Patrons sometimes wander into the Young Adult (YA) section of the library and ask, “What exactly is in this section?” Usually, after I answer, most patrons say they wish there had been a YA section of the library when they were growing up. While there may not have been a whole section dedicated to teens until recent years, novels for and about teens have been around for decades. The term YA first found common usage in the late 1960s, while books written for and about teenagers have been around long before (think Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, written in 1938, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye [1951], or The Outsiders written by S. E. Hinton when she was just a teen herself in 1967).

YA literature is not a genre; it’s a category, the same as children’s literature and adult literature. Within YA literature, one can find every possible genre: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance. It Is generally described as written for 12-20-year-olds with characters who are discovering and pushing boundaries to discover themselves.

In recent years, YA literature has excelled by publishing books with inclusive, diverse characters reflecting the modern teen experience. With the positive representation of marginalized characters, hopefully, any teenager can open a book and see themselves inside. A push for YA literature to include Own Voices authors has also seen an increase in recent years. This refers to an author from a marginalized or under-represented group writing about their own experiences from their own perspective.

So, who can read Young Adult literature? Anyone really! We have many adult patrons who enjoy YA literature and read it almost exclusively. While some of the themes and situations in YA novels may be too advanced for some middle-grade readers, many novels in the YA category can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” The same can be said for YA literature as well.

Anna Dussler is our teen librarian, you can contact her via email: or call her at 512-847-2188 ext. 109