Reflecting On My First Year of Adult Fiction

Discussion

2014 wasn’t the first year where I ever read an adult fiction book – after all, plenty of books you read in high school and college English classes are adult fiction classics, plus I read J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, my first “on my own” adult book in 2013 – but it was the first time that I tried to read multiple adult fiction books. I’m at a point in my life (college) when many of my friends and peers are moving on to adult books and my dad doesn’t understand why the majority of the books I read still come from the YA section, so I definitely feel some pressure to move on – but I want to do that on my own terms. And my own terms were challenging myself to start giving adult fiction a chance, which was an interesting experiment that has taught me a lot.

I’m not suddenly going to read exclusively adult fiction, but I think gradually including adult books in my reading diet will ultimately be good for me – not because I won’t have to worry about people looking down on my reading choices, because honestly that’s just silly to read exclusively adult books that are considered literary classics when I know that’s not what interests me the most – and I’m glad that I’m trying to expand my literary horizons. But enough with waxing poetic about my personal growth – on with the list to make everything much easier to understand!

One: Literary Fiction – Or Whatever It’s Called – Rarely Works For Me

You would think that, since contemporary young adult is my favorite genre and literary fiction seems like its older sister genre or something, literary fiction would be my favorite thing to read, but it really isn’t. The Casual Vacancy fits into this genre, I think, but it also had the advantage of being written by J.K. Rowling, which means I was biased toward liking it and continuing with the story even if I might have been bored or something. So, when I tried reading some other literary fiction, like Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, I ended up giving up. The story itself could be interesting, but oftentimes I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I would have liked. I had trouble connecting with stories about marriage problems and feeling like you haven’t done enough with your life, which aren’t things that I’m really worrying about yet. Since literary fiction seems to focus on these kind of things, the genre doesn’t really work for me.

Two: Adult Fiction As a Whole Feels Slower to Me

In general, adult books take me longer to read. This is especially true with literary fiction, but even other books tend to take me longer to read, like Gone Girl, which I read last year. One obvious reason for this, at least for me, is that adult fiction seems to have a lot more… meandering language, if that makes sense. This is, again, much more obvious in literary fiction, but the writing tends to take off on tangents a lot more. Sometimes this works for me, but other times it just frustrates me. For instance, I tried reading Jennifer DuBois’s Cartwheel last year, which was a mystery that was similar to the Amanda Knox case; obviously, I figured there would be plenty of mystery and interesting twists and turns to keep me interested, but the first few chapters barely touched on any of that. Instead, it was establishing many different characters, from the murder suspect’s father to the prosecutor, when all I wanted to know was more about the murder, the murder victim, and the murder suspect. Maybe that kind of writing works for other people, but I just got too bored to even finish to see what had happened with the murder. I had never thought of myself as the type of reader who has to be entertained RIGHT NOW, but maybe I am.

Three: Mysteries Can Typically Fix That Problem For Me

Even though Cartwheel was a mystery of sorts, it seems to be more of an exception than the rule for me. Reading adult books in the past years has taught me that adult mysteries can often navigate around my typical problems with adult books. For instance, a mystery is typically much faster paced, even if it isn’t as quickly paced as your average YA book might be. I read a variety of mysteries that I all liked: the short, quick, and “classic” And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, the published-under-a-pseudonym The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling, and the fluffy, almost completely YA friendly Heather Wells series by Meg Cabot. They’re all pretty different books, but I enjoyed them all, and the fact that they’re all mysteries definitely helped. So, most of the new adult books that I add to my TBR are mysteries, and they’re the ones I’m most excited to read in 2015. We’ll see if my love of mystery continues…

Four: Adult Fiction Sometimes Depresses Me in a Way That YA Rarely Does

I hate to generalize like this, but adult fiction as a whole can kind of depress me. Think of it this way: adult fiction is typically about protagonists who are at least in their late 20s – they’re a part of the so-called rat race, they probably no longer look at their future as endless possibilities, they might be stuck in a rut in their professional, personal, and romantic lives; then compare it to YA, where the protagonist is in high school, still trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives and making all these decisions that are full of possibilities, doing lots of new things in their lives. Sure, not all adult and YA books are like this, but that seems to be the basic gist of the two age groups, and I for one am a lot happier when I’m reading a story about a character who has her or his whole life ahead of them, with plenty of shiny new things to try out, rather than already feeling totally jaded and old. So, when I read an adult book about a character who is sick of their partner, hates their job, and feels like their life is just destined to be boring and unfulfilled, then that kind of depresses me. I read books so that I can escape my own problems, not stress over new problems I might have in another ten or twenty years. I’d much rather read books like My Life Next Door, where we get a glimpse at a wonderful, happy marriage with the great family next door, rather than read Gone Girl, about a super-toxic marriage gone wrong, but maybe that’s just me.

Five: I Really Don’t Feel Like an Adult Yet

This kind of sums up all the rest of my reasons, but basically I don’t feel like an adult yet, and that means I don’t really relate with the adult books, which means I don’t enjoy reading them as much. I remember seeing some reviews of Rainbow Rowell’s latest, Landline (which I haven’t read, so this is going completely off with reviews), which were mostly divided between married adults who loved it and unmarried YA and adults who didn’t truly connect with it. The reader’s own life experiences seemed to really factor into their enjoyment of the book, and that’s how I feel about adult books in general. I’m much more able to connect with YA, even though I’m now a few years older than the typical YA protagonist. Maybe I’ll feel different in a few years, but right now I just don’t feel like an adult, and that apparently means that I don’t care about adult books nearly as much as YA.

These are just some of the things that I learned while reading adult fiction in 2014. I have the same challenge, which is to read 10 adult books in 2015, so we’ll see if I just barely reach 10 like I did last year or if the number is a bit larger (I think that’ll be the case since I have a better idea of what I like in adult now). I hope to continue growing in my reading, but I’m also perfectly content to primarily stick with what I already know I like, no matter what that is.

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6 thoughts on “Reflecting On My First Year of Adult Fiction

  1. I feel like I can definitely connect to point #5, since I’m only in high school. I do enjoy reading adult fiction, but sometimes I know that I’m just not connecting the with experiences or understanding the characters as much as I would if I were older and had more experience simply living my life. I look at these as books that I could reread in the future- the TBR list never gets shorter, haha! Really interesting post! 🙂

    1. Trust me, just because you’re out of high school doesn’t mean you’ll feel like an adult! I’m just in a place in my life where I connect more with people who are younger than me, like high schoolers, than older, like “real” adults, whatever that might mean. I’ll definitely have to see if rereading some books when I’m older will help me connect more – but I’m almost scared that they will, and that it’ll be I’m officially old!

  2. Completely agree with your list. I try to jump in adult fiction every now and then, but I just struggle finding something to read that isn’t completely depressing or super slow. Or wildly inappropriate. Why is this? Do all adults really like slow, depressing, inappropriate books? If so, I missed that memo.

    1. That’s a VERY good question! That’s why I’m mostly sticking to mysteries or “fluffy” books right now – I know they’re either going to be a lot quicker because they’re a mystery or happier because they’re by Meg Cabot or the like. I prefer my depressing books to come from YA, where they don’t meander quite as much.

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