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The trials and tribulations of loving YA as an adult


Reader and YA Shot intern Elinor has been struggling to come to terms with still loving YA as an adult, but she thinks she’s finally sussed it. 

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es_clark_photo_1Are you a closet Young Adult (YA) fiction fan? Do you recognise any of these tell-tale signs?

Getting the book you want to read has become a covert operation: You know that awkward moment when you have to ninja into libraries and bookshops, pushing 10-year-olds out of the way to get to the book you want? You find yourself having to make up cover stories on the off chance that someone asks why you’re taking out a book that is clearly placed in the 8­–12-year-olds’ section and has a big, brightly-coloured cartoon kid on the front .“Oh” you’d say with a laugh, gesturing to the book, “you thought I was getting this for me? No, no, this is for my little kid/brother/cousin.” Phew, crisis averted.

You’re constantly reminded that the book you’re reading is not supposed to be for you: Have you ever had that moment in the middle of the action when you suddenly find yourself wondering boring grown-up things: whether the characters have found time to brush their teeth or have their ‘five a day’ in between all those daring escapes and rescue missions? And school – I hope they’ve managed to get some revision done or, world saving or no world saving, they’re going to fail their exams. And the big recommended age printed on the back doesn’t help either; nor the fact that when you read reviews for a book you love you find all the comments are written by 10-year-olds! ‘You should have grown up by now’, it all seems to be telling you with a stern wag of the finger.

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People ask what book you’re reading and you find yourself lying: Remember those awkward conversations when someone asks what book you’re reading at the moment and you feel that admitting you’re rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time doesn’t really cut it? As a grown-up, I shouldn’t be reading kids’ books. I should be ploughing through the classics, like Dickens, Hardy, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky: the sort of books that will develop my moral fibre and intellectual capabilities.

But what is a ‘real’ book anyway? I read for fun, to be distracted from life’s problems for a few hours as I’m transported into a new world filled with magic. For me, pleasure is the ultimate aim of reading, full stop. And I enjoy children’s and YA fiction.

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I love the fun, creative plots that allow an exciting escape from reality. The adventures in these books are just so much cooler and more creative. They don’t have to follow the rules of reality. You encounter dogs that talk, kids who fly, wizards, ogres and whole new worlds full of magic. Perceptions are challenged: the hero can be the bad guy and nothing is as it seems.

And I like the fact that, no matter how grim it looks for our heroes, you know they’ll pull through in the end. They may make mistakes, but ultimately they’ll make up for them. Our characters will keep on fighting. The world will be saved. Good will prevail.

So I’ve decided to get over myself and embrace my love of YA fiction and I want to spread the word. I’m interning at YA Shot, an exciting new, not-for-profit organisation set up in 2015 by Alexia Casale (author of The Bone Dragon). YA Shot works with Young Adult and Middle Grade authors, partnering schools and libraries to stimulate a love of reading and writing.

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On 22nd October 2016 an exciting day of workshops, panel events and book-signing sessions will take place in venues across Uxbridge to raise money and resources for this work. Many well-known authors in the YA market are getting involved, including Melinda Salisbury, Holly Bourne, Alice Oseman, Jenny Downham and Holly Smale. The day will be a fantastic opportunity for all kids (including big kids!) to discover exciting new books and learn more about writing YA fiction.

With more than half of the YA readership being adults, all you secret YA fans out there are definitely not alone. So stop hiding those book covers. Walk into your library with confidence and your head held high. Talk about the books you’re really reading, not the ones you think society expects you to. Because if we’ve learnt anything from children’s fiction, it’s that you should always be true to yourself. Keep dreaming. Stay young at heart. In the words of JM Barrie, “the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it”.

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Bio: Elinor Clark is a nineteen year old first year Philosophy student at Cambridge University. She would love a career in Children’s publishing and her dream is to one day be a published author herself.

Will we be seeing you at YA Shot? Let us know at @maximumpopbooks

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Written by Sophie Waters

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Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.