In defense reading YA fiction as a grown ass woman

You can probably tell by the title of this post that I enjoy some YA fiction. And I am, in fact, a grown ass woman.

Many of my fellow bibliophiles cast aspersion on YA fiction; I mean really, the stuff is for teenagers. It says so right there in the name of the genre. As adults, don’t we have better/more important/more mature things to read?

In short, no.

Sure, there’s a lot of amazing adult fiction on library and bookstore shelves and I read plenty of them, but I’m an equal opportunity reader. There isn’t much I won’t read; really just technical manuals and biographies of WWII generals.

I wasn’t always into YA. A few years ago I was at the library with a friend and we wandered by the YA section. She pointed to a book and mentioned she really enjoyed that particular series. I was surprised; I assumed YA was garbage and her taste was generally good. So I read the book. And then I read the entire series. Then I fell down a YA rabbit hole.

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy novels, but I’ve taken issue with the fact that the majority of them are about men, and the most important secondary characters are also men. Like the quintessential fantasy novel, Lord of the Rings; there are approximately 12,000 characters in that book with names and dialogue. There are three women: Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn, and they don’t get much page (or screen) time. Aren’t there any female wizards? Why is there only one female Hobbit mentioned? I know there are actually dwarf women, but you never see them.

I have a problem with this. I don’t want to constantly read stories about dudes. Sorry, not sorry.

There seems to be an abundance of YA fantasy with female protagonists. Strong, complicated, multi-dimensional female protagonists. WHAAA?! Sure, they’re teenagers, but they’re facing some pretty serious shit. Homicidal kings, assassination attempts, supernatural monsters, reclaiming kingdoms, pulling their families out of poverty, saving their sisters from abuse… the list goes on. Here are some of my favorites from the past few years:

The Hunger Games

I’m not going to bother summarizing this series; assuming you live in the world, you know what this series is about.

Throne of Glass

Celaena Sardothien is a trained assassin who was sentenced to life in a hard labor prison camp. She’s offered a deal: she can represent the Prince in a to-the-death tournament against four other assassins and thieves. At this point, this is a hugely long series so you know she wins, but things get very complicated and serious and there are lots of secrets and some sex. Not explicit sex, of course, but the reader knows what’s happening.

I like this series. It’s long but it goes pretty quick.

Red Queen

In this universe, there are two classes of people: red-blooded, who are poor and comprise the labor force, and silver-blooded, who rule and have magic powers. The main character, Mare Barrow, begins work at the palace and it’s accidentally discovered that, despite her red blood, she actually has powers. Chaos ensues.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, YA or otherwise. I’m late reading the sequel but it’s on my to-read list.

Caraval

Scarlett and her sister Donatella are the daughters of an awful, abusive, extremely powerful man. Scarlett is engaged to be married and is convinced that her future husband will save her, and her sister, from their terrible father and miserable lives. Then she gets invited to a magical circus show thing and goes on an adventure.

I haven’t quite finished this book yet but I’ve been enjoying it. It’s an interesting premise that hasn’t been done to death, and the writing is good. The thing I don’t like about this book is that it falls into some YA traps with teenage angst and the “plain” girl lusting after the hot guy who she thinks could never like her but who’s secretly in love with her. It gets annoying, but it’s been worth it to see where the story goes and how much weird and interesting stuff the author can come up with.

I could add 50 more books/series to this list but this post is already super long. If you’re into YA fantasy with a female protagonist, there’s a handy-dandy list on Goodreads.

Do you read YA? Any series recommendations for me?

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6 Comments

  1. April
    Permalink

    I love YA. I think it gets so much shade BECAUSE people think of it as “for girls”. I was really into Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy for a while. Not sure how it holds up, but I have reread Shade’s Children and still love it.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Teresa
      Permalink

      I think you’re right. The more YA fantasy I read, the more I like it. Even going back to the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce that I read in middle school, the female characters are so good. I hope that someday these books will be accepted by a larger audience because as it is, they’re missing out.

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Exploding_Nova
    Permalink

    Girl, I LOVE Young Adult fiction! I agree with you about the male vs female bit, and that’s on my one reason. But if I’m going to be honest, I enjoy the writing more usually. It IS fantasy after all, so why not drive it to the maximum?!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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