Even if I wasn’t a Young Adult librarian, I would still read tons of YA literature. While I love the maturity and intellectual demands of adult literary fiction, sometimes a YA novel just hits that sweet spot of delivering a fully satisfying read that is challenging and fresh, yet doesn’t require too much time or mental energy to complete.
A good YA novel, and there are many, can offer the same rock solid world-building, carefully crafted characters and spellbinding plots as books written for adults. And, while the adult market is quickly catching up, many authors writing for youth simply don’t feel obligated to adhere to traditional genres, resulting in a wealth of titles that push, blend, and even defy labels such as “fantasy” or “realistic fiction” in ways that continue to captivate and surprise even the most voracious readers.
Ready to dive in? Here are several young adult literature suggestions that are so good you won’t even notice they were written for teens:
Maggie Stiefvater is an author whose work has become increasingly complex as her writing has matured. Her earlier works are solid, if straightforward, fantasy and science fiction, but she has hit it out of the park with the Raven Cycle trilogy. While the premise (a girl from a family of magicians is fated to cause the death of her one true love) might have eyes rolling, it would be a mistake to dismiss these books as angsty teen fantasy/drama. The richly drawn world, multi-faceted characters, and surprising twists and turns have landed these books on many a “best” list. Start with The Raven Boys.
Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap was a National Book Award Finalist and won the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature. Read it for the beautifully nuanced depiction of growing up in a small town, where the eccentric is indulgently tolerated if not fully embraced, and the spooky mystery of a young woman who may or may not have been kidnapped.
Author Neal Shusterman is well known for his science-fiction and fantasy novels featuring worlds so well-crafted they are eerily real, a talent that served him very well in his latest book, Challenger Deep. Winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Youth, it tells two stories of Caden Bosch: one in which he is trapped on a ship headed to the Marianas Trench, the other that follows his descent into the delusions and paranoia of schizophrenia. Shusterman masterfully weaves both narratives together for a highly absorbing read that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Includes drawings by Shusterman’s son, on whose experience the book is partially based.
Perhaps you might like to get your feet wet with a graphic novel? Look no further that multiple award winner Gene Luen Yang, who seamlessly blends comic book-style illustrations with powerful explorations of faith, culture, and identity. Boxers and Saints are companion novels set during China’s Boxer Rebellion. Told from the perspective of two teenagers, the books offer compelling and deeply personal stories that resonate far beyond the time period.
You can find even more YA book suggestions here. Happy reading!
~ posted by Summer H.