Thinky Thoughts: What Age Is "Too Old" for YA?

This article posted on Vulture.com about a 30-something year old woman “coming clean” about her love for YA fiction took over my Facebook feed for a while last week, and while it’s only one of a dozen that have popped up recently on major(-ish) online media outlets, for some reason I read this one. Then I read the comments. Then I became sad and a little concerned for my lack of emotional growth and maturity.

Apparently adults who read YA are in a state of arrested development, according to the experts who like to hang around slamming people on Vulture articles all day. Only adults who have never grown up or remain in a constant state of adolescence could possibly enjoy these books aimed at teenagers. Considering the number of articles that come out on a daily basis about Gen Y/Millennials having that same “arrested development” issue, it’s really starting to give me a complex.

I am not a teenager. I have a full-time job, pay a mortgage and am in a long-term committed relationship. I purposely ignored the invites to all 10-year high school reunion events. I eat 4 to 7 servings of vegetables and fruit a day when I really wish I could just stuff my face with Doritos and cupcakes. While I do not have any spawn of my own, I am often entrusted with the well-being of others’ spawn for hours at a time and I (usually) return them (mostly) unscathed. So even though I often pack my lunch based on ideas I get from what moms put in their toddlers’ lunch boxes, I’d say I count as a grown up.

I’m not sure where the line was drawn that Adult = No Imagination or No Adventure or No Fun, but these Vulture reading-habit psychologists seem to think so. I read adult books, but they’re science fiction, horror and fantasy, so I imagine that would be yet another sign of my stunted mental and emotional development. I read YA and watch television “targeted” at a YA audience because it’s fun, it’s imaginative and it’s full of adventures I would never experience in real life. I don’t care about first times or the power of youth or whatever reasons were spouted in that article. I want to experience things I can’t experience in my every day boring life, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If wanting adventures and imagination means I’m stuck in a juvenile state of mind, well, at least my head is filled with more fun than yours.

 

Despite all that I do have a age-related conundrum with YA, but it’s a little different.  

At what point does it become uber creepy for me to cheer for the love lives of fictional teenagers?

I mean, if I felt the same sort of attachment to real live teenagers and had the same level of concern for the state of their relationship, I probably have several restraining orders on me. To avoid the creeps of “watching” romantic encounters between teens, I seem to automatically age up characters in my head. This gives me a slightly less squick factor when I look back and think, “I loved that make out scene with whatshisname and whosthatgirl.” That’s also why I avoid outright YA romances because any graphic – or even just insinuated – sexual situation would give me the creeps and make me feel like a creepy old lady. And even though I’m not a teen, I’m not *that* old either.

 It’s probably why I rarely latch on to male book characters to the extent of referring to them as “book boyfriends”. I can only think of one that is top of mind and he’s a zombie, which brings up a whole other set of psychological issues I may or may not have…

But despite all the weirdness I get from the teen romance thing, I continue reading YA. It's adventure and fun and involves all sorts of things that will never happen in my life. If that means I'm refusing to "grow up", then I guess I'm okay with that.

So if you’re an adult reading YA, how do you cope with the romance levels in these books? Do you age characters up like I do or do you have some other trick that keeps you from feeling icky?

 

Note: I have no idea who made any of these gifs as I found them on Tumblr, so thank you anonymous gif makers. You are awesome.

 

Linked up at Oh, Chrys' Let's Discuss post. Find other great discussion posts here.