Gateway YA: Your Young Adult Lit Crash Course

Don’t worry! This isn’t another one of those articles about whether or not it’s okay for adults to read Young Adult fiction. I’ve already shared my feelings on YA (spoiler alert: I love it) and I don’t think YA needs yet another “In Defense Of. . .” post. As a famous philosopher once said, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.” Or maybe that was Taylor Swift. Regardless, this guide isn’t for anyone with a bias against YA. Instead, it’s for people who want to try out YA but aren’t sure where to start. I get a lot of requests for book recommendations from my friends, some of whom haven’t read much YA at all. Maybe you’re the same way–eager to try it out, but not sure where to start. Well, allow me to be your guide. Warning: this journey will get emotional.

The only thing all these books have in common is that they feature teenagers. But that doesn’t mean that only teenagers can read them! If you’ve been itching to give YA a try, pick up one of these books (and be sure to let me know what you think).

One quick note: You already know you should read The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, and I assume you’ve already read Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, so this list excludes those books.

If you’re looking for romance, try: Everything Stephanie Perkins has ever written.

YA just does romance better than adult books. Remember what it was like to be a teenager? Do you remember how many emotions you had? You were in a constant fog of hormones and feelings. YA just gets what that’s like, and no one understands it better than Stephanie Perkins. Her characters crush hard, and if you’re a romantic, you’ll love every second of it. You can read my interview with Stephanie here.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you glad you’re not a teenager, try: “The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Not all YA books are about the happy parts of being a teenager. In fact, a lot of them focus on the rough, heartbreaking, traumatic stuff. When Cameron Post’s family finds out she’s into girls, they ship her off to a Christian “conversion” camp. The results are just about as bad as you’d expect, and this book will definitely make you realize that YA isn’t all about cute dudes or post-apocalyptic societies (although both of those things are welcome, obviously). Sometimes, it’s about tough, real-life situations.

If you want to read something that’s getting a lot of buzz: “The 5th Wave

I’m normally pretty skeptical of books that are getting a lot of attention. Being a book reviewer means I know a little too much about how the sausage is made (where sausage = books; I’m not actually a sausage reviewer, UNFORTUNATELY). But The 5th Wave is one of those books that really lives up to the hype. Did you like “The Hunger Games?” Do you want to become extremely panicky about the prospect of an alien invasion by reading descriptions that are way too realistic? Then read this book. Bonus: the second book in the series is coming out soon!

If you’re going through a breakup: “Why We Broke Up

Real talk for a moment: I actually know a couple of adults who don’t like this book because they think it’s so emotional that it’s just unrealistic. But to them I say: a) Have you ever been a teenager? and b) Have you ever been through a breakup? These are the real feelings, people. Plus, Daniel Handler is the kind of writer who makes you think, “Ugh, why can’t I write like that?” This is one of my personal, all-time favorite books.

If you’re into old Hollywood glamour: Rachel Shukert’s “Starstruck” series

Would you rather watch a Cary Grant film than the newest blockbuster? Then you’ll probably be into Rachel Shukert’s series about the struggles of three young actresses in Hollywood in the late 1930s. The series is packed full of drama, romance and juicy bits of info about how Hollywood worked back then. The first two books are out now and I’m impatiently waiting for the third.

If you want to be amazed by some beautiful writing: “The Sky Is Everywhere

Jandy Nelson is on another level. Her writing will take your breath away. . .that is, when it’s not making you sob. The book is about death, family, love and tough decisions, and it will crack your heart open. Jandy Nelson has a new book coming out this month (finally!) and we should all be excited.

If you love the movie“Groundhog Day”: “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver

Okay, so Before I Fall doesn’t feature Bill Murray or a groundhog, but it does feature a character living one day over and over again. If I told you anything more than that, I might ruin the story. Just know that this one will make you get a little bit emotional.

If you’re not afraid to deal with a few tough issues: “Pointe” by Brandy Colbert

Kidnapping. Eating disorders. Sexual assault. There aren’t a lot of issues that don’t make an appearance in “Pointe”. . . and yet it never seems like an “issue” book. It’s dark, compelling and a totally great read. It also features a strong and smart main character that you’ll totally love.

Keep in mind that this list in in no way exhaustive. There are about a million YA books you should pick up. In fact, any of the books I’ve written about would be a good choice! But if you’re new to YA, I think you should start with these books.

What about you guys? Have you read all of these books? What YA books are on your “must read” list? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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