1. They know that Young Adult is where the action is.
Sometimes you feel like a brooding, meditative tome about classical music and the Cold War. Sometimes you don't. Whether they're new stories, and battle-hardened teens are literally dropping out of trees (The Hunger Games) or older than parents' knees, such as the story of a girl who won a horse for a shilling and won the Grand National Steeplechase (National Velvet), one thing you can count on in Young Adult literature is that things happen. Those things will often be exciting, extraordinary, and enthralling. In other words, fun.
2. They try to remember when life was so tender . . .
It may have been a while since someone brushed against your arm in the hall, by accident, and set you on fire, and that touch still burned like a brand when you lay (awake) in bed that night. But, that happened. And no one and nothing is hurt by reveling in that memory.
3. Do you know where your kids are? Adults who read YA do.
Those kids are pretty much there in the mirror of Young Adult fiction. Even if the story is set in the Outland of the Twelfth Missourian Consortium, after the Last War of the Anointed versus the Sealed, and in reality, you live in modern-day Minneapolis, your teenagers feel as though life is a dystopian fantasy. They feel like you died during a pandemic that killed everyone over the age of nineteen, or if you didn't, you should have at least tried. They feel that the world has not been spinning on its axis properly since they hit puberty. Worse yet, they're stuck living in it -- with you.
4. The writing rocks.
Young Adult authors may not all be young, but they're hungry -- to tell and to sell. They're usually not world-weary uni-coastal ascetics bemoaning (in a very subtle way) the demise of a marriage, or marriage, or civilization, or a civilized lunch. Young Adult prose rocks with life and engagement; it all matters to the protagonists, so it all matters to you.
5. Young Adult stories are sexy.
We're not talking 50 shades of eeeeooowww gross, or even ten shades of anything at all. When it comes to emotional coloration, teen love is black and white. Love me or love me not. Love me forever or don't bother. A little over the top? Hell yes, but how can anything so sweet and supple and brand-new be less than beautiful?
6. The truth hurts . . . and that's good.
When it comes to painful matters -- the real deal about abuse, bullying, emotional illness, and simple cruelty -- Young Adult novels look at the facts straight on, without pretty euphemisms or social niceties. These books are most often honest, just as teenagers are honest.
7. It makes them feel so young.
From the romance to the mayhem, readers know that the stuff of Young Adult novels, if not always the greatest (which is to say, the stuff of the classics, which is to say, at least yet) is completely the latest. What you know about pop culture, its sound and its fury, comes from the source -- the people living it, or at least those watching them very, very closely. So when you read YA, you're in the know, even more than you may want to be. Ignorance might be bliss, but it's not when it comes to the thoroughly modern middle of the world we live in. And that's why we read on.