Reader’s Advisory for Adults Reading Teen Fiction

Sarah Isbister is currently an Auxillary Librarian at Greater Victoria Public Library and has just accepted one year position with GVPL as a Children’s and Family Literacy Librarian. Sarah has her B.Ed. as well as her M.L.I.S. and is interested in programming and reader’s advisory for adults, teens and children. She also has an interest in education in developing countries and has volunteered overseas in an educational capacity.

Young Adult Fiction is being read widely by adults, across a variety of demographics. As librarians and library staff, it is important to understand both why this is happening, and also how to recommend young adult fiction to adult readers. There has been an increase in adult fiction writers who are choosing to write young adult fiction. It is interesting to explore the trend in adult writers marketing their work to teens. In this post, I will provide you with the names of some authors writing both Adult and Young Adult Fiction as well as some recommended and popular Young Adult authors and titles.

While there are many adults already reading Young Adult Fiction, there are others who may be avoiding the genre altogether. As librarians and library staff, there are some encouraging statistics that we can employ to inspire reluctant readers of Young Adult fiction to try it out. According to Hope Schreiber of Complex Magazine, “Young Adult isn’t really just for the 12-18 age group anymore—it’s the fastest growing publication category right now. In fact, 55 percent of readers who buy YA are actually over 18. If you still feel guilty picking up Harry Potter, don’t.” (

It is essential to question what the adult reader gets out of reading these novels. Which should lead us to ask, what does a reader get out of reading any novel? One obvious response is to consider appeal factors, which include pacing, characterization, story line, and frame (background detail, mood, setting, tone). When adults were polled about reading YA Fiction, responses ranged from: “I enjoy the immediacy of the stories and the sense of being at the beginning of the path of who you’ll become.” — @sesinkhorn to “I like the mash-up of genre & style” and; “Unpretentious/literary, fast-paced/big-ideas, fantasy/mystery…” — @ErinSatie. The subtext of many of these responses seems to be that YA Fiction is being compared to Adult Fiction. In comparison to Adult Fiction, “YA fiction often delivers accessible, emotional, fast-paced stories with an optimistic or hopeful outlook.”

Eleanor & Park

If we choose to take a more academic approach, we can discuss reception studies. The point of reception/media/cultural studies is to, “study the audience (of a TV show, movie, etc.), not the creator of the media. A lot of reception studies focus on how consumption of a media product (TV show, book, etc.) is tied into an individual’s identity formation.” It has been argued that most cultural consumption in contemporary society is about identity. It’s about reaffirming one’s identity or challenging one’s identity or trying out new identities. While there is not necessarily anything wrong with this, it is intriguing that so many adults these days are drawn to narratives about teens. It begs the question, “what does [this] say about adult identities in contemporary society?”

Pretties Uglies

Or is it simpler than the academia suggests? Kelly Jensen, librarian and blogger in her Book Riot post, states: “Listen. The only justification for why adults read YA books is this: they choose to. That’s it. That’s their reason. Adults read YA books because they as adults choose to do so.” (

In a New York Times Book review, A.J. Jacobs describes John Green novels as, realistic stories told by a funny and self-aware teenage narrator with, “sharp dialogue, defective authority figures, occasional boozing, unrequited crushes and one or more heartbreaking twists”( Green is one of the most popular writers of young adult fiction who also has a strong adult following. He currently has four novels on the New York Times best-seller list, has an online cult topping a million, and he actually plays Carnegie Hall.

It is legitimate and important to ask why adults read YA, just as it’s legitimate to ask why people read or do anything. The problem is, the answers to these kinds of questions are never simple, but of course, that’s also why they’re so interesting and can be studied and explored.

Two Boys kissing

Authors writing both Adult & Young Adult Fiction:

  • Douglas Adams
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Meg Cabot
  • Susan Juby
  • David Levithan
  • Patrick Ness
  • James Patterson
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Philip Pullman
  • J.K. Rowling (pseudonym Robert Galbraith)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien

 Recommended Titles:

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  • Eleanor & Park & Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Fault in our Stars & Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling Series) by Megan McCafferty
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
  • Winger by Andrew Smith

For more reading on the subject:

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