One time, instead of discussing their monthly book, Neena King and a fellow book club attendee went to a bar. They discussed the book over cocktails, a seemingly odd place to be chatting about a young adult novel.
However, deconstructing young adult books in adult settings is commonplace for King and members of the Dallas YA Book Club. The group is full of individuals in their mid-20s and up who are passionate about the genre.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the group, which boasts a 316 member Meetup page, normally met at the Panera outside of NorthPark Center. They now discuss the month’s pick on Zoom, with most meetings garnering between 5-10 people.
King, founder and organizer, started the group in 2014 to fill her circle with other YA lovers.
“Once I finished college and everything, I really enjoyed YA books….I really just wanted people to discuss it with, and to be honest, not a lot of my close friends are big readers,” King says. “I had found Meetup and was using it for other things. I’ve met some other groups and stuff that way. And so I figured, hey, why not start something through there? Because there’s got to be other adults who like reading YA and would love to talk about it. So that’s how the group kind of started.”
Since its inception, the group has read YA books in a variety of genres, often reading books that have made waves with YA influencers. They read “The Duff” by Kody Keplinger and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Both books have been made into feature films.
The group also reads YA books that embrace diversity. A recent group read, “These Witches Don’t Burn” by Isabel Sterling, features lesbian witches.
“We’re seeing a lot more diversity coming out in YA books faster than we’re seeing in adult fiction novels. Which I think is incredible, because our kids need to see that right?” King says. “And that, to me, is super exciting to see.”
“These Witches Don’t Burn” was also a great fit for the group because the group tends to lean more into fantasy books. Because of a surplus in YA fantasy and interest from the group, it’s easy to find a fantasy book that everyone is excited about.
This month’s pick falls right in line with the group’s interests. They’re set to discuss “The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton on Dec. 5 over Zoom. While not technically classified as YA, it’s an acclaimed thriller with fantastical elements that has been recommended by a variety of YA influencers.
“The reason why we picked it is because it’s being spoken about so much within YA circles,” King says. “We have a lot of people who kind of follow different book tubers, or, you know, just various people who just review a lot of stuff.”
This isn’t the first time the group has found themselves outside of the YA designation either, and they’re not afraid to read “adult” books if they fit their interests. If the book will get chosen, however, is left up to chance. When choosing their next read, King uses an app to decide.
“We don’t follow any kind of nationally published lists or anything. People just bring what they’re interested in reading,” King says. “I actually have a spin app, where you just list everything, click it and it’ll select one.”
Regardless of the book, King is passionate about YA and the stories that authors can tell. She believes that YA can be just as, if not more, impactful than an adult novel. It can also be read in half the time.
“People think that YA novels don’t really achieve the depth that a lot of adult novels do, and I understand that,” King says. “I think the stories can be so well told, in a much smaller page count, to be honest. They don’t have to do as much world building. And so I think you get such a great story without the work that you need to put into adult books sometimes.”
The Dallas YA Book Club’s next meeting is Dec. 5 and meets regularly on the weekends. You can find out more on their Meetup here.