YA is a genre I’ve always enjoyed. Like any genre, there’s a mix of good and bad, but the good ones are truly special. They’re easy to read without feeling trivial. They can be sad and emotional without feeling sensationalist. They blend humour and tragedy with interesting, likeable characters.
But recently I’ve been finding it hard to engage with this genre. As a teenager I loved these books, because they were about people like me and were packed full of more excitement and romance than I could have dreamed of experiencing with my small-town upbringing. As a university student they provided a welcome break from the texts I was studying, and the challenges of learning to be an adult.
But as a graduate I’m finding that I can’t quite relate to these books in the same way. The characters are all far younger than me with vastly different – though equally valid – problems and issues. I’m also starting to see problems and cliches in YA that I hadn’t previously noticed. I’m looking for stories about navigating adult life; about learning to juggle flatmates, pay bills and figure out how to start a career; about making long-term relationships work; about growing up without getting boring. I tried filling this gap with TV shows like Girls and Girlboss, but I absolutely HATED both.
So my question is: what can YA fans move onto when they outgrow YA?
Obviously not everyone has to move on from YA, and obviously there a plenty of other genres out there. I read and enjoy a wide variety of genres and styles, but the absence of YA has left a bit of a gap: sometimes it feels like the only adult alternatives to YA are Jodi Picoult and Sophie Kinsella novels, but these seem to be aimed at an older female audience, and, to be honest, aren’t exactly what I’m looking for.
There are a few obvious choices: Sylvia Plath and Margaret Atwood are good starts. I read The Bell Jar during my time at university, and then Surfacing and The Handmaid’s Tale more recently, and enjoyed them all. I’m definitely planning on delving deeper into Margaret Atwood’s work, but I want to branch out and discover new authors too.
So when I ask what YA fans can move onto when they outgrow YA, I’m not being rhetorical. Can anyone recommend any books or authors? Are there many options or are you all feeling the same lack of choices as I am? Are there any blogs or online reading groups that provide some good pointers?
Get in touch and let me know your thoughts!