Feb 23 2011 9:00am

YA at Heart: More Picks for Adult Readers

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsAny reader interested in YA has probably already made his or her way through at least one of the holy triumvirate of adult crossover series by now, and maybe all of them: Harry Potter (where it began, and skewing younger at the beginning), Twilight (bring on the razzle-dazzle vampires), and The Hunger Games (survival skills fit to best both wizards and vampires). But deciding what to tackle besides or after these can be tough for adult readers with so many titles now packing the YA shelves. With that in mind, here’s a couple of my recent picks in a smattering of genres:


Beth RevisAcross  the Universe is a rare piece of YA fiction that takes place on a spaceship; stifle those groans, though. Revis brings a savvy, accessible sensibility to the story of Amy, woken from cryosleep to find herself aboard the ship Godspeed, and Elder, the only person her age on the very dysfunctional generation ship and its future leader. The plot draws on elements of mystery and thriller as the two develop a complicated relationship and team up to discover the ship’s secrets.

Recently named the winner of this year’s Printz Award, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker takes place in a world both familiar and foreign. In his projected future landscape, the Gulf Shore has become a sharp-edged nightmare of children scavenging for scrap on downed oil tankers, and the distance between the haves and have-nothings has only gotten worse. An adventure story at heart, the protagonist Nailer’s true journey begins when a rich girl, Nita, washes up on shore in a clipper ship, and he must decide how far he’s willing to go to help her.

Urban Fantasy/Paranormals

Holly Black’s new Curse Workers trilogy began with last year’s White Cat and continues with April’s Red Glove. In this compelling alternate version of our world, magic is real but only a small percentage of the population, known as curse workers, can perform it. Teen Cassel Sharpe has always wanted to be a worker, at least until his worker family drama threatens to steal his future and the girl he loves, Lila Zacharov. These fascinating, twisty novels bring a fresh take to such tried-and-true elements as the mafia, con artists, and magic itself.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s rollicking urban fantasy series kicked off with The Demon’s Lexicon, which introduces English brothers-on-the-run Nick and Alan Ryves. Hunted by magicians trying to get to their mother, the boys navigate a version of our world’s dark underbelly with such memorable features as a constantly moving market where one can dance to call up demons. Then there's wonderful heroine Mae and her brother, Jamie, who play even bigger roles in second installment The Demon’s Covenant, and, I suspect, will again in the forthcoming series’ conclusion, The Demon’s Surrender.

A Spy in the House by Y. S. LeeHistorical

Y.S. Lee’s historical mystery series, The Agency, kicked off with two releases last year, A Spy in the House and The Body at the Tower. Both follow Mary Quinn, a Victorian London orphan plucked from a sentence to the gallows and enrolled in a mysterious women’s school as a child. Now of age, she becomes an operative in a clandestine women’s detective agency, tackling a different assignment in each novel. Handsome young businessman James Easton couldn’t be less approving of her daredevilry, but he can’t seem to stay away from her, either.

Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel opens her new historical trilogy, The Infernal Devices, a prequel to the hugely popular The Mortal Instruments series, which is set in present-day New York. A perfect entry point for new readers into the world of Shadowhunters, Clare delivers a romantic, hilarious, gritty, and truly dark story, populated with typically memorable characters in heroine Tessa Gray and Shadowhunters Will and Jem, surrounded in a believably-conjured Victorian-era London.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsContemporary

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is definitely one of the most buzzed about debut realistic YAs in recent memory—and with good reason. An absolutely wonderful contemporary YA romance set at the School of America in Paris, it’s equal parts frothy and substantial. The title’s Anna, dreamy love interest Etienne St. Claire, and Anna's friends and family are brought to life with depth, insight, and honesty. Love stories that don’t give short shrift to the importance of friendship are difficult to find.

Another fabulous contemporary mix of froth and substance is Ally Carter’s Heist Society (which will be followed up with a sequel, Uncommon Criminals, later this year). Whip-smart Katarina Bishop has been framed and, as the daughter of a famous art thief who grew up in the life or not, ends up kicked out of boarding school. Childhood friend Hale shows up to give her a ride home, and the two are quickly drawn into a high-stakes, timezone-hopping caper with nothing less than her father’s life on the line.


Gwenda Bond writes YA fantasy, among other things, and can be found at Shaken & Stirred or on Twitter (@gwenda).

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Woo-hoo! *Thank you* for this post. I love YA (I'm actually reading Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER right now) and am always looking for new recs. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE will definitely be added to my TBR list--I was intrigued by reviews of it I saw on the other day and now with your review too I'm convinced it's worth checking out.
E Roths
2. E Roths
I was surprised by how much I liked Anna and the French Kiss. John Green (who wrote my favorite YA book, Looking For Alaska) vloged about it so I picked it up. It was funny and lighthearted yet real and sometimes raw. I can't wait for the next book. And if anyone in Heroes and Heartbreakers land has not read Looking for Alaska, RUN to your nearest bookstore.
Gwenda Bond
3. GwendaBond
Thanks for commenting, guys -- yay, good books.

LOVE Dessen's stuff, redline. Hope you enjoy Across the Universe.

E -- John Green's stuff is great, and I'm so glad he recced Anna because I think most of his readers would adore it. Another book I should have mentioned in the contemporary category, which you might also like, is Andrew Auseon's Freak Magnet. It's an unconventional love story with lots of heart and humor. V. smart, overlooked book.
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