Why Would An Adult Read Books For Teenagers?

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I read for countless reasons. I read for learning, for empathy, for experience. I read to expand my horizons, to travel the universe, to meet new friends and fall in love and have my heart broken exquisitely. I read to escape the crushing weight of reality or to experience it more vividly and through another’s eyes. I read for fun, for work, and sometimes just to be able to check off that I've read a book.

But the most important reason I read: to feel joy.

You know what makes me feel the most joy? Young Adult literature.

Contemporary, fantasy, science fiction or historical; long, short, highly anticipated or little-known; about boys or girls or both or neither; about love or friendship or families, I don’t care. If it’s about teenagers exploring their world, whichever one that might be, and if it’s written well and if I can get my hands on a copy, I will read it and it will bring me joy.

Even though most of it is written by adults, these are adults whose hearts are full to bursting with a love for teenagers.

Lately, my mom has been telling me to widen my reading horizons. By this she means I should read in other genres; adult or nonfiction or Christian or classic or what-have-you. Because I used to read anything and everything, and lately I’ve narrowed things down to where I almost exclusively read YA.

She thinks I won’t be as depressed if I read a little more widely.

I think that leaving YA behind, even for just a hot second, will make me want to cry.

Because there’s something so beautiful, so precious about this genre. It’s so real. Even though most of it is written by adults, these are adults whose hearts are full to bursting with a love for teenagers. Adults who look back a few years at today's teens and see wild, unfettered potential. Adults who recognize that the ones who change the world are the ones who are just now growing up.

And because teenage years are so important. That’s when you have your first beautiful experiences with love; it’s also when you have your first terrible experiences.

When I was a teenager, I began to experience depression; I fell in love with boys for the first time and experienced the bittersweet joy of that; I was emotionally abused by someone who should have loved me; I discovered my passion for writing; I stumbled upon TV shows; I first thought about cutting.

I felt a mix of good and bad and it was all so fresh, so new, and I didn’t know how to handle any of it. The books I read offered an escape but little advice. There wasn't the surge of books for and about teenagers that there seems to be today, this boom of literature made for and catering to someone my age, written by someone a little older but still able to remember so much of what makes being a teenager so...unique.

Now? Now I’m 24, still so young, and I want to write books for people like seven-year-ago Karis. People who are just experiencing things and so confused and looking for answers and hi, yes, I can offer a few answers and some hope.

That’s what YA authors do. They offer hope to teenagers. That's the beautiful thing about this age genre. It's rare to find a young adult novel that doesn't end with some sort of upswing, ever so gradual; that doesn't end with a sense of hope and possibility. Because the truth is, no matter how dark the teenage years get, there's always something to look forward to, be that high school graduation or prom or passing a test or moving out. It's a period of life with a defined end. Adult literature is so good, so wonderful and well-written, but a lot of books for adults that I read seem so sad, so cynical.

But YA is magical and joyful, and part of that is because teenagers are so cool. You don’t realize it until you’re not a teenager anymore, but good grief, the elasticity of mind and openness and creativity of a teenager...wow. Let’s pour into them. Let’s read about them. Let’s overestimate them until they meet our lofty expectations, and then let’s get ice cream and giggle and talk about boys or girls or first kisses or philosophy or deconstructing the Trumpian regime, because believe me today’s teens are capable of multitudes. 

So I read about them and I write about them in order to feel joy. Because books can do that, and YA in particular is so adept at giving me that thing I struggle to find: happiness. I don't care that I'm an adult. I care that YA brings me joy.

Karis Rogerson

Column by Karis Rogerson

Karis Rogerson is a mid-20s aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn and works at a cafe—so totally that person they warn you about when you declare your English major. In addition to embracing the cliched nature of her life, she spends her days reading, binge-watching cop shows (Olivia Benson is her favorite character) and fangirling about all things literary, New York and selfie-related. You can find her other writing on her website and maybe someday you’ll be able to buy her novels.

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