This week's guest post for our "So You Want to Read YA?" series comes from writer Susan Adrian.
So you're an adult—even a thirty- or forty-something credit card-carrying adult—and you've heard about this Hunger Games thing. Maybe you even tried those books, and you thought they were pretty (darn) impressive. More real, vivid, and intense than the books you've been reading. Different. You wander into the crowded young adult section, ready to sample something else.
And then you hide your face and walk quickly the other way, because (a) there are so many choices, and so many of them have vampires or headless teens or dead girls in dresses, and (b) there are actual teens there, and that's just all kinds of scary. Yikes.
Relax. It may seem overwhelming at first, but that's only because there is so much awesome to be had in the YA section. Once you get started, you'll see goodness on every shelf—and you may even be able to strike up a conversation with those teens. Or (gasp) your own kids.
I've chosen a few sock-knockers, of different genres within YA, to get your feet wet. Awesomeness on these titles is guaranteed.
Like The Hunger Games, Uglies takes place in a future society quite different from our own, but Westerfeld has taken a different direction. In this world, everyone has a compulsory operation on their sixteenth birthday to make them ideally beautiful. Fifteen-year-old Tally, currently an Ugly, is biding her time until she can be a Pretty too. But her best friend refuses her surgery and runs away, and Tally's decision is suddenly not so clear. The language, worldbuilding, and characterization are top-notch, and this is a book I think all ages can relate to.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
John Green has gotten some good "adult" press lately (Time Magazine!) for his recent book The Fault in our Stars. Looking for Alaska, his first novel, is equally deserving of a crossover audience. Told from the point of view of Miles Halter, a junior in his first year at a southern boarding school, it is literary, but also accessible. This book won the Printz as well as all sorts of other awards, deservingly. The writing and characterization are phenomenal.
No vampires here—just an incredibly creative, well-imagined world of magic and compelling, complex characters. I'd never read Holly Black before this, and I absolutely devoured this book whole. (And its sequel, Red Glove. I'm anxiously waiting for Black Heart to come out in April.) I won't even spoil the plot for you, but there are con artists, assassins, and crime bosses, all twisted together with magic.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Everyone loves ghosts, right? How about a teenage ghost-killer, who never allows himself to connect to the living, running up against the one ghost he can't get rid of? Add forbidden love and lots of delicious nastiness. This book has a mystery vibe, and anybody who loves mysteries or dark ghost stories should snap it up.
I admit, I've gotten a little tired of the dystopian genre lately—but these two knock it out of the park, with original and richly imagined societies. I actually have recommended both to fellow grown-ups within the past couple weeks.
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Ana is born into a world where everyone else has been reincarnated, over and over, with their memories intact, for thousands of years—except her. Someone has died so she could be born, a "new soul," and the rest of this society can't forgive her and has no idea how to treat her. Enter secrets, sylphs, and dragons. I was fascinated with the world and with Ana's unique voice. Incarnate also has one of the best romances I've seen in a long time.
When Divergent came out last year, it was hyped as the next Hunger Games—and I think it's the only one to live up to that hype. The world has devolved into five factions: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (kindness), and Erudite (intelligence)…and sixteen year-olds must choose where they belong. Beatrice, the main character, goes through a dramatic transformation in this story, and I believed every step of it. Like many others, I'm ready and waiting for the sequel (Insurgent), which comes out in May.
These should be enough to get you all tangled up in the emotional honesty and power of YA books.
See, once you've been in the YA section for a while, you won't be able to get away…
Er. I mean, welcome.