My two sisters (both older than me) have been bugging me to read Outlander for years. So, before I left for Scotland, I threw a copy into my bag as my reading material.
First, I would like to publicly acknowledge that they were right when they told me I should read it (even though I picked up the first sequel, Dragonfly in Amber, and almost dropped it again because it's hella heavy so I don't know when I'll finish it).
Next, I’d like to point out that if they had sold it to me as a “step above YA” instead of “adult” fiction, I probably would have read it sooner.
At the risk of possibly offending people who might yell “IT’S ADULT, I SWEAR” at me – I would like to give you a few reasons as to why I think it reads like it “step above YA” (what people these days are calling “New Adult”, which I guess is what it could be since Jamie’s 23), and I’m perfectly okay with that. Because I love YA!
1) What’s Jamie’s age again (aka nobody likes you when you're 23)
When I started reading it, I kept picturing the actors from the show (which I haven’t watched yet), but over time, I started to form my own mental image of them. Based on the actor, I would not have guessed that Jamie was only 23, so, consequently, in my mind, he looks a lot younger than Sam What’s-his-name (who is attractive, sure, but not really what I pictured). If this had been from Jamie’s point of view and it was released in 2015, it most likely would have been labelled “historical NA”.
2) Two's company, three's a crowd
Often, in YA - regardless of genre - the world could literally be ending, and the main couple will still make time to cuddle (or other things). Bonus points if there's a third person who may or may not hold the heroine's (not literal) heart in his hands. Thus, in Outlander: despite being all "I <3 Frank 4lyfe", Claire cannot ignore Jamie's hotness. And how terribly convenient is it that Jamie is single and ready to mingle (especially if the mingling involves Claire) and it will COINCIDENTALLY save Claire's life if she marries him. A love triangle that crosses the boundaries of 300 years is still, in fact, a love triangle.
3) Claire’s milkshake brings all the boys to the Highlands
As if the love triangle of Frank-Claire-Jamie wasn't enough, you also have Dougal, Black Jack, and probably half the other MacKenzies. You know what a major plot point is in about 90% of (contemporary)YA fiction? "New girl comes to town, immediately catches the eye of the hottest guy in the school, plus all the other dudes, while the rest of the girls are all "Who's this new chick?"." You know whats a major plot point in Outlander? "Claire time-travels back to the 18th century, immediately catches the eye of the hottest Highlander, plus all the other warriors in his clan, while the rest of the women are all "who's this Sassenach broad?"." (I'm looking at you, Laoghaire).
If they were attracted to her because of her medical skillz, that’s one thing. But mostly, I think it was because they thought she was hot.
3.5) Jamie's mom has got it goin' on
Without spoiling anything, I’d like to point out that by the end of the book, we hear about at least three guys who had a thing for Ellen MacKenzie (one was obviously Jamie’s dad), plus the numerous others who vied for her heart because of her familial connections. Yes, two of those dudes are then instrumental in saving Claire/Jamie, but it reminded me of that scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie, not the book) where it makes it seem like Remus Lupin had a crush on Lily Evans (we won’t talk about who else was in love with Harry’s mom, because it’s just too emotional #always).
4) Claire’s a darn fool but is also surprisingly adaptable
I suppose it’s possible for there to be stupid characters in “adult” books, but Claire pulled a classic YA heroine move: she basically betrayed Jamie and then got mad when he was annoyed at her for ENDANGERING EVERYONE’S LIVES. Side note: I don’t condone beating (and we won’t get into a discussion of how that was essentially a cultural norm for him, so in his mind he wasn't doing anything wrong), but like, he told her he doesn’t make idle promises. What did she expect?
At the same time, she is somehow able to accept everything that's going on around her with minimal questions because it's just sooo obvious that she's fallen in with a bunch of vampires, um, I mean, 18th century Highlanders.
If, at any point, she had tried to convince him that they’d be better off as “just friends”, that’s when she would have actually turned into a YA character.
5) Jamie = swoonworthy
I’m not complaining about this aspect at all, mind you, but Jamie was presented as perfection itself. He was smart and charming, ridiculously good-looking...I could go on, but you probably get the point. I guess there are guys like this in “adult” fiction, but as someone who’s spent literally half her life reading YA, I can’t help but make comparisons to the brooding heroes of your standard YA novel. Jamie would fit right into their ranks with verra few problems, ye ken?
Side note: when I was griping about the random Nessie-sighting scene (seriously, what even was that?), Ro suggested monsters would have been more believable in their world if Jamie was a werewolf. I could get behind that.
Is my brain too addled by YA? Probably. But maybe, just maybe, there's some truth to what I'm saying? Let me know in the comments if you agree or completely disagree!