Discussion: Why Are YA Characters So Young

I just read Strange The Dreamer (or rather, listened, but that’s not the point) and I was so shocked by the fact that Lazlo was 20 YEARS OLD.  He wasn’t a teenager, even though it was a YA book.  And it made me so freakin happy.  I mean, I’m so used to reading books about 14-16 year olds saving the world, so it was a nice change to have someone that was older than me as the protagonist.  When you’re working on your fictional crush list and realize most of the guys are years younger than you, it’s a bit disappointing.  That’s why today I wanted to talk about a problem that I only just recently realized was a problem: young characters in YA.

Obviously, young adult books are meant for teens, so it makes sense that the protagonists are teenagers themselves.  But I don’t understand why there aren’t many upper teens, or 17-21, which is still of an age that teenagers would be able to relate, but is perhaps more realistic to, say VENTURING OFF ALONE TO SAVE THE WORLD.

At 14, I wouldn’t have been able to cook myself dinner, never mind run away (I can’t even drive a car?) in order to spend weeks with the love of my life saving the world.  Speaking of, the romance is also WAY TOO SERIOUS.  Nobody Not many people finds the love of their lives in high school.  So why do all fictional characters find theirs? It also sets up unrealistic expectations for what you will find in high school.  Very unrealistic.  And I think that’s probably bad for kids 11-15 who are reading this and expecting their life to be that grand when they get just a little bit older.

Also, isn’t college still sort of YA? I mean people aren’t a real adult when they’re in college, I know I’m certainly not.  So there should either be more college characters in YA, or a new “fake adult” genre should be started, asap.  Because it’s not fair for those of us who are faking adulthood by going to college to be forced to read about young high schoolers or old adults.  (I’m planning a protest, who’s in?!)

Obviously, the books wouldn’t be as interesting if they weren’t so unrealistically exciting, so maybe there isn’t a problem at all.  I don’t know. I’m having trouble putting this into words, so I apologize for the super short post.

Basically, I just wanted to write about how excited I was to have a fictional boyfriend that’s older than me, and I turned it into a fancy shmancy discussion post to hopefully get more replies and find out about other people’s opinions!!!

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Edit: I’ve heard that Strange is actually an adult fantasy novel, so oops for mentioning it in the content of YA.  It read a lot like  a YA novel in general, so I assumed.  Also, I realize “YA” is supposed to be 13-19, but there’s no market for 19-25 year olds at all, and since they are still young adults I thought that they should be contained in the YA genre

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Do you think YA should have older characters? Did books give you unrealistic expectations for what your high school experience would hold? Are all of your fictional boyfriends (or girlfriends) wayyy younger than you?

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