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Emma Davies is a journalist from the south-west of England. She likes books, red wine and her duvet, and is at her happiest when managing to combine this trio of good things.

Read this article in Vhcle Issue 17

Read other articles by Emma Davies

Why Young Adult Fiction Isn't Just for

Young Adults


Emma Davies


Vhcle Books, Issue 17

I am a grown-up. A proper, fully fledged one who lives independently, does laundry and pays taxes. I know how to change a lightbulb, bleed a radiator and understand political debate. I wear sensible shoes, eat broccoli of my own free will and nurture hobbies akin to those of a ‘50s housewife. And so I can certainly read like an adult; this is well within my capabilities. I would rather consume the book than the movie, my bookshelf is meticulously alphabeticised and I have at least considered reading War and Peace (even if I haven’t ever gotten around to actually doing so).

But my slightly guilty secret is this: I really quite like reading young adult fiction, despite the fact I am by no means a ‘young’ adult (sigh). Some people use their Kindles to hide the fact that they’re reading smut on the bus; I use mine to disguise how I am at frequent intervals reading novels aimed at an audience whose upper age bracket is a good decade south of my last birthday. I only feel slightly ashamed of this, though, because a good chunk of it – a chunk that doesn’t include the likes of Twilight and Girl Online – is actually quite fantastic. It’s a harmless vice I’ve become really quite fond of.

My favourite novel of 2014 was E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. A haunting tale of an amnesiac girl summering on a private island with her old-money family that plays its hand by slow degrees, it had me utterly enraptured from intriguing start to tragic close. Having plucked it from the Kindle bestseller list, it wasn’t until I Googled it afterwards for more information that I even realised I was not its intended demographic. A voice that distinctive and graceful is wasted on teenagers. Read it. Seriously, do.

See also John Green, whose prose may not be as sparkling, but whose characters certainly are. Will Grayson, Will Grayson’s (written in tandem with David Levithan) Tiny Cooper is an all-singing, all-dancing, out-and-proud teen with a refreshing surplus of self-esteem. He’s an exciting character, and one that I damn well wanted to be friends with. Same for Looking for Alaska’s titular tearaway. Sure, her angst struck me as… well, annoyingly adolescent (which serves me right), but I’d have been in her gang if she’d let me. Green’s megahit The Fault in Our Stars may have been a cynical attack on the heartstrings, but that didn’t stop me from devouring it in a single evening, sobbing solidly through roughly the final quarter.

And that’s the real thing about YA fiction, as an adult with a decent reading speed: it’s a lovely palate-cleanser. I can tear through such a novel in an afternoon or two, with that offering a break between lengthier, more involved reads. If I’m tired, ill or stressed, I don’t always want to act like the adult I am. I might not fancy the clever-clever writing of Ian McEwan or the extended sentences of Donna Tartt. In those situations, dipping into Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds or Gayle Forman’s If I Stay is the literary equivalent of running home to my mum and getting her to make me dinner - perhaps not befitting my age, but a welcome pleasure nonetheless.