Crossover Appeal #2
Crossover Appeal is a weekly feature that challenges the idea that you have to choose a side between YA and adult fiction. Each week we’ll feature a book that has been marketed as YA and a book that has been marketed as adult and tell you why everyone should be reading them, no matter what happens to be your comfort zone.
YA Books for Adult Lit Readers
After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson’s greatest strength as a writer is her ability to take a tiny, almost-novella length story and pack an emotional punch that will leave you reeling. In After Tupac & D Foster, an unnamed narrator tells the story of the short time in her life between the introduction of the mysterious and grown-up D Foster and the death of Tupac Shakur. The narrator’s life changes: perhaps it’s just because she’s 12 going on 13, maybe it really was D and Tupac’s influence, but at the core of this novel is the idea that even the most fleeting events can leave a huge impression. It is a novel of a specific time and place, the early 1990s in a mostly African-American neighborhood in Queens, but also a novel of that particular obsession that comes along with being 12, whether it is the passion between friends, for music and celebrity, or for life.
Why You’ll Love It
I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t even technically YA! This is marketed as middle grade fiction, for readers between 6th and 9th grade, but that recommendation is almost absurd. Sure, I think readers in that age group would like this story, but it’s hard to imagine them falling head over heels for it or completely understanding where it’s coming from. This is a title, and an author, that I’m afraid people miss far too often and it’s a shame, because I can see a lot of adults falling in love with Woodson’s novels, too. One of her most popular novels, If You Come Softly, downright knocked the wind out of stomach, but I chose After Tupac & D Foster because it has an introspection and thoughtfulness that readers of adult fiction will understand and fall in love with.
Adult Books for YA Lit Readers
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Silver Sparrow has one of the most provocative opening lines of a novel this year: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” From there, Jones’s narrative flows effortlessly between the narration of Dana Lynn Yarboro and her half-sister Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon. Dana knows about their father’s double life, but Chaurisse, only a few months younger than Dana, lives blissfully ignorant of her father’s second family. It’s a surprisingly suspenseful story, with each of Dana’s attempts to know more about Chaurisse’s life bringing her closer to revealing the truth.
Why You’ll Love It
Like Woodson, Jones captures adolescence beautifully, while also managing to represent a specific time and place. It’s not just the fact that the main characters of this story are teenagers that would make this a good read for teens, or fans of Young Adult fiction, but the way Jones lays out her story: she hooks you from the beginning with that first line and never lets you go. That’s the mark of a good story everyone should be reading. Couple that with Jones’s descriptions of Atlanta in the 1980’s and you have yourself a novel that not only keeps you reading, but also exposes you to a world you might not have been familiar with before. I also recommend Jones’s debut novel with Leaving Atlanta, which is narrated by young children in Atlanta during the Atlanta Murders of 1978-1981. Jones has a talent for character-driven fiction and you can’t go wrong with any of her novels.