The Unexpected Audience: Why Adults are Drawn to Reading YA

Today we welcome onto the blog, author E. E. Holmes who discusses why it’s not just Young Adults who are reading YA novels.

Big thanks to Emily for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out her links and details at the end of this post. 


When I set out to write my first YA novel, I was working as a full-time high school English and theatre teacher.

As nearly any English teacher will tell you, the dominant soundtrack in any of our classrooms is the collective existential groan of students forced to open whatever piece of literature we’ve decided to torture them with.

As a huge book nerd myself, this sound always crushed my soul a little bit. Why can’t you delight in how exquisite the prose is in The Great Gatsby? How do you not fall in love with the misty gothic moors of Wuthering Heights? Why, oh why hasn’t your mind been completely blown by the genius and horror of 1984?

But they did not delight. They were not in love. And their minds remained stubbornly unblown. So, then I had to ask myself if these books don’t excite you, what books do?

I went to the students in my classes who I knew read for pleasure (there were not as many of them as I would have liked) and I asked them, “What are you reading? Show me the books you love.” And that was my real introduction to the world of YA literature as we know it now.

It was a fascinating place—full of romance, magic, a certain dark glamour, drama, love triangles, imperfect heroines and the seemingly perfect boys who loved them.

At the time, there were also LOTS of vampires—it was 2011, after all, and Twilight-mania was still rampant.

Despite having no particular affinity for vampires, I dove into that world and I read my way through it. Dozens of books, each and everyone handed to me by a teenager who claimed she simply couldn’t put it down.

I expected to suffer through most of them, and it must be admitted, that some suffering did occur. But mostly, I was fascinated. And enchanted. And, if truth be told, thoroughly entertained. I was an adult enjoying YA literature, and soon, I was also an adult writing it.

Over time, as my own series has expanded from one book to the brink of ten, I have found that my readership does not look at all how I had envisioned it would.

With teen readers in mind, I expected my readership to look much like my classrooms—the truth is that it looks more like the teacher’s lounge.

And the funny thing is that the readers themselves often sound a bit… well, sheepish about the books they enjoy. When I hear from them, the emails often say things like, “I’m probably your oldest reader,” or “Well, I’m definitely an adult, but I’m sure as heck not young.”

And every time I receive one of these emails, I always tell them the same thing: if you enjoy these stories, then these stories are for you.

The thing is, at 37 years old, I’m still waiting for that magical moment when I suddenly become an “adult.”

You know, one of those mythical beings who has her shit together, who knows what she’s doing and has a secure understanding of her place in the world.

A person who actually feels in control, and not like someone who’s been thrust unceremoniously into the deep end of responsibility and parenthood, and some days can barely keep her head above water.

And you know what? I’m starting to think that person is a lie. I don’t think she’s coming to rescue me.

The truth is that not-so-young adults need the escapism of YA literature as badly as teens do—perhaps even more so.

We need to be reminded of the possibility of magic, not because we haven’t had a chance at it yet, but because some of us may feel like it’s passed us by.

We need to be reminded that it’s okay to struggle to find ourselves, to grapple with emotions, to make spectacularly bad decisions and learn from them—or not.

And yes, there’s a touch of nostalgia there, too, for a tumultuous time in our life that we might have been eager to leave in the past and instead find that we were the ones left behind.

Wherever the allure of these books may lie, to adults of all ages I say, welcome. Dive in, and don’t be shy. We’re all still coming of age somehow, still trying to make order from chaos, still yearning for the possibility of magic. It’s so important to remember that.

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About E E Holmes

Author E E Holmes

E.E. Holmes grew up near Boston, Massachusetts, where she spent her childhood staying up way too late reading books.

As a young adult, she learned to love literature of the dramatic persuasion and earned a B.A. in theater from the College of the Holy Cross.

She has worked as a Shakespearean actor, a theatre director, and a high school English, theatre, and public speaking teacher. It was her students who inspired her to start work on her first young adult novel, Spirit Legacy: Book 1 of the Gateway Trilogy, which has gone on to win awards from Chanticleer Book Reviews and Media and The Independent Publisher Book Awards.

As a follow-up to the completed trilogy, she has also written a best-selling spin-off series, The Gateway Trackers. She is also the author of three one-act plays, one of which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009.

E.E. Holmes lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, two children, and small, but surprisingly-loud dog.

When not writing, she enjoys watching unhealthy amounts of British television, procrastinating, and rediscovering her favorite books from her childhood all over again with her kids.

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Spirit Legacy

Book Spirit Legacy by E E Holmes

“The Gateway is open…”

These cryptic words wake college student Jess Ballard from a terrifying dream into an even more terrifying reality.

Jess’ life has never been what anyone would call easy; doing damage control in the wake of your nomadic, alcoholic mother doesn’t exactly make for a storybook childhood.

But now her world has fallen apart just when it should be coming together: her mother gone — dead under mysterious circumstances; her life uprooted to stay with estranged relatives she’s never met, and there’s something odd about some of the people she’s been meeting at school:

They’re dead.

Aided by Tia, her neurotic roommate, and Dr. David Pierce, a ghost-hunting professor, Jess must unravel the mystery behind her hauntings. But the closer she gets to the truth, the more danger shadows her every move.

An ancient secret, long-buried, is about to claw its way to the surface, and nothing can prepare Jess for one terrifying truth…her encounters with the world of the dead are only just beginning.


This post was written by a guest writer.  Please check out their details above.  If you would like to be a guest contributor on this blog, check out my Interested in Guest Posting page for details on how you can share your advice or do an author interview.

Happy writing

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The Unexpected audience: Why adults are drawn to reading YA.  Image of woman reading a book in a field.



25 thoughts on “The Unexpected Audience: Why Adults are Drawn to Reading YA

  1. Diane Warren

    Even though I am an old lady, I find these addicting and entertaining. it’s fun reading and characters are easy to get hooked on

  2. An excellent post:). I also love a wide range of YA reads – the best are every bit as engrossing and enjoyable as those purportedly more grown up books.

      1. Absolutely! YA reads often deal with gnarly subjects in a very direct way – there’s a number I won’t read because I’d find them too disturbing…

  3. trish moran

    Well, this tells me something I already knew, that older adults do enjoy YA books, many of my readers fall into that category. It does go one step further to try to explain why this is so. An interesting article!
    PS: I enjoy reading YA books myself!

  4. Lovely post, ladies! I love the drama and scope YA can have without having to take itself quite as seriously as so many adult books- your series sounds intriguing, Emily!

  5. It’s funny, as a child I read Adult literature (Agatha Christy, Michael Crichton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Herriot, Robert A. Heinlein, & Douglas Adams, to name a few) and now that I’m firmly in my twenties I’ve found myself also delving into the wonderful world of YA!

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