Getting Older and Pickier with my Reading Choices

Posted February 10, 2017 / Discussions, Features / 9 Comments

older-header Since I started reading, I’ve always reached for the same books. I like young adult contemporary with some fantasy books mixed in – maybe a few paranormal/etc. ones if the mood strikes. I also read a lot of adult contemporary (“chick lit” – ugh) because, back when I started reading YA, there weren’t nearly as many options as there are now. I was reading Sophie Kinsella when I was 14 years old. You can pretty much tell that my reading habits and preferences haven’t really changed; I’m still reading young adult books with some adult books mixed in. However, I can say that a few more specific preferences have changed over time. I wrote a draft a long time ago wondering if I was older and wiser, or if I’ve just read too many YA books. I found that I can easily pick up on certain twists. Is it because I’m getting too old for YA? Is YA getting more predictable? Is is only more “predictable” because I’ve read so many of them at this point? This post isn’t about plot twists and predictability necessarily (I sort of already talked about that) – it’s about how I’ve adjusted my reading based on my age and reading experience. I’m fine-tuning what I want to read and figuring out my reading life as a 25 year old person who still enjoys young adult literature. I don’t want to overstep and judge certain books harshly because I’m older than the characters; I always try to put myself in the shoes of 16-year-old-Lauren when reviewing and relating to YA characters.


changing-genresI have been saying over the past year or so that I really want to expand my reading horizons more. I’m intentionally choosing more non-contemporary books. Back in the early YA reading days for me, I reached for books like Gossip Girl and The A-List. Typical mean girl, rich girl contemporary “romance” books that are almost nothing like today’s contemporary romances.

Aside from those contemporaries, I did sometimes read fantasy books. I didn’t read many mysteries (except Private or Pretty Little Liars, but that’s because the mysteries involved also had rich, mean girls at school), paranormal books, or historical fiction. There are key exceptions to this rule, but the only non-contemporary I entertained were the Harry Potter books (when they were still coming out) and a few others.

Here’s the breakdown of books by genre from 2015 and 2016 so far. You can see that the categories I’m using for tracking are somewhat different now, but I think I’m reading a little more widely in some ways? It’s hard to tell without solid book numbers but I can tell there’s a little something different here. I’m currently under 50% for contemporaries for 2016, when last year was over. This year I’m reading more fantasy books than mysteries, the paranormal segment doubled, and the dystopias almost tripled.

2015

Contemporary | 51.7%
Mystery/Thriller | 11.7%
Fantasy | 10%
Retelling | 5%
General/Misc. | 4.1%
Paranormal | 3.3%
Nonfiction/Memoir | 3.3%
Graphic Novel | 3.3%
Dystopia | 1.7%
Science Fiction | 1.1%

2016

Contemporary | 49.3%
Fantasy | 10.8%
General/Misc. | 10.1%
Mystery/Thriller | 6.8%
Paranormal | 6.1%
Retelling | 5.4%
GN/Comics | 4.7%
Dystopia | 4.1%
Science Fiction | 2.0%
Historical Fiction | 0.7%

Contemporary is always at the top and usually around 50%, but I really consider any modern-day YA book without magic or sci-fi elements to be “contemporary.” They’re not all romance-focused, but the vast majority of them are. Fantasies, retellings, and graphic novels stayed about the same for the past two years. Paranormal books have double and for some reason I’ve read less mysteries, which surprises me. If you look at the two years, most of the genres from 2016 are more equal. I almost read the same amount of mystery, paranormal, retelling, graphic novel, and dystopia books. I like that I’m reading more diversely but also evenly! I can see very subtle shifts and changes that I like.
avoiding-angstA year ago right around this time, I was sooo sick of romance. I couldn’t imagine reading another book with any kind of romance in it after binging too much in December 2015. I was totally burned out. So, of course, I jumped into some non-contemporary books without much romance. It led to some great reads! But it also led me to rate books with almost any romance poorly just because I was sick of reading. Everything became eye-rolly for me even when it was something I would usually enjoy. I’ve learned to fine-tune the kind of romances I read because I’m sick of super angsty stories. I pay close attention to reviews and act accordingly. Some people like really angst-filled books, which I totally get, but I just can’t do it anymore. I still love romance, but the drama has to be lower-key. (This is definitely true for NA books too because those often have even more drama and angst than YA books.)

My zero-tolerance policy on unnecessary drama is difficult for a few reasons. Teenagers, by nature, can have a decent amount of drama. That’s what you get when you choose to read mostly YA books when you’re 25 years old and that’s totally fine. I know I’m not the target audience for YA and I want it to remain realistic and accessible for teens. Adults don’t need to factor in. My voice is not necessarily needed for these books because I’m not who authors are writing for. I’m making a conscious choice to read books about people 10 years younger than me. Part of me really loves getting into their heads! But it definitely takes an effort to put myself back into that position and understanding where they’re coming from sometimes. This is all on me for choosing to focus on YA books, but I notice that I read more adult books than before, just for a break. Sure, I avoid heavier, angstier romance books – YA and Adult alike – but I will always gravitate toward the cute, fluffy YA contemporaries that I love.
reading-olderI mentioned before that I was reading adult contemporary fiction quite often in my early young adulthood. The YA market in publishing now is super vast compared to 10 years ago when I was reading YA for the first time. That section of the bookstore was so small; I’ll never forget those days. I’ve noticed that I am pulling more towards adult fiction than YA fiction sometimes, because I can often relate more to people older than me to people younger than me. Being 25 is kind of weird because I don’t feel like an adult or a teenager anymore. Most books have people in other areas of life. Adult contemporary follows a lot of people in their late twenties or early thirties, then another group involving women in their 40s/50s dealing with some life changes. (This is from what I’ve noticed and read recently, at least!) I’d love to read more books with people who are my age – a few years out of college.

