As #IreadYA week wraps us, I thought I’d take a few quick seconds to share with you guys a little bit about this genre of literature, one of my favorites. For those of you who do not know, YA is the abbreviation among bibliophiles for books written to the Young Adult audience, that is, teenagers.
As someone who spent a number of years in youth ministry, I can say unabashedly that I love teenagers. That doesn’t mean I necessarily love all the stuff they do. I don’t really listen to music that teenagers like, and I certainly don’t dress like a 17-year-old (I hope!). So, while I could pretend that I fell in love with YA lit while I was reading for the sake of knowing what was popular with the kids in my youth group, that wouldn’t be the truth. (Although I did do some of that, too; it’s why I finally read Twilight.)
The truth is, I read YA books because I like them. It doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to find recommendations for the young adults I know, or because I’m stuck in that phase of my life or want to relive it. I just flat-out like these books. As a general rule, I find YA books easy to get caught up in, hard to put down. And that’s what I want out of a book. I read a lot of nonfiction and a lot of heftier novels, too, but if I go too long without reading something that completely captures me, a YA book is what I will most likely seek out.
If you’re an adult who reads YA fiction, you’re certainly not alone. The recent popularity of series like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent has not been exclusive to the teen market. Lots of adults are reading those books, too.
And if you don’t read YA books, but you like a good novel, you should give YA books a shot. Here are a few I’ve read in the last couple years that I would highly recommend:
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Back when I actually was a teenager, I read a whole bunch of books about kids who had cancer and other terminal diseases. My parents jokingly called them “morbid death books,” but I loved them. There was something cathartic about reading about honest pain and loss, and it put my own petty problems in perspective. John Green does a great job tackling real issues and real emotion in this excellent book about two sick kids who fall in love. I’ll warn you: it’s a tear-jerker, but it’s great. And there’s a movie adaptation coming out this summer!
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
This one has been around for awhile, and with good reason. I read it in junior high, and again last year. It’s a quick read, and a great story. If you love it, you should follow it up with When You Reach Me, another interesting YA take on time-travel that draws heavily from A Wrinkle In Time.
The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson
I don’t want to give too much away about this one, but it’s about a girl studying abroad in London who finds herself caught up in events related to an at-large Jack the Ripper copycat. It’s a compelling, page-turning mystery, with plenty of interesting history about one of England’s most notorious killers.
Roger and Amy’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
This book was nominated for the 2012-2013 Gateway Reader’s Award (a Missouri distinction bestowed by high school readers), and with good reason. I couldn’t put this book down. I loved the story of the relationship Roger and Amy forge during the miles they log together, maybe because I could relate to it so well, since a road trip was the catalyst for my own love story with Jason. The book is also visually interesting, with playlists and receipts and maps from th’ road trip tucked between each chapter. This would be a great read to take on vacation this summer.
The Trouble with Flirting, Claire LaZebnik
This book is modern, YA retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I read it immediately after finishing Mansfield Park a couple of months ago, and really enjoyed it. Claire LaZebnik does a great job of bringing the same love triangles and friendship issues into a contemporary context, but she’ll keep you guessing about how the story is going to end. I haven’t yet had a chance to read Epic Fail, her take on Pride & Prejudice, but I’m looking forward to getting to it this summer. If this kind of book is up your alley, I also keep hearing great things about Dear Mr. Knightley. If you’ve read either, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
Warning on this one: it contains some language, and plenty of references to drugs, alcohol, and sex. But probably no more so than any movie that depicts a particularly brutal group of popular high school girls, which is what this book is about. The narrator, Samantha Kingston, dies at the very beginning of the book. Then, in Groundhog-Day fashion, she keeps reliving her last day over and over again. This book is brutally honest about how cruel teenagers can be to each other, but it has a redemptive message, and is definitely worth reading.