Friday, August 10, 2012

The Mass Appeal of YA Fiction - It's Not Just For Teens - Kindle Fire Giveaway

The Mass Appeal of YA Fiction -
It's Not Just For Teens
Guest Post by Kimberly Kinrade 

Chances are you or someone you love is addicted to Young Adult fiction. In all likelihood, you know many non-teens who fall into this category. For those who just don't understand the fascination, or who worry about your loved one's mental health, I'm here to help.

Young Adult fiction didn't start as a genre so much as an age classification for books. Depending on who you ask, (or what you read) YA lit falls somewhere between Middle Grade and Adult literature and is typically known for its teen protagonist going through coming-of-age type journeys.

However, it has sparked a reading revolution among a wide age demographic. Young teens to middle aged adults are obsessed with YA books—and the big question on many people's minds is why? Perhaps you are wondering that about your loved one. Or perhaps you too have a secret obsession with this genre-that's-not-a-genre, but don't totally understand why.

First, let's set the record straight. YA isn't a genre, per se. It's talked about like it is, but it isn't. Paranormal, romance, thriller, horror, mystery, literary fiction, sci fi, fantasy… these are genres—all of which you can find in the YA category. So if it's not a genre, and it's not just appealing to young adults, then what gives?

I know, it's confusing. Some of you may think YA lit is a gateway drug to fluff writing. Many attribute the wide-spread popularity of YA lit to the 'simplistic writing'—the argument being that people don't want to have to use their brains when they read, and YA is brainless (or something along those ridiculous and insulting lines.)

Don’t get me wrong, there's some brainless, simplistic YA out there. Just as there's the same for thriller, horror, mystery, etc. That's true of any genre (yes, okay, we'll call it a genre for sake of clarity and ease of communication, just remember, it's not really a genre.) As someone who reads and writes YA fiction (as well as children's literature and adult fiction) I find this explanation simplistic and offensive.

Sure, we want to be entertained when we read. We crave escapism and adventure. That doesn't mean the writing is bleh or that we're all mindless morons. It just means we might not always be in the mood for War and Peace. (And honestly, who is ever in the mood for that?)

So what's the appeal? Based on what I've seen, read and heard… here are my thoughts.

One, YA is largely dominated by female authors, and female readers. That's not to say that men and boys don't enjoy reading and writing YA, but they are not the primary demographic on either side of the coin. (And please don't ask me to site sources, this is a blog, not a literary journal… a quick Google search will show this to be true.)

Perhaps because of this, YA has more strong, intelligent, kick-butt female protagonist than nearly any other genre, ever. (With epic fantasy probably being last on the list, following thrillers… this is not statistically proven, just my guess based on what I've read. And of course, there are exceptions. Just not many.) As a woman myself, I love reading about strong women and girls who are faced with hard choices and challenges and come away even stronger. I relate to them, just as many of you do. Just as our teen daughters do. It's empowering.

For this alone, the YA genre lends itself to popularity. But I think it's more than that. Within YA, you can find any genre you like, be it mystery, romance, thrillers, horror, sci fi, fantasy, paranormal… but they will all have some basic similarities that account for much of these books' appeal—the coming of age theme.

In any coming of age story, you're dealing with thematic elements that touch on deep emotional memories for most of us. We may not relate to a middle aged male detective chasing a serial killer, or an elf killing Orc's with a giant sword, but probably all of us can relate to a teenager falling in love for the first time, or feeling trapped and helpless in a situation not of their making (or of their making.)

We've all been there, and in these books, we get to go back with the wizened eyes of age and experience and relive what we once lived, but with more grace and control. We get to escape from the drudgery of dishes and grocery shopping and cooking and working and join a girl who has to fight to stay alive and provide for her family. We get to find love with a mythical being beyond reality, or battle side by side with our best friends as we face off against evil teachers and bad wizards. No matter how magical, mythical or outside of reality the plot is, the internal drive and quest and hardships are the same.

It also provides a sense of wish fulfillment. We've been there on one level, but we haven't. Now we get to be the popular girl, or the girl who can read minds, or the one who finds eternal love. We live thousands of lives through the pages in these books, lives that are just starting out, lives that are on the cusp of unfolding into greatness. You can't get that same magic anywhere else. It's the magic of YA, that we get to begin anew each time we pick up a new book to read.

