Ginny Myers Sain on adults reading YA novels such as One Last Breath

And why she enjoys writing books for young adults.


We have always known that young adult books are not just for young adults but have you ever wondered why we as adults are still drawn to them? Ginny Myers Sain might just have the answer. Ginny has written three young adult books so far, and while she has many teen readers, she also meets many adult readers at bookstores and book festivals. To celebrate the release of her newest YA book, One Last Breath, we are honoured to have Ginny Myers Sain with us today to chat about why she enjoys writing for young adults and why she enjoys reading YA books herself.

I’m a young adult author. My third young adult book, One Last Breath, like my first two books, Dark and Shallow Lies and Secrets So Deep, is part murder mystery, part twisty thriller, part romance, part travelogue for a lushly atmospheric setting, and part coming of age story…with just a thread of the paranormal running through it. And, like my two books before it, it features primarily older teen characters.

I write books about teens for teens because I spent many important years of my life working very closely with high school students in an intensive theatre program designed for young performers who were seriously interested in pursuing a professional career in the theatre. Over all those years of working as a director and acting teacher with students that age, I really got to know teens and what makes them tick. I grew to understand their hearts and their minds. I was continuously blown away by their level of dedication to their craft, the intensity of their passion, their bravery, their love and loyalty toward their friends, and how smart and creative they were. So I knew when I started to write, that was the age group I wanted to write for and about. Those were the voices I heard in my head.

I meet so many wonderful teen readers these days at bookstores and book festivals, but I meet just as many adults! This isn’t surprising because statistics show that around 50% of readers of young adult literature are actually adults. I should know, because I’m one of them! I was reading young adult lit long before I was writing it. The question is, why do so many adults love teen books, including mine?

I know I’m writing solidly teen books for older teens. My books are normally recommended for readers ages fifteen to eighteen, and that’s my target demographic. Although some young adult authors may, I’m not necessarily trying to attract adult readers. However, I’m glad adults enjoy my books, too, and I love meeting adult readers at all sorts of events!

So this is supposed to be an article about writing young adult books that will appeal to a crossover adult audience, but the truth is, I think there’s only one real key to doing that: write a really good young adult book!

I think the reason that so many adults are drawn to young adult literature is pretty simple. Young adult books tend to be about characters who are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into a wider world. These are what we call “coming of age” stories, because someone at some point decided that your teen years are when you’re supposed to figure those things out. So there is a long and beautiful history of “coming of age” stories in young adult literature. All of my stories are thrillers, but they are also stories that explore grief and loss and change and those questions every teenager struggles with. Who am I? What do I want? What do I owe my family? What do I owe my community and the world? How do I fit in with my friends? Where do I belong?

I believe that the reason so many adults gravitate toward young adult books is because we’ve all been misled. We’ve been tricked into thinking that as adults, we should have the answers to those questions. We should have it all figured out by now. And we don’t. Or at least very, very few of us do. Almost none of us, to be honest. So adults keep being drawn to young adult books because, as it turns out, the questions our teen characters are grappling with aren’t really teen questions after all. They’re human questions. And we’re all human, a fact that’s been driven home to all of us, especially over the last few intense years we’ve had as a species.

I recently had a conversation with a very close friend who’s quite a bit younger than me. He had just turned thirty and was lamenting the fact that he had no idea what he was doing with his life. “I feel like I should know all this by now,” he said. I just shook my head and said, “Oh, sweetie. I’ve got really bad news. None of us know what we’re doing.” And then I recommended some of my favorite young adult books for him to read.

One Last Breath by Ginny Myers Sain is out March 14 (Electric Monkey).
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