There are many different types of books, but some of the most popular are Young Adult books. For readers ages 12 to 18, YA offers a more relatable experience with topics that are common to teens and young adults.
What does YA mean? What are YA books?
YA stands for Young Adult. It’s a literary category that typically applies to novels, but it can also be applied to other forms of literature, including graphic novels and manga. A typical Young Adult novel features protagonists who are not yet adults themselves (think teenagers). YA stories can tackle any number of themes, including pains and joys of growing up, dating, family life, school pressure or social issues.
What are examples of YA books and authors?
Hundreds of YA books are published every year, but you’ve likely heard of some of the biggest names. Here are just a few of the most well-known YA book series and titles:
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
(Note: Some might not consider Harry Potter a YA novel — but we feel the later books are solidly YA material.)
Related: Is Harry Potter YA (and what is YA anyway)?
What is the difference between young adult novels and novels for adults?
Young Adult novels are typically categorized as books that are best suited for readers 12-18 years of age. Because YA novels are written for younger readers, the themes, topics and issues that YA authors explore relate more to teenagers than, say, adults.
For example, many YA books tend to touch on these concepts:
- First love
- The importance of friendship
- Standing up for your beliefs
- Finding an identity and place in the world
These days, many YA novels also tackle social issues related to current events, such as race and LGBTQ+ representation. This is largely thanks to an expanding emphasis on diversity among young readers.
Good YA books represent the feelings and experiences of teenage life in realistic ways, even when set against the backdrop of a fantastical setting. This can mean short-term angst over breaking up with a boyfriend or the long-term struggles of trying to figure out who you are underneath confusing thoughts and emotions.
However, plenty of adults read YA too. There is no hard and fast rule about who can or can’t read these novels.
Are YA books badly written?
Not at all! Sometimes individuals think YA is a “lesser” form of literature, but just because it’s written for a young age group doesn’t mean it’s better or worse than books written for adults. In fact, many recent YA novels tackle issues of substance. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give offers a strong exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement — something anyone at any age could appreciate.
Is YA a genre?
YA can be seen as a genre, but such a view isn’t entirely accurate. YA is a category, specifically a marketing category based on age. Publishers, sellers and librarians need to know what books are appropriate for young readers, which is why the distinction matters, especially in marketing. Again, YA is generally classified as books for readers 18-years-old and under.
Because YA is a category, YA books span many different genres. YA books can be romance novels, horror books, mysteries, fantasy and science-fiction — or any combination of those genres. And those are just some of the more popular examples. Like fiction for adults, YA is diverse with different types of stories.
YA exploded in popularity over the last decade and is unlikely to go anywhere soon, especially considering its massive audience.
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