For teens, the journey is different. They are still living it, and so can relate to their paged peers. But they also get to see into the future by surviving the Hunger Games with Katniss or living happily ever after with Edward. They get to imagine their futures a hundred different ways—and they, like us adults, enjoy the wish fulfillment of these stories.

It's a powerful drive, the emotional memories and fantasies that all genre of YA books stir in us. Is it any wonder that it's so addictive? Within one massive genre-that's-not-a-genre, we get to relive the emotional intensity of our own coming-of-age. And in the end, aren't we all still going through these moments, if in a less dramatic way? We all live through new beginnings and endings, heartbreak and rebirths, closed doors and open windows. When we feel hopeless or stuck, a great YA novel brings us back to a place of hope and opportunity where anything and everything is possible, if we just turn the next page in our books—and our lives.

About Kimberly Kinrade
Kimberly Kinrade was born with ink in her veins and magic in her heart. She writes fantasy and paranormal stories for children, YA and adults and still believes in magic worlds. Check out her YA paranormal novels Forbidden Mind and Forbidden Fire and her illustrated children's fantasy chapter books Lexie World, Bella World and Maddie World all on Amazon.

She lives with her three little girls who think they're ninja princesses with super powers, her two dogs who think they're humans, her two kittens who think they're gods, and her husband, also known as the sexy Russian Prince, who is the love of her life and writing partner.

Find out more at, on Twitter, and Facebook. 

A Chance to Win:
Click here for a chance to win signed copies of Kimberly's YA novels, Forbidden Mind and Forbidden Fire, as well as Zoe Winters' paranormal romance novels and a Kindle Fire!

This post is part of a weekly feature of guest posts about various topics related to writing and publishing. If you are interested in doing a guest post, please contact me.

Most recent post - The Fine Art of Being Rejected by Merry Farmer.

While you are here, please also check out the previous posts included in this feature.


  1. Love this post! I wish I could hand it to anyone who eyeballs me when they see what I'm reading.

    1. Feel free to do just that! I'm so glad it captured your feelings about a genre-that's-not-a-genre that I love so much!

  2. Loved your insight. I am closing in on 40 in few months. I feel these kind of books weren't around when I was YA. I read alot of fantasy back then. I am enjoying every page I have been reading this past year!

    1. I too read fantasy when I was younger, and I love YA now. It's for all ages!

  3. Thank you for this amazing post! I prefer to read YA and am tired of the negative perception people have of YA. You perfectly described all of its attributes, and the attraction readers of all ages have to these books. I think I'll print this out and keep it in my bag so that when the next person rolls their eyes at me and tells me I should read "grown up books," I'll just hand them your article and say, "read this!";)

    1. If you do that, you MUST tell me how it goes! :) lol And yeah, I think the negative perception is so bizarre and unjustified. I'm glad you could relate!

  4. Thanks so much for having me on your site. This was a fun article to write!

  5. Great post Kimberly,
    I'm 46 and love YA for the reason you've stated and also because the character flaws and mistakes are more believable. Sometime in adult literature, a character will do something that just comes across as stupid. But if a teen does it...totally believable.

    1. Another great point, Deb! We expect adults to have a certain amount of senses, but teens are still in learning mode, so their lapses are more forgivable.

  6. You make some great points about YA, but here's another one: it's also a way for adults to remember what it's like to be that age, which may foster better communication with their own kids. I know when my girls were teens, we shared all kinds of books which lead to discussions and opinions. It was a way of me keeping tabs on what was going on inside their heads and hearts -- and a true bonding experience. And as any parent of a teen knows, you use all the tools you can to manage those often turbulent and trying years.

    I write urban fantasy with a kick-ass heroine. It's not YA, but I agree 100% we need more role models in literature for our girls and young women.

    Great post, Kimberly.

    1. Excellent points Annetta! My girls are still pretty young, but I'm sure that will be a part of our relationship as they grow older. As it is, I have to read Junie B Jones books to get into their minds. It's scary lol



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