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Young Adult Literature

3 On A YA Theme: Adult Novels for YA Fans and Vice Versa

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

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I spend a lot of time wondering why certain books are designated as “YA” while others are designated “Adult.” A lot of it comes down to voice, but that’s a quality that, unless you’ve read a lot of books in each category, you can’t really express in a nice, succinct way. You know the difference when you see it.

There are so many books that fall nicely into the crossover category, meaning that they may have been published as adult novels, but they have a certain something to them that appeals to YA readers — I use “YA readers” here as a means to signify anyone who reads YA, not just teenagers, though their reading needs and interests are often nicely met in this crossover category.

So what makes a book a good crossover? For me, it’s having a certain voice, a focus on a young main character, or themes and plot elements that are relatable across a broad spectrum of readers. For an adult book to have YA crossover, that can mean the stories are focused on teenagers or feature teenagers at the core and the writing is mature, thoughtful, and characters aren’t focused on achieving certain adult markers (marriage, children, and so forth). That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing adult things like leaving home or going to college or becoming involved in a serious relationship; it just means the way those things are included in the story feels like something YA readers would relate to or “get” in some capacity.

I thought it would be fun to try to showcase some potential crossover reads for YA and adult readers in a nifty graphic today. I’ve pulled a few adult titles I think have tremendous YA appeal and matched them up with YA titles that have similar elements to them. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re of the same genre nor that they tackle the same topics; instead, I focused on the idea that readers who love a specific YA book or author might want to try an adult book or vice versa. This is about expanding horizons, about wading a little deeper, and about potentially discovering a new favorite read.

You’re welcome to download, print, and distribute this graphic as you choose, but please leave the bottom attribution. You can right click to do that, and you can click on the image itself to make it bigger. Beneath the image, I’ve written out a little bit about why each of these books would work with one another.

Likewise, if you know of any adult or YA books or authors you’d like to see me do this with in a future “3 On A YA Theme” post, I’d love to hear about them. You can drop a line in the comments and I’ll see what I can do, since this sort of thing is a fun challenge.


Mighty Crossover (1)


If you love Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore, or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, try out Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. The uniting ideas here are music, magic, love/romance, and bits of fantasy. Older’s title, as well as the title by Levithan and Cohn, neatly work with the urban setting of Moreno-Garcia’s, as well.

Love the hard, sharp, realistic bite of books by Courtney Summers (All the Rage, Cracked Up to Be, and Some Girls Are) , Stephanie Kuehn (Delicate Monsters and Complicit), or Brandy Colbert (Pointe)? Then you need to be reading Megan Abbott’s thrillers like Dare Me, The End of Everything, and the forthcoming You Will Know Me. And if you love Abbott’s books, then you should wade into the works of the accompanying YA authors. The other thing worth noting with these titles is they all create a feeling of claustrophobia, as well as weave in mysteries within the grander narrative. Smart stuff.

Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero made a big splash when it published in 2014 for many reasons: this is a story about a Latina girl finding her way through her senior year of high school. Her voice is memorable, her longing palpable, and her experiences day-to-day focus on her desire to find herself and her place in the world. Gabby Rivera’s recently-released Juliet Takes A Breath does something similar, but with Juliet, we’re thrown in a post-high school world. She’s just come out and moved across the country, and now she’s on to finding her own place and space in the world. Though the voice isn’t the same as Gabi’s, it’s a strong, solid, memorable voice nonetheless. In other words, these are two voice-y novels about Latina women “coming of age.”


Want more “3 On A YA Theme” posts? Gotcha covered