If you’re over the age of eighteen, you’ve probably experienced this: You walk into a bookstore or library looking for something to read. You start to go toward the young adult (or YA) section, but you hesitate. After all, you’re an adult now. You should be reading adult books. Unfortunately, when you get to the adult section, you can’t find anything you want to read, so you end up not reading anything.

This experience demonstrates a common fallacy in both our entertainment and marketing culture—that you have to enjoy things that match your demographic. That’s completely wrong, and I’m about to tell you why.

Books Are for Everyone

It’s true. Books don’t have a gender or (unless we’re talking about a rating based on appropriateness) an age. Society tells us that if we’re teenage girls, we read YA and grow into reading chick-lit. If we’re teenage boys, we read fantasy and grow into more sci-fi and fantasy.

Not only does this gatekeeping keep people from enjoying something they may possibly love, but it’s dead wrong. You can like any type of book regardless of your demographic. There’s nothing wired into your brain forcing you to like any certain thing.

Gatekeeping Prevents Us from Experiencing Empathy

When we tell people that they can only read books that fit their demographic, we tell them that they can’t experience different viewpoints. This completely takes away one of the benefits of reading fiction! If we only read books about protagonists who look, act, and think like us, we lose the chance to learn empathy.

This is why gatekeeping is dangerous—it tells us that we should only converse with like-minded people, and only like the things we’re told to. It’s easy to look at someone and judge them based on what they’re reading. Instead, I’d encourage you to sit with them and ask about the book. Start conversations. You’ll find yourself glad that you did.

Young Adult Books Teach Us About Life

This may have you scratching your heads, but I believe it wholeheartedly. Just because YA books aren’t marketed as life-lessons or literary fiction doesn’t mean they don’t have value. I’d actually argue that they often have more.

Look at series like Harry Potter, which inspires us to fight against the darkness of the world no matter who we are. Look at the Hunger Games, which demonstrates why it’s so dangerous to blindly follow what people tell you. Check out Uglies, which encourages us to debate the value of personal freedom verses the good of society. These are all subject we will deal with for the rest of our lives. Reading books on these topics gives us an avenue of discourse and personal expression.

Young Adult Books Are Entertaining

It’s okay to like a book merely because it’s entertaining. There are those who will tell you that if you’re not reading literary fictions, non-fiction, or self-help books then you’re wasting your time. I guarantee those same people watch TV and think nothing of it.
Reading is fun. Reading fiction can relieve stress, increase empathy, and introduce you to communities of people who share your interests. In fact, young adult books are notorious for this. They get people hooked and excited. They’re engaging, and this is a great thing!

So next time you walk into a bookstore, go wherever your heart desires. Grab a book and read to your heart’s content. What have you got to lose