YA, it’s driving the plot or developing the character; it’s there for an important reason.
  • 32 people answered that they love the storylines and plot of YA books better than adult. They used words like “interesting,” “imaginative,” and “fantastical.” Many also mentioned the greater variety of plotlines in YA.
  • 29 people answered that the book itself is more engaging and exciting. They used words like “fun,” “exciting,” “engaging,” “entertaining,” “fast-paced,” and “compelling.” One person also mentioned their love of cliff-hangers to keep them reading.
  • 27 people answered that YA books are normally shorter and have quicker paces, resulting in fast reads that fit better in their schedules.
  • 25 people answered that the stories are still relatable or even nostalgic. Many mentioned that YA books “keep them young,” [which is awesome].
  • 24 people answered that YA books are normally easier to read than adult fiction of what’s considered the classics.
  • 11 people answered that if the story is well-written, it doesn’t matter who the intended audience is. It was cool because this is almost word for word what each of the ten said.
  • 10 people said they either teach young adults or are parents to young adults, and reading what they’re reading helps them relate.
  • people answered that they enjoy the “cute”, “sweet,” and “endearing” romances found in YA books.
  • people answered that YA fiction helps them “escape” more from their everyday lives and that the stories help them experience a different world.
  • people answered that the characters are “dynamic,” “endearing,” “relatable,” and “contain depth.”
  • people said they enjoy coming-of-age stories where the characters grow throughout the pages. 
  • people said that things are more black and white in YA novels. They include examples like “Good and evil are more distinct,” and that they “usually have the traditional happy ending.”
  • people said that YA is popular and they’re able to talk to their friends about it. Another also said that many YA books are made into movies, so they read them first.
  • people said that YA has authentic and emotional depth which helps them empathize.
  • people said they are more familiar with YA authors and titles. Many grew up reading YA and just continued when they became adults, and that some of their favorite authors are the ones they grew up reading.
  • people said that YA books are more accessible to them. 
  • people said YA books are less dark, more upbeat, and more hopeful.
  • people said they enjoy the nature of the protagonist, who is usually determined and goal-oriented.
  • people said they enjoy the witty and generally clean humor found in YA books.
  • person said they hope to write YA literature one day.
  • person said the covers of YA books are usually more visually appealing.
  • person said YA books are more likely to be series and they enjoy following the storylines.
If you don’t read YA, list the reasons it *doesn’t* appeal to you

There weren’t that many people that filled out this section (since only 4 people said that only 0-5% of the books they read are YA). So I’d just thought I’d give each answer their own bullet point and even quote:

  • “I think they’re dumb.”
  • “I’d rather spend my time reading something that will increase my skills instead of increase my awareness of shovel-faced glittery vampires.”
  • “I’d rather read non-fiction.”
  • Lacks emotional complexity
  • “I gain nothing practical from it.”
  • It oversimplifies the world.
  • “It creates bogus expectations about relationships.”
  • It’s difficult to relate to sometimes.
  • It has too much teen angst.
  • Rather read something intellectually challenging
  • It’s not as deep or intellectual.
What do you believe are the reasons people think adults shouldn’t read YA?

Disclaimer: Everyone answered this with at least one thing, but many said they don’t actually believe it themselves. It’s just what they know is said.

  • 40 people said something along the lines of “It’s too young.” Adults should be reading things that are age-appropriate and, therefore, relatable to them. Young Adult is too immature for adult readers. They used words such as “shallow,” “undemanding,” “not relevant,” and “not realistic.”
  • 18 people said that the stories are lesser than adult fiction. It’s written poorly, it’s not complex, or it’s just cheesy fluff with no real substance.
  • 14 people said they either didn’t know any reasons or are not aware that a stigma exists.
  • 10 people said people should only read for education or enlightenment and that YA literature is not “literary” enough.
  • people said something along the lines  of “The reason is pretentious ignorance.”
  • people said that YA literature is meant for young adults. If too many adults “take over,” young adults will lose their own space.
  • people said that reading YA as an adult means you’re less smart.
  • people said that people don’t want to read what’s “popular” or trending and that YA is often over-hyped.
  • person said that YA is sexist or elitist as most YA authors are women.
Rank how you feel about each question

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Do you think “Young Adult” is the appropriate name for this type of lit. and why

I asked this one because it was a debate on Twitter on the day that I posted this survey. I guess a panel suggested they change “Young Adult” to “Young at Heart” to be inclusive to its adult readers. I thought this might be an interesting thing to talk about in my paper, so I decided to get a feel for what people felt.

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“Yes” responses
  • It’s was written and marketed for young adults.
  • The protagonists are young adults.
  • For ease of organization and subject matter classification.
  • It’s like movie ratings. PG-13 does mean only teenagers can watch it; just that, the minimum age should be around 13.
  • It’s already set and would “muddy the water” if changed.
  • The books are about the transition to adulthood, so Young Adult is the perfect title.
  • There needs to be a section exclusively geared towards teens.
  • The term “Young Adult” isn’t exclusive, just descriptive.
“No” responses
  • There should be more to classify a book than reading comprehension levels.
  • It should be rated how the movies are rate.
  • They don’t just appeal to young adults.
  • It ignores the “child” in young adults while patronizing the adult readers
  • It marginalizes readers, even young adults.
  • It’s too generic of a title
  • It promotes the stigma that YA isn’t good enough for adults to be reading.
  • Should be rated by genre and comprehension level.
  • There’s a lot of middle ground between middle grade and young adult and then between young adult and adult fiction.

Conclusions

I’m not going to give you a very thorough answer on this, but I just find the results so fascinating. I think once I’m done with my paper, I’ll post a (much) shorter version on the blog. If you’re reading my blog, though, you’d know I read a lot of YA books. That’s what I enjoy. But I also enjoy the “classics” and adult fiction. As an English major, though, I’m required to read a lot of those super “literary” books and so I read YA in my free-time. And I ain’t ashamed.

not even sorry

LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! I want to hear all of your lovely opinions.


  • This was absolutely amazing, Carlisa. I don’t remember seeing you ask questions about this on Twitter, and that makes me sad that I missed out. I’m 26 and I’d say 99.9% of the books I read YA. I can never really think of reasons why, but the survey results were spot on. Game of Thrones, for example, I read it and loved it, but it was an entirely different experience than reading a YA high fantasy. The YA characters have such an innocence to them and I find get more excited for what’s to come in the following pages, especially when it comes to romance. It angers me a little bit that people said you should only read for education or enlightenment and that YA is not literary enough. REALLY? Why are people so hung up on what other people read? I’m not going to force myself to read something I don’t like just to make myself look more “smart”. I went to school for seven years to obtain two degrees; let me enjoy my YA in peace.

    • Most of the anti-YA answers were given by people who actually love YA and were just explaining what they think the stigmas are. BUT, yeah. Like I’m an English major where I read *very* “literary” things. I can read them and analyze them and write billion-page essays on them. But I enjoy reading YA in my free-time and that doesn’t make me any less smart. And same with you!