Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sunday November 4, 2012 Young Adult Books Fit for Adults

In my last column I spoke about adult authors who were branching out into writing for a teen audience. At the same time, there is a growing audience of adults who are reading titles classified as young adult. Often it is the “big” titles like The Hunger Games that successfully cross over, but there are many other YA books that are worthy of a wider audience. Quite a few older books that have attained classic status would be classified as “young adult” if published today, so you might be missing some amazing reads just because they are in a different section! These selected authors and titles could appeal to readers of all ages, despite the Young Adult sticker on their spines.

If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, you might enjoy Beverley Brenna’s books about 18-year-old Taylor Jane Simon, a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome. Taylor struggles and triumphs like any young adult, but also copes with feelings of isolation and having a different perspective than the rest of the world. The first book in the trilogy, Wild Orchid, is also a ‘book club in a bag’ title.

Libba Bray writes both historical fantasies and realistic fiction and incorporates satire, absurdist touches, and feminist characters into her works. She moves easily between very different styles, as her Going Bovine has been compared to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while and The Diviners, her most recent work, is set in 1920’s New York and features flappers, a mystery, and the occult.

If thrillers and suspense are more your thing, try April Henry’s YA work. The Night She Disappeared is a tense mystery about a young woman kidnapped while making a pizza delivery. The narration moves between the kidnapped girl, her coworkers, and the kidnapper, ratcheting up the tension as the kidnapper reflects on his past crimes and what he plans to do to his current victim. Stolen is another tense thriller that is almost entirely composed of interactions between just two characters: the kidnapper and the kidnapped who slowly comes to wonder whether she is being held hostage by a psychopath or her soul mate.

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a realistic and painful account of two terminal teenagers finding love together, and his other books are similarly emotionally compelling. First loves and the disillusionment that comes with it is a constant theme. Despite the heavy topics, his books are also witty and compelling.

If you enjoy noir mysteries, you might like You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin or Nickel Plated by Aric Davis. Both books feature hard-boiled teen detectives solving cases with red herrings, femme fatales, and the constraint of being mostly ignored by the adults in authority. Despite their external similarities, the content of the books is very different: while Payne has plenty of dark humour, Nickel Plated has an overall dark tone with painful, tough content despite its often funny dialogue and shout-outs to classic noir authors like Raymond Chandler.

Finally, A.S. King is an unusual writer in the YA arena in that she uses magic realism in her otherwise realistic stories (a sentient pagoda reflects on the book’s action in Please Ignore Vera Dietz). Her strong yet flawed female heroines are full of unrealized potential and yearning, and the intricate plots and dark humour make her books especially enjoyable reads.

Laura Prinselaar

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