My stats above don’t give you the right age breakdown because contemporary is all lumped together. I can see a big uptick in two things in 2016: I’m adding more adult books to my TBR… and I’m reading more of them too.

2015

Adult: 18 books
Young Adult: 151 books

2016

Adult: 27 books
Young Adult: 100 books

I’ve found a few trusted people to recommend them and follow more blogs that read adult instead of YA. Adding more to my TBR, checking them out from the library, and then being in the mood for them overall has made all the difference. It feels really good to switch in and out of age targets; I don’t think I could read 90% YA anymore. I never want to leave it behind, but I’m loving the balance. (The ratio I have right now is totally not balance, like 50/50, by any means… but hopefully you see what I’m getting at!)

Overall

While my habits are clearly changing in a way that maybe I’m the only one who can notice, I know they’re making that subtle shift. My goal lists for 2017 definitely include reading even less contemporaries. Like, noticeably less – not just under 50% vs. over 50%. I also want to more widely read other genres too. I’m glad I’ve reached for new books and added some to my TBR (thanks!)… now it’s just the time to read them! I want to better appreciate each book I read so I can fully remember each of them when I finish too. More genres, less angst (or at least more balanced angst), and books with older characters are my newest developments in my old age (ha!).

9 responses to “Getting Older and Pickier with my Reading Choices

  1. THIS IS TOTALLY MY LIFE. Over the past year or so I’ve found myself SO over romance/drama/angst because I just can’t relate to it anymore. I try not to judge because I was TOTALLY into reading that when I was an actual teenager reading YA, but now my tolerance has gone waaaay down and I really try to be picky when I pick up a romance-focused book (ACOMAF is the only YA book I read in 2016 that I can think of where I was reading FOR the romance rather than AROUND it). I find myself much more drawn to YA that’s about family issues or social issues, and definitely more drawn to “upper” YA. I also CANNOT with Dystopian anymore as a genre. I was never super into it but read Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. and it’s so, so overdone that I want to run away from it as fast as I can.

    Also I love that you read the A-List! I loved that series. I’ve been thinking of rereading it eventually lol. It would be fun to do some sort of breakdown on how early-2000s YA differs from YA now (SO many more options now!)

    • Yessss on all this!!! Especially with reading ~around~ romance. It doesn’t work for me as much any more but I know it’ll work for teens. I love talking to my younger sister about this because her opinions are straight from a romance-obsessed teen and she keeps me in the loop hahah.

      I LOVED The A-List! All of those rich people books were my fave. They were in the inspiration for my Nostalgia Project I posted about a few times. I’m terrible about following through on it and making time for those long but easy-to-read series rereads. I was planning to talk about the whole “old YA” versus “current YA” thing in my post series but I’ve been so lazy!

  2. I totally get what you mean about being able to predict where stories are going and it probably is because we read so much. I do try to actively search for books that will go somewhere new and not follow the dreaded YA Formula. I also really LOVE Contemporary, but I don’t like romance. Especially romance that looks like Bella/Edward, Abby/Travis stuff. I try to find Contemporary that’s about some bigger issues. Those ones I found mean more to me AND they don’t all go in the same direction.

    And I’ve completely taken NA off my board. I can’t with those right now. But I will read an Adult book if I know it’s doing something crazy. Like the Gone Girls and Sharp Objects of the world.

    Great post!! Super thought provoking!

    • I like what you say there about contemporary vs. romance! I love the contemporary aspects because it’s current and happening now, but the romance part can be harder and separate from that! I like NA when I’m REALLY in the mood for it, but I aggressively check Goodreads reviews for angsty stuff just in case.

  3. Being in your mid twenties is hard when relating to characters in both YA and Adult books, because they are not our age! I have the same problem sometimes as well. I occasionally enjoy new adult books, but those seem to be very specific drama romance for the most part. I do like the fluffier ones better or the ones with some paranormal elements, but I feel like they are harder to find. Anyway, lately I have been reading a mix of adult and YA mostly because I have less time than ever before due to working two jobs and now being in grad school. Therefore, I am being a little more picky than I ever was before. I just DNFd a book a couple of days ago and I NEVER really do that. Being in the mood is a big one for me as well. Thanks for sharing your reading shift with us!

    • Right? You’re stuck right in the middle! I enjoy books around my age-range but they’re usually NA and not exactly what I’m looking for. I like to read both YA and A to mix it up a little bit too. It’s a good thing to be picky and DNF, I’ve slowly realized!

  4. I’m totally with you on reading “older”. Being in my mid-20s, I feel a little caught in between. I’m not into crime/thrillers, which practically halves the adult fiction that could appeal to me. Since I also tend to contemporary fiction a fair bit, that makes it even harder because I don’t really care to read about marriages falling apart, family drama, and stuff like that. Romance is fine but it does get repetitive. And yet, I’ve been reading a greater proportion of adult books compared to YA books. It’s still less but growing noticeably as I find myself not connecting with teen protagonists as much as in the past.

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