Telling people that I represent young adult books can be annoying, whether it’s because of blank stares from people who don’t understand that children’s books go through much the same process as adult books, or the gentle ribbing from friends that think I’m still stuck in high school.
But there are great YA books out there that everyone can appreciate and enjoy, like my own client Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl a finalist for this year’s National Book Award, I put together a short list of some of my favorite books for teens that even adults reluctant to read YA should be able to enjoy and appreciate.
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
A gritty, honest, sober look at what it means to be a teenager. Alienated from her peers after calling the cops during a party over the summer, Melinda has become an outcast at school, and can barely speak. We experience her pain, anger, and frustration dealing with her school and home life. It isn’t until much later in the book that we come to understand her silence. This is an important and powerful novel that has started many discussions between parents and children.
2. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Teenager Steve Harmon is accused of being the lookout during a burglary that ended in murder, and is now on trial for the crime. Innovatively told with a mixture of screenplay dialogue and journal entries, all written by Steve, Monster asks important questions about morality and conscience, and is a quick, engaging read.
3. Twilight by Stehpenie Meyer
Much more commercial than my first two picks, this one has easily been successful with adult readers already. It is the romance between the self-assured Bella and her vampire beau that has quickened many pulses. Like good chocolate, Twilight is the perfect balance between dark bitterness and sugary sweetness. Perfect for any romance reader.
4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
This one is perfect for anyone who likes sci-fi or fantasy. Set in a world where everyone is made “pretty” on their 16th birthday, Uglies is a Brave New World for the Paris and Britney generation. All of the books in the series deal with issues like beauty standards, the role of government, the importance of free will, and celebrity culture, all the while being a thrill-a-minute ride.
5. Clay by David Almond
The story of two boys who build a monster, Clay deals with questions of faith, character, and evil. This is one of my favorite books, period. The language is beautiful and evocative, and I think anyone can relate to the issues at hand. I find myself recommending this book more often than almost any other.
I hope I can convince some of you who aren’t already hooked on YA books that they’re just as good and varied as the adult books you’re reading. They run the gamut from literary to commercial, and they welcome every genre (and don’t mind mixing them sometimes). For those of you that are reading YA, what would be on your list of recommendations?