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Get to Know Your Teen: What Are YA Novels?

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT

Meet The Team >

Nothing compares to getting lost in the pages of a fantastic book. Talented authors can keep you engaged for hours at a time, turning page after page as you anticipate what comes next. Summer reading programs at local libraries and Scholastic book fairs were a large part of childhood for many adults today.

The advent of the Internet changed how frequently people read for pleasure now. The rise of the social media age put instant entertainment into millions of hands. It pulled people away from the pages of books and planted them firmly in the digital world.

Shortened attention spans make it harder for people to sit still and read for long periods. Visceral experiences online make it harder to conjure up images invoked by the written word. Reading is like a muscle, and the longer you go without exercising it, the more it atrophies.

Alarming statistics show how far people have strayed from reading books, especially young people. In 1984, 8 percent of 13-year-olds and 9 percent of 17-year-olds hardly ever or never read for pleasure.1 In 2014, those numbers were 22 percent and 27 percent, almost three times higher in the 30 years between studies.

Despite the decline in the number of teens reading, a substantial number of teens still do. The hunger for books might have slowed but the demand for books is still there. If your teen enjoys reading, they probably read at least some books in the YA genre.

What are YA novels?

Are they books your teen should be reading, or should you help them choose other material instead?

What are YA novels?

Young Adult novels, or YA novels, are books written for young people between the ages of 12 and 18. YA novels include a wide range of genres, such as fantasy, mystery, and thriller. Most books in this category feature protagonists within the same age range who deal with difficulties similar to those of the reader.

Some popular examples of YA novels include:

  • The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry – Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
  • The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

What is the difference between YA and NA novels?

NA novels, or New Adult novels, are a newer category of novels written with the 18-year-old to 30-year-old crowd in mind. They fill the space between YA and Adult literature, often containing more mature content than their YA counterparts. The middle child of the bunch, NA novels are probably not well-suited for your teen. They should stick to YA novels instead.

Should you be concerned about YA novels?

While it’s good to be aware of the content your child consumes, most YA novels, for the most part, are harmless and non-controversial. They’re a fantastic branch of literature that bridge the gap between books for children and adults. YA novels are longer than chapter books for younger audiences but are still broken into digestible segments for younger audiences.

Subject matter in YA novels tends to deal with issues common for teenagers, including coming of age, budding romantic interests, developing independence, and more. Sometimes these novels cover more intense themes or subjects like mental health, self-harm, or suicide. Authors keep their young readers in mind as they carefully address these difficult and tragic topics because of their effects on adolescents today.

YA Novels Keep Kids Reading

YA novels are a good way to ensure your kids spend some time reading. Dense books directed at adults are difficult for them to decipher while chapter books for children are below their capabilities. Young adult literature presents interesting subjects and topics in a format that your teen can follow.

For parents concerned about screen time, YA novels are a great way to get teens away from their phones, laptops, or tablets. They’re every bit as entertaining as online media, and if your teen gives them a chance, we’re sure they’ll find something to love – whether it’s an actions series, a romance, or a comedy.

Instead of fearing YA novels, help your teen find a few books they may enjoy.

Reading is an important skill your child will need as they progress through school. Trying to digest a few pages of substantial subject matter in a late high school or college textbook will prove challenging if they haven’t spent much time reading. You can encourage them to read YA novels to strengthen their reading and comprehension skills.

Start Reading With Your Teenager

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding YA novels is that they’re childish or only appropriate for adolescents. However, young adult novels aren’t strictly for teens. Sure, authors write them with a young audience in mind, but people of all ages enjoy YA novels. Regardless of the intended audience, many YA books contain engaging, compelling stories that people of all ages can enjoy.

Some surveys show that an estimated 55 percent of YA readers are actually adults ages 18 and older. Since many adults find enjoyment in these books, you can, too.

If you’re concerned about some of the more serious topics in some YA novels, reading them alongside your teen offers an opportunity to discuss these matters with them as they come up in the books.

Spending time with your teen is the best way to get to know them and better understand them. Consider starting an at-home book club and selecting a few YA novels that sound interesting to both of you. Diving into YA novels with your teenager is a great way to build a relationship with them and have something to share for years to come.


  1. TIME. (2014). Study: The Number of Teens Reading for Fun Keeps Declining.

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