Making the Transition: A YA Lover’s Guide to Reading Adult Fiction

In case you're feeling too old for teeny-bopper stuff.

Transition from Young Adult to Adult Fiction

Imagine this: You’re a teenager trying to make the lane switch to reading adult fiction, but it’s daunting. Then you begin to enter various cycles of doubt, Will it be too much to handle? Will you still be able to relate to the characters? And worst of all, Will the writing be too boring?

Don’t fret! With tips from literary agent Natalie M. Lakosil, these next five key points will make your transition from YA to adult fiction more exciting than scary.

1. POV

“YA voice is directly relatable; the reader feels like he or she is in the character’s shoes. An adult novel, on the other hand, is enjoyed like one enjoys a movie.”

What this means: There is a separation when reading adult novels that takes a while to get used to. You are an observer of the character’s story, rather than an active participant. YA wants you to feel included, which is why most are written from the first-person point of view (POV). You know who your character is and will probably be able to relate to them in more than one way. Characters in adult fiction are sometimes too specific to be relatable, especially if you, the reader, are in a younger life stage.

2. Content

“What sets these apart are the mature situations — not to say that YA books don’t, or can’t, deal with mature situations, but HOW the characters confront them is very different.”

What this means: Protagonists in YA novels are typically 15-18 years old and still figuring out what life means. The way they tackle problems is more uncertain than protagonists in adult novels, who have the life experience to know the consequences of certain actions. Sex and violence can also be more graphic in adult fiction, too, which is something to consider if those elements make you squeamish.

3. Complexity

“YA tends to be shorter, snap[p]ier, less complex.”

What this means: In adult fiction, it’s up to the reader to figure things out. Emotions aren’t spoon-fed to you. Characters are multifaceted and subtle in their intentions, whereas YA is usually direct and straight-to-the-point. Almost immediately, you know where you are and what’s going on, and characters have rigid roles and tend to stick to type. You more or less have an understanding of how everything’s going to turn out.

4. Theme

“There [is] a sophistication and maturity in adult books, no matter the age of the character, that shines through in the voice.”

Rebellion. Forbidden love. The Chosen One. YA typically has a clear, straight-forward format or message. There’s no “prophecy” to fulfill in adult fiction. And while there may be a theme, it may not always be easy to decipher, made more complicated by the use of mature content (marriage, kids, aging, etc.). This is why many adult fiction books come with discussion questions to help you decipher any unresolved thoughts you may have.

5. Resolution

“Might not end with much resolution or hope, rather a more open-ended commentary on the book’s themes or conflicts.” —This snippet was taken from Wolf Literary Service’s blog post, “The Difference Between YA and Adult.”

What this means: YA fiction is all about overcoming…something. Fear. Authority. Setbacks. Nearly every story centers on breaking through to the other side and realizing that you have the power to change your life. As mentioned in the earlier points, adult fiction is more nuanced than that and may not leave you feeling so blatantly hopeful or powerful when you finish the last page. Life just…resumes to whatever point the book started, with the characters returning to their responsibilities. Depending on what you look for in a book, you could be left feeling unfulfilled.

Do you notice any other differences when reading adult fiction?

Sound off in the comments, below!

Kashya Smith
the authorKashya Smith
Book Contributor (Intern)