Do you relish reading about characters on the cusp of giddy change? Do you have a hankering for novels that get to the heart of the human condition? Are you bored with self-indulgent tomes that serve more style than story? Are you in the market for books that blow up conventions of form? Are you seeking stories that tackle big themes head on with insight and empathy?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, it sounds like you’re ready to explore the world of YA (young adult) fiction.

Need more convincing? Read on to find out why adults will reap joyous rewards when they break through the age barrier to read young adult fiction.

You might also want to take our quiz to discover which YA novel you should read right now.

1. Escapism

Given that many of us read fiction to escape from everyday life, and given that thousands of fine YA novels offer journeys into every imaginable story world — from epics sets in fantastical kingdoms, to rags-to-riches celebrity stories, to outlandish thrillers — escapism-seekers diving into YA fiction for the first time are in for a treat.

And the good news is, YA writers typically weave deeper messages into their escapist stories, which means they’re also illuminating, enriching, and anything but a guilty pleasure — they provide pleasure with perks.

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2. Timeless, universal themes 

Though the world may have changed since you were a teenager, many of the experiences and emotions that characterise that heady shift from teen-hood to adulthood have not. 

We’re talking fear of change, the desire for change, and the struggle of having to deal with change. We mean all those thrilling, fear-inducing, pulse-quickening possibilities that are opening up, from romance, love and sex, to moving on, moving away and forging your own path. 

Reading about such dreams, desires, fears and frustrations as an adult can evoke powerful memories of our own coming of age experiences, which in turn helps us reconnect with our younger selves. 

At the same time, reading YA novels can help adults connect with young people of today.

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3. Tackling big topics head-on 

It’s true to say that YA writers are no strangers to exploring big issues of the day, and profound emotional topics. Racism, sexism, homophobia, social inequality, mental health struggles, and grief — nothing is off the table. And the best YA writers explore these subjects with incredible power, empathy and a sense of trying to make the world a better place.

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4. Awe-inspiring invention

From novels-in-verse that will break your heart, heal your heart and make your soul sing, to hard-hitting graphic novels that take story-telling to new levels, YA fiction frequently breaks the mould.

Try these:

  • Sarah Crossan’s verse novels
  • Oxygen Mask: profound graphic novel about George Floyd, COVID and pollution
  • Black Flamingo: free-form fiction about navigating intersectional identities
  • Bearmouth: courage, rebellion and revolution told in phonetic language
  • Punching the Air: potent verse novel about racial injustice and the power of art

See below to discover more outstanding YA novels adults will relish reading. For additional recommendations: