The Young Adult section is full of brilliant books that often get passed over as 'just for kids'. Here are some examples that prove YA is for everyone, young and old.
Back in 2009 the Readings’ Kids Buyers were shown a Young Adult book by our Scholastic rep, who said she highly recommended it. She told us it was about a group of kids who fought to the death in a series of televised games. As a Battle Royale fan, I thought it sounded interesting but a little too similar to the cult Japanese film/book/manga series which also features a teenage killfest, so it wasn’t at the top of my reading pile.
When I finally did pick it up, I didn’t put it down again until I’d finished it at 3am the next morning. This was, of course, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
Thanks to the publicity from the movie, and word of mouth, nearly everyone has heard of this amazing dystopian trilogy now, but once upon a time things were a lot different. When it first came out I remember trying to handsell it to adults as well as teens, only to be rebuffed. Now when I see business men in suits reading The Hunger Games on the tram, I can’t help but smile. It’s only right that this excellent book finds as wide an audience as possible.
Thankfully, the publicity for the Hunger Games has helped everyone discover how good it is, but that’s not to say it’s the only Young Adult book worthy of a wider audience. Often adult readers will dismiss any fiction that comes from a section with ‘Young’ as a prefix, but there are many books within the genre that are so brilliant they can be enjoyed by readers who are well beyond their teenage years.
One of these is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Todd lives in a world where everyone’s thoughts can be heard all the time, and women have died out. One day he hears something he’s never heard before: silence. When he goes to investigate, he finds something he thought was lost forever. Now he’s being chased out of town, and he has to run to survive.
If there’s one word that can be used to describe the Chaos Walking trilogy, it’s epic. Make sure you read it before the Andy Kaufman-directed film adaptation comes out.
Speaking of film adaptations, I can’t talk about YA books for adult readers and not mention His Dark Materials. Book one, Northern Lights, was made into the awful film The Golden Compass, and unfortunately this is most people’s first and last encounter with the series. If you’re one of these people, please, PLEASE don’t be put off reading the books.
This series is so ambitious in its scope, and manages to discuss themes as wide-ranging as parallel universes, dark matter, original sin and the existence of God. This is one of the most original trilogies I’ve ever encountered and deserves to be read by everyone.
I’m an adult who reads a lot of YA, but I tend to steer clear of teen relationship books because, well, being an angsty teenager was terrible enough once without having to relive it. However, there are exceptions to this, and they mostly come from the pen of John Green. The brilliant author of Nerdfighters fame manages to nail the teen relationship category without ever being cringe-worthy or unrealistic.
On the contrary, these books are equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, and you could pick up any John Green novel and be swept away. Everybody has their favourite – mine is Paper Towns, but perhaps yours will be Looking for Alaska or The Fault in our Stars?
Those are just three to get you going, but hopefully once you’ve devoured those you’ll be a believer. And luckily for you, there are so many young adult books that have adult appeal that you’ll be able to keep reading until you’re old and grey (or even if you already are!).
Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller at Readings Carlton where she organises the kids and Young Adult enews'. She also writes books for younger readers under the name H.J. Harper. Find out more about her Star League and Bureau of Mysteries series here.