Discussion: Adult v. Young Adult Books


Since one of my challenges for this year is to read 10 Adult Fiction books, and I recently posted my review of the first of those ten (Gone Girl, if you missed it), I thought looking at the difference between Adult and Young Adults – for me, at least – would be a great topic for today’s discussion post.

I always read adult books at a slower pace than normal, but since those were books assigned for school, it was hard to judge based on them. After reading two more adult books, on my own, it seems like a pattern, though. So that’s:

Difference #1: Pacing

Well, I don’t know if it’s this way for everyone, but for me certainly, the pacing in Adult and YA books seem to be different. Some YA books also take longer to read, and it’s hard to really judge based on just two Adult books, but considering one was a contemporary look at small town life (The Casual Vacancy) and a missing person mystery (Gone Girl), two different genres that still had the same slower pace, I feel mostly safe making this assumption.

Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Sure, it’s nice when the pages just fly by as you wait to see what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean the Adult books are slow and boring. I like the change of pace – I’m often flying through the pages like with any YA book, despite the slower pace.

Difference #2: Sex

I feel like this might be obvious to some people, but I have to admit that I was surprised with the way Adult books look at sex. I mean, the two books I read had some kind of explicit stuff, much more that a YA book would have had. Since neither were romances, I was weirdly surprised.

Not much more to say about this. I’m sure that if I ever try straight-on romance, I’ll be surprised all over again even though I really shouldn’t be.

Difference #3: Themes

The reason so many non-YA readers read YA is because they love reading about all the transitions and changes that the protagonists go through. Of course, those changes and overall themes aren’t really going to be the same in an Adult book. Most Adult books should be after the difficult transitions of high school and college (I think real NA should involve the latter, but unfortunately it doesn’t always seem that way), so they’ll have different themes. YA books seem to focus on new starts and transitions, but Adult books seem to be more about the end, the mess at the end of a relationship or a job or whatever – and then the end seems to be the beginning of a transition.

I’m much more able to relate with YA characters, while Adult characters seem so far away from who I am – although with each passing day, I suppose I get closer to them. Right now, though, the themes and the characters seem more… fictional, I guess. Even in realistic books, they seem further removed from where I am, so Adult is more of an escape, although much less of a fluffy one than cute, fluffy YA books give me.

I don’t know if this is coherent at all, but I just wanted to look at some of the differences between these two categories (genres? I don’t know what to call it) for me. I’m curious to see what’ll change or be further proven as I read more Adult books. Only time will tell…


12 thoughts on “Discussion: Adult v. Young Adult Books

  1. Wow I never thought of adults and YA as themes of ends and beginnings. That’s very true though! How interesting. I enjoy YA much more than I enjoy adult. I like adult books in the fact that it’s like gossip sometimes. How you talk about the scandals and crazy life of others. And call me prude if you want, I’m not a huge ‘sex scene’ type girl. I don’t mind those parts but they aren’t something I enjoy. 🙂

    xoxo, Bun

    1. Yeah, I think I enjoy YA more, but I’m glad to see that I can expand my reading a little. And I don’t think you’re a prude at all – sex scenes aren’t going to be for everyone, and I do feel a little comfortable while reading them because they just aren’t the same as YA sex scenes, which tend to be more vague and confusing, since that’s realistic to the age group.

  2. I loved this post. Great observations and I agree with you and the sex part. Adult books are in a league all of their own. But when it comes to NA although it might have started being in a college setting I do think it has evolved to simply being a little more explicit.

    And I agree with you, I also feel that I better relate to YA books and their characters. I tend to read adult books every once in a while, and as much as I may enjoy them, they don’t really compare to YA books to me…

    1. Yeah, I don’t see adult books taking over from YA anytime soon for me – I don’t know why, but Adult books are just too slow and meandering for me to only read them.

      I’m kind of scared to read NA because I want something with more of a plot and one of the stereotypical views, whether true or not, is that NA is practically porn without a plot, or at least without a good plot. I don’t think I’d mind the sex scenes too much, but I don’t think I’m ready to handle books where that’s the main focus, so I’ll just want and see if things change!

      1. I think you just need to be steered in the right direction. I’ve read a few NA books where that’s been the case but it’s not the norm and there are a lot of amazing NA books out there. One of my favorites and one I would recommend is The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski.

      2. Yeah, I think that if I ever try NA, I’m going to do as much research as possible. I know that there have to be some NA that don’t focus exclusively on sex, but it’s so difficult to find any right now if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I’ll definitely keep The Edge of Never in mind, though!

  3. Sometimes I feel like I need to defend myself when my friends see me carrying a YA book with me and ask me if I read “more adult” books. But after reading your post, I’m even more convinced that for now, I’ll still stick to YA, and not let others shame me into reading adult books. I’m more comfortable with YA, and the occasional adult but as long as I am able to relate more to YA, regardless of my age, then I will continue to read YA.

    1. Yeah, my dad kind of does that as well – he’ll look at my stack of YA library books and say that I should expand my reading a bit, but I don’t really care! I think I’m going to stick with YA for the most part as well, because I do relate better to them, and I like the pacing and the themes better. Adult books are alright for every once and a while, but I think it’ll be a while before I read more than 10 or so a year. I’m a YA girl at heart as well!

  4. I enjoy reading both adult and young adult books, but mostly I read YA at the moment. I do notice a big difference in pacing. I think that most YA books are more fast-paced while a lot of adult books are slower and maybe harder to get into at first. This isn’t always the case, but I’ve noticed that it’s definitely a difference between the two.

    I think that there’s also a smaller variation of genres when it comes to adult fiction. At least to me, it seems like there’s a lot of different types of YA — contemporary, romance, dystopian, science fiction, mystery, etc. Adult fiction has different genres too, but you don’t notice as much dystopian and science fiction-y type stuff, and there’s also a lot more historical fiction.

    1. Yeah, pacing seems to be the biggest thing that pops out to me every time. It can be nice to slow down every once in a while, but I wouldn’t be satisfied if I only read adult and never had the fast pacing that can normally be found in YA. I need a variety, but if I had to choose just one pacing, it would be the quicker one.

      I didn’t even think of that, but you’re right. In YA, there are a lot of “main” genres – paranormal, dystopian, contemporary, fantasy, etc. – but they all feel like a part of young adult; these same genres seem more like niche genres in Adult books. You’ll certainly find them, but when people talk about adult books, they seem to mostly be literary (i.e. contemporary) books. Those are the ones that get the most attention, while the attention in YA is spread out more evenly.

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