Define “Young Adult”

“I can read your books, I’m a young adult right?”

A friend of mine asked me this after reading the descriptions of my current writing projects.  First of all the answer is unequivocally yes.  There are a lot of so-called adults who read YA, and there is a lot of YA that is considered cross-over.

But her question made me think that there are really two definitions of a “young adult”.  There’s the more traditional definition of an adolescent or teenager in the roughly 13-20 range.  But there’s also this idea of someone who is  sort of new to being an adult, in their late 20’s to mid-thirties (or later depending on emotional maturity), someone who’s still getting used to the idea of being an adult.  Whatever age you are, you’ve never been that age before, so we’re always learning about how to be in the world.  Maybe that’s what makes the tropes and themes in YA books so appealing to so many different ages.

I once read a commencement speech given by Tom Brokaw in which he cautioned the future graduates that the real world wasn’t much like college, or even high school.  The real world, he said, was a lot like jr. high.  So maybe we’re all Young Adults to some degree.  Accept it, embrace it… and read whatever you want!