Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

Who reads Young Adult novels?


What is a young adult, really? In my state 18 has taken over as the official age of adulthood, which used to be 21. That means you have to vote (yes, it’s compulsory, whether you know or care anything about politics or not) and you are allowed to apply for a driver’s licence. It also means you can legally drink alcohol, so on the same day you get your licence you can get drunk. That doesn’t seem such a great idea to me but of course most ‘young adults’ drink well before it’s legal.

Of course when you apply for insurance for your car you might, as an 18 year old, be shocked to find your premiums considerably higher than those of a 25 year old. Insurance companies, like parents, know adulthood doesn’t start at 18. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to discuss the differences between men and women as far as maturity goes but everyone’s different. I think somewhere in the twenties is probably a more realistic figure for adulthood; anyway I digress. I want to discuss Young Adult books and who actually reads them. Clearly the term ‘young adult’ doesn’t refer to any legal definition of adulthood.

I studied Writing for Young Adults and many of us in the class felt that most YA novels were read by either other writers or kids at school who had to read them as part of the curriculum! That was when Harry Potter had just been discovered and before the Twilight series. A lot of YA novels tended to be a bit on the ‘preachy’ side and not what anyone really wanted to read. J.K Rowling found a great way of bridging that gap between children’s books and books for teens, by having her characters grow up with her readers, and I don’t know of anyone else who managed that so well.

There does seem to be a gap there–I filled that gap with comics and then teen magazines before I found adult novels I enjoyed. My sons mostly leapt from children’s books to huge fantasy books such as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, apart from the youngest, who was just the right age to grow up with Harry Potter.

So somehow, someone tried to fill in this gap with YA novels and there’s no doubt some of them have been very successful, both as books and as movies, like the Twilight series and The Hunger Games.

But at what age are children reading YA novels? There seems to be a disparity of age suitability within the YA group–some of them are more for pre-teens and early teens while others, such as those I just mentioned, are more for the older teens.

Would you be happy for your eleven year old to read the Twilight series or is this more for 15 and up? I don’t have any teenagers and would be interested to hear what age groups are reading YA fiction. I’ve written books for all age groups and have, on Amazon, two that I consider suitable for pre-teens and one for teens, called Sanctuary. I have that free on Amazon for one day only and would love to know what age you think it suits; it’s a science fiction novel set in the 25th century and the inspiration for it was a group of young homeless people I saw on a documentary years ago, living in an underground subway system. One of the girls was carrying a baby and I started thinking about what life would be like for that child if he actually grew up there–what if a whole generation grew up underground? Going on the basis that kids generally prefer to read books about people who are a couple of years older than they are I think it’s suitable for 14 to 16, and adults of course, who aren’t so fussy about age!

Happy reading.


Author: cmsgardnerblog

I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction, for teens and adults. I live in Central Victoria, Australia and my books are available at

5 thoughts on “Who reads Young Adult novels?

  1. There are a couple of examples that come to mind of YA books that are read by actual teenage readers. Tomorrow When the War Began; that series was always massively popular with young adults. Judy Blume was also really big for a lot of people. I think both Marsden and Blume kind of made it their credo to write about the sorts of embarrassing things teenagers are experiencing but are too afraid to ask about. This insight is about 14 years old though.

    • Thanks Wes. I’d forgotten the name of that series. I read the first two or three myself and I know John Marsden did well with teens. I wonder which age bracket teens–13 to 16?

  2. I’m condescending my historical novel, “Madness: The War of 1812,” for publisher Zoozil to be directed at eighth-graders. Is this young adult or something else? I’m also puzzling over what is the maturity level of these kids? There’s violence (hey, it’s a war, badly fought) and romance in the original. I guess what I’m asking: the boys will like the battle scenes I imagine, but will the boys and girls go for the romance?

    • I think eighth-graders are in that younger end of the Young Adult market–this is what I want to know as well. If we call teens from 13 through to 18 young adults it seems unlikely they’d all be reading the same books. Would you want your 13 year old to be reading something intended for 18 year olds?

  3. I think it varies. When I was a kid my local Borders had things like A Wrinkle In Time, Alanna (which is marketed at the 8-12 crowd despite having lots of sex), and lot of historical fiction/classics in the late elementary to early middle school range. Now, my local BAM stocks Twilight-esque teen paranormal romance, manga, John Green, and grittier drama such as The Perks of Being A Wallflower or Crank. So, there’s been a distinct shift both in focus and age (and even genre) within YA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s