Beyond Awards Fodder: Literature for YA Snobs

Oh ho-ho! Didn’t think I’d flip this around, did you? Well, prepare yourselves, YAers. Just as I took literary snobs to task for not giving YA its fair due, I’m doing the same to you. This exercise is all about getting out of your comfort zone, and it wouldn’t kill some of you to read something a little more highbrow and stretch your limits. You might be surprised at how not boring, solidly adult literature can be. It’s not all “women in crisis with kids, a husband and a job” or “dudes rhapsodizing about stuff but not doing anything.” Just as there’s plenty of diversity in YA literature, there are plenty of relatable characters and interesting plots in adult literature.

I understand the appeal of YA – it is one of my favorite genres – but I think we also have an obligation to ourselves to read at grade level, if you will. I’m guessing that most of you reading Book Riot are not actually teenagers anymore, and therefore, reading books intended for grownups can inform the reading you do, no matter what genre it’s in.

Here’s a list of “If you like (this book), you should read (this other book).” If you disagree or have additions to this list, I’d love to hear them in the comments:

  • If you liked the Suite Scarlett series by Maureen Johnson…you should read Finny by Justin Kramon. For the fans of quirky girls in big cities, Johnson’s Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever feeds well into Kramon’s tale of 14-year-old Finny, whose family is even quirkier than she is, as she struggles to find her own voice in the midst of the chaos. There’s a whole thing about a boy and circumstances being greater than the moment and then takes that story beyond the realm of adolescence and into adulthood. (Also try Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl)
  • If you liked The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur…you should read Commencementby J. Courtney Sullivan. Both books are set in two of the top universities in the country, and they both focus on the friendships women make as college freshmen living in teeny rooms in old dorms. They’re both about how women support each other when they’re all making poor life choices and trying to learn from them and each other. And just like Kramon, Sullivan moves beyond the world of college and adolescences and touches on how those life choices affect these women as adults. (Also try Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz).
  • If you liked The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins…you should read The Children of Men by P.D. James. Disregard what you might have seen from the 2006 Clive Owen movie; James’ book is gritty and it takes place in a world that isn’t so far in the future. While Collins’ trilogy is the biggest thing in YA dystopian fiction right now, The Children of Men takes a similar dystopian tone and makes it real and imminent and scary. (Also try Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood).
  • If you liked the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare…you should read American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The opening premise of these two stories is the same – a murder and a strange appearance of a mythical character. Gaiman’s talent crosses genres and ages; if you haven’t tried him yet, this should be your first stop. (Also try The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov).
  • If you liked Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver…you should read Pretty by Jillian Lauren. In Lauren Oliver’s fantastic YA novel, the narrator is forced to relive the same night over and over until she learns from the mistakes she made in her life. Taking the supernatural factor out, Jillian Lauren examines a narrator who also learns from the mistakes she made, but forces her to deal with them in the real world, where everything has consequences. (Also try Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett).
  • If you liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan…you should read Lowboy by John Wray. I’ve already pledged my love for John Green, but the flip-flopping narrative of Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a beautiful example of two teenage male voices. Another fantastic example: Wray’s Lowboy, which explores the fractured mind of Will Heller, a 16-year-old schizophrenic, riding the NYC subways on a mission. (Also try Peep Show by Joshua Braff).

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