Let’s Talk Bookish: Reading Outside Your Target Age Group

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Eternity Books. This is my first time participating, and I’m looking forward to participating in more of these in the future.

This week’s prompt is: Should readers read books that aren’t for their target age?

Examples of this are adults reading YA books, teens reading adult books, or children reading YA/adult books.

I’m of the general opinion that people should read whatever they like reading, regardless of whether they’re a member of the target demographic or not.

The exception to this might be children reading certain adult books. That said, far be it from me to police a child’s reading choices; that’s up to the parents. I don’t have kids nor do I ever want them, so I’m not going to touch this except to say that as a kid I was allowed to read whatever the hell I wanted, but I mostly stuck to my own age group by choice because I figured adult books would bore me. I wanted to read stories about kids doing exciting things. And, you know, I think I would have turned out fine even if I hadn’t stuck to those books.

In general I don’t see a reason to stick to one particular type of book just because you fit the target demographic.

Now, I might be biased. I occasionally read YA still even though I’m technically not a part of the target demographic (that said, is it just me or does the target YA audience seem to be trending older and older?) Heck, there are even some middle grade books that have piqued my interest. And in that same vein, I remember being a teen and not wanting to read YA anymore because I felt it was too juvenile (I feel like most readers go through a phase like this at some point) but I also didn’t want to read adult books because I had this idea in my mind that they’d be boring. Now that I’ve matured, I know that there are some juvenile YA books, but that’s not the whole landscape of YA, and there are some boring adult books, but that’s not the whole landscape of adult.

I think that there are a few different dynamics working to keep people reading only in a certain age group.

First, is the stereotypes associated with each grouping.

Some teens and young adults might think adult books are boring. I blame school for this. I myself have avoided the Classics genre like the plague since I finished school because it just reminds me of high school and being terribly bored and reading the sparks notes instead of the actual books for assignments, or else feeling like certain books were torture. To this day, I’ll tell anyone who listens about how much I hated the book Jane Eyre, though I occasionally wonder whether I’d have hated it as much had I read it on my own. There are books I had to read for school that I liked, but none that I loved. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comes to mind as a book I liked but might have loved had I read it in my own time and in my own way.

It’s only now, 5 years post-high school, that I’m starting to think about reading any classics on my own.

On the other hand, YA books have a certain stigma to them (probably because they’re mostly enjoyed by young women and teenage girls, but that’s a topic for its own post.) On threads in book-related subreddits, I still see people referring to YA as a “genre” (which, isn’t the correct term, it’s literally just a way to group books with specific themes like coming-of-age stories) filled with vampire or paranormal romances, which 1.) isn’t even true these days, and hasn’t been the case for probably almost 10 years, and 2.) even if it were true why do people feel the need to shit on paranormal books or romance books? The people perpetuating this stigma often do not read YA, because if they did they’d realize that just like with adult books, YA books offer something for all readers.

That brings me to the second point, of people putting themselves into boxes.

People who answer this question and say that people should only read inside their own target age groups are probably adults who only read adult books. They’re on par with the pseudo-intellectuals from the book-related subreddits who turn up their nose at the mere mention of “Young Adult.” Some of them probably make wild claims of having been reading adult books since they were 5 years old to sound impressive.

At the end of the day, if you choose to only read books aimed at your age group that’s totally your choice. In my opinion, you’re just holding yourself back from reading more and from reading outside your comfort zone and maybe even from finding a new favorite book.

But whatever you personally choose to read shouldn’t dictate what everyone else decides to read.

Books I DNF’ed that deserve another chance

So, I want to talk about some of the books I’ve DNF’ed in the past year that I want to give another chance. I DNF books for a variety of reasons, and it isn’t always that I dislike or am disappointed by a book (though it often is.)

Some other reasons I DNF books are: I’m not in the mood for that particular book right then, I’m not in the mood for reading in general, I was listening to the audiobook and either didn’t like the narrator or couldn’t pay attention, or I had the audiobook from Overdrive, and it got returned to the library before I could finish it.

Anyways, here some books I’ve DNF’ed for one of the above reasons that I’d eventually like to start over or pick up from where I left off.

A Little Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

I have to be in a very specific mindset to want to read a book like this. Literary fiction is very hit-or-miss for me, and while I don’t mind books with heavy topics or tragedies, but if that’s the main or only focus of the book sometimes it can be hard for me to see the appeal. I have seen mostly good reviews of this book, but the few negative reviews I’ve read have made me wonder whether I’ll love it as they talk about some things I have a hard time liking in books. Like I said, I don’t mind heavy topics or tragic books, but seeing people refer to this as torture porn has been a little off-putting for me and I think that’s why I had a hard time getting into it when I tried to read it. That said, I do remember liking the first 100-odd pages of this when I tried to read it, I just had a hard time finding the motivation to pick it back up which for an 800+ page book is a problem. I will try this again, though, when I’m in the mood for something more like that.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This is a case of audiobook narrator putting me to sleep. I don’t know what it is about certain voices, especially middle-aged male voices, but some of them just make me want to get under a blanket and put my head on a pillow, no matter how interesting the story itself is to me. This is a book I really wanted to read so when I saw it was available on Libby I had to check it out right away. I’m sure the wanting to fall asleep wasn’t helped by the fact that I had started this in the afternoon at work. Something about 1:30-3:30pm just naturally makes me sleepy when I’m at work, and the narrator’s voice was practically lulling me to sleep. I’ll probably try a physical copy of this sometime in the future, though, because I still am very interested in it.

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This was an audiobook that had to be returned to the library. I feel like I’m the odd one out when it comes to how quickly I can get through audiobooks, it takes weeks and sometimes months for me to finish them, whereas I can sit down and read a physical book in just a few days. For me, I think it’s that I just really do better listening to music or podcasts. Podcasts are a little more dynamic than audiobooks, so they don’t put me to sleep while I’m driving or trying to get work done, and music always energizes me. I did enjoy the audiobook for this, so I do plan to finish it on audio, but I had to put myself back on a waitlist for it after it was returned to my library through Libby.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is yet another audiobook, and yet another book that had to be returned. I actually really enjoyed the audio for this book (which I’m beginning to learn is rare for me) but it’s been awhile since I was listening to this and I haven’t felt compelled to put myself back on the waiting list for it. I think it’s just another case of once I’m off the waiting list I might not be in the mood to listen to it, but I’ll feel obligated to do so, and it’ll ruin my enjoyment of the book to be listening to it if I’m not in the right mood for it and I’d truly rather be listening to a podcast on my commute.

Blindness

Blindness by Jose Saramago

This one suffered from the same thing Evelyn Hardcastle. The narrator was just putting me to sleep and, because I listen to audiobooks mostly while I’m driving, that’s not really a good thing. The book itself was an interesting premise and I was interested in seeing what happened to all the characters once they were quarantined for getting the Blindness disease. I haven’t found myself in the right mood to give the physical copy a try since quitting on the audiobook. But maybe I’ll eventually go back to it.

That’s it for this post!

This was supposed to be about DNF’s, but now in my head I’m starting to re-evaluate my relationship with audiobooks. I think I’m starting to realize that, a majority of the time, audiobooks just aren’t really my thing. There are some I really love, and that’s why I keep trying different ones, but I find it takes a really exceptionally talented narrator for that to be the case and for some reason a lot of them make me just want to lie down and take a nap.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Are there any books you’ve DNF’ed that you’re thinking of giving another chance?