Go to the ‘Young Adult’ section of your favorite bookstore and just look around. Take in every title, every cover, and concept that surrounds the shelves. You’ll see a wealthy collection of books about teenagers dealing with all sorts of conflicts. You’ll see stories of supernatural romance in one corner and a spotlight for queer love on another. All these stories revolve around people who don’t want to be called kids but are too juvenile to be called mature—the young adults. This genre grows day by day and believe it or not, adults help keep it alive, just as how these stories keep the adults alive. This, we realized, as we sat down with YA authors Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli on conversations about their inspirations and motivations.
The Adults In Young Adult Fiction
It shouldn’t be so hard to believe that adults read YA—sometimes almost obsessively. It may not be as evident as we think but there’s a lot of adults who patronize these books. Some market estimates that 70% of all YA titles are purchased by adults between the ages of 18 and 64. While you may think that these are all parents buying books for their children, the majority of young adults already have the capability to buy books on their own. And these are just the numbers.
“As an adult—and I mean as a grown adult, in my thirties—I am still sometimes finding books that, you know, like “Oh, this is my first time seeing this aspect of my identity in a book!”,” Becky Albertalli, author of ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’, shared. “There is that sadness but it’s—even as an adult reader—so incredibly special and it’s kind of nice that I’m still getting to have these moments as a reader.” According to Albertalli, she has even met readers who are on their 70s. “I think it is a huge honor to be able to write books that are both sometimes giving moments to teenagers growing up now or sometimes to someone my age or my parents’ age.”
As a young adult reader himself, ‘They Both Die At The End’ author Adam Silvera share the same sentiments. “I love being able to reimagine what my life could have looked like. Like being a teenager coming out at 2018 versus someone who’s coming out in 2009,” he shares. And as Silvera grew up with an earlier generation, the difference was more evident to him than anyone else. “That’s wild because you look back on it: there was a point when I didn’t even notice that I was missing in fiction because there was no precedent to suggest that I was ever supposed to exist in stories and so many of us feel that way—whatever your identity is,” he explains.
Having these contemporary young adult stories in circulation is the proof of a revolution silently occurring. Through stories told in pages, authors have helped children of today be “more secure of themselves”, Silvera continues. These authors have come forward to write stories, specifically about queer love, as proof that all love is possible. Call it whatever you want—a validation or a testimonial—but these stories are what adults of today need most. “How would it be like if people were more accepting back then?” someone asked. The answers lie in these books. While the process of acceptance is only beginning, there has been a significant development in the story. But just like any other story, we’re still only at the exposition. There’s a long way down before we hit the denouement.
This could be the reason of many as they hold on to the YA books on their hands. As long as they see their selves in these stories, adults will keep on reading. Without falter, the genre will continue to flourish as long as there are stories to tell and moments to reminisce. This, of course, is with the help of our Young Adult authors who are, in fact, adults. These are people who have gone through perhaps the same teenage troubles merely writing stories and characters about them. Only later would they realize that they’ve been serving more than just today’s generation of young adults. They, too, have become an avenue for adults to travel back in time. They help us remember and even reimagine the youth we thought we’ve lost.
Hear more from Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli themselves on November 10 at Hall 2, Cebu Trade Hall, SM City Cebu, and on November 11 at Samsung Hall, SM Aura Premier. Admission to both events is free. Special thanks to National Book Store.