YA and Adult Fantasy – DISCUSSION + Recommendations!
I’m not even joking when I say that I have three or four different versions of this post sitting in my drafts. I just have so many different thoughts and directions that this post could go in! This post came about after reading two very well written, well thought out posts from Lucinda is blogging and Novels & Waffles. Lucinda’s post is all about why she doesn’t like YA as an adult, and Kat’s post is about why she still reads YA as an adult! While I agree with both of them, I noticed one thing: both posts seem to be focused more on YA Contemporary. Let’s look at things from a fantasy standpoint, shall we?
First things first: 55% of YA books being bought by adults (people over 18) and 28% of that are people aged 30-44. That is crazy to think of! And of course because of this, a lot of YA books have protagonists who are in the age range, but act more like adults would. I first want to point out something from Lucinda’s post. A lot of YA lacks the complexity of Adult novels. This is (mostly) true across the board for YA no matter what genre it is. Adult fantasy usually has more detailed world building, deep and complex characters, and usually require a lot more time and effort to read and digest them.
Why read YA?
Generally, YA fantasy is more of a relaxed, dip-your-toes-in kind of fantasy. It doesn’t always require the same amount of attention that adult fantasy does, and a lot of the time it’s easy to get through quickly. Other reasons people love YA over adult? Well, in Kat (Novels & Waffles) post, she talks about how she doesn’t feel connected with a lot of adult books because a lot of the time they are written for someone older than a twenty-something which makes it harder to relate. When it comes to contemporary, I agree whole-heartedly! But when it comes to fantasy, there isn’t really a lot to relate to, unless you go about your day slaying dragons, learning magic, and saving the world. (Which, if you do that PLEASE let me know your secret!)
Kat also pointed out this tweet from Nick Stefan: YA is more than just a way to categorize books geared towards young adults, it’s also a writing style. When you think about it, this definitely fits for YA fantasy as well. If you want something fast paced and not so dense, pick up YA fantasy.
Also, if you are one of those people who generally don’t gravitate towards YA because a lot of the time it is too cutesy/perfect, YA fantasy isn’t always like that! As a whole, the very nature of fantasy means that there are higher stakes and crazy happenings than in contemporary because it isn’t constrained to the real world. It’s only constraint is the author’s imagination.
Some downsides to YA fantasy are that a LOT of them fall prey to tropes. The chosen one is especially prevalent in YA fantasy (and often adult fantasy as well!), but it’s one that a lot of people (myself included) eat up like the best desert ever. There are also a lot of MC’s in YA that are more self-centered, and whether that is the author’s take on characters in this age range or something else changes from book to book. They also often times feel pretty formulaic and after a while, they all start to blend together. For example, last year there were a TON of Celtic/Norse inspired YA fantasy that came out, and while I’m a sucker for anything Celtic or Norse inspired, after a while all the books started to feel the same!
Some recommendations for YA fantasy as a way to get into fantasy:
But why read adult fantasy?
Normally I read about the same amount of YA as I do adult, but lately there have been a lot of adult fantasy releases that I’m excited for so that may skew my reading tastes a little more this year. I love both equally, but they are both so different! I posted a poll on twitter to see how many of my followers prefer adult over YA, and the results have been overwhelmingly in YA’s favor, but the majority of the people who responded explained why they prefer adult over YA. A lot of it comes down to more mature themes, more battle scenes (a nice way of saying they are a lot more bloody) and they often don’t have the immature characters, unless you are looking for younger leaning adult fantasy.
As with any genre, there are a wide range of different “levels”, for lack of a better term. What I mean is, you could have an adult book that has intense prose that you really need to take your time with to understand what is going on, with serious characters and a serious plot, or you could have an adult book where the writing is extremely easy and simple, with characters that take things not as seriously as others. The same goes for YA, there is a range for that as well.
Now for the downsides to adult fantasy. I think that the cons and the pros of adult fantasy are the same. Detailed world building, complex plots and characters, and a need to really concentrate on what you are reading can kill the vibe depending on your reading mood and tastes.
More in depth, adult fantasy:
Why not both?
I truly think it all comes down to the world building and magic systems. Generally, adult fantasies have much more complex worlds and magic systems. They are meant for people to really dive deep and immerse themselves fully into the world. To me, YA fantasy falls along the lines of light, introductory fantasy. Personally I like to swing back and forth between the two, just to keep things interesting and to change it up a bit from time to time. Like I mentioned with both YA and adult, their cons can put you into a reading slump if you get hit with trope after trope or details after details.