10 Writers of Companion Novels for YA Fans
Some readers stick loyally to a series while others prefer stand-alone novels, but companion novels can be a good fit somewhere in the middle - the fresh feel of a new story with the comfort of connecting characters. Here are 10 authors whose characters pop up in different stories.
1. J.D. Salinger
Salinger’s Glass family featured in several of his stories. Tavi Gevinson mentioned in her keynote speech for the Melbourne Writers Festival this year that one of the influential books in her life was Franny and Zooey, which brought back great memories for me as I adored this book as a teen. 20-year-old Frances “Franny” Glass appears in ‘Franny’, a short story first published in 1955, while her older brother Zachary “Zooey” Glass appears in the novella ‘Zooey’, which first came out in 1957. The two were published as a collection in 1961.
2. S.E. Hinton
Hinton’s ever-popular YA novels contain common themes, settings and characters. The famous Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders pops up again in That Was Then, This Is Now. There are plenty of other connections between The Outsiders, That Was Then, This Is Now, Rumble Fish, Tex and Taming the Star Runner, published between 1967 and 1988.
3. Melina Marchetta
Thomas Mackee from much-loved Australian novel Saving Francesca, published in 2003, demanded his own story years later and got one in The Piper’s Son (2010). I read The Piper’s Son first. I was vaguely aware while I was reading it that there was another story I needed to know but it works very well as a stand-alone. Superb writing.
4. Jaclyn Moriarty
I’m a Jaclyn Moriarty fan-girl from way back. Her ability to make connections between things that at first seemed insignificant always surprises me, and her connecting characters are also a firm feature. The Ashbury/Brookfield books can be read in any order. The main character in her first novel, Feeling Sorry For Celia is Elizabeth Clarry, who also appears in minor roles in all the other books: Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie and Dreaming of Amelia.
5. Fiona Wood
Here’s another Australian author who has very successfully, but subtly, connected her two novels. In Six Impossible Things (2010), we meet a set of young teens, and by the time we get to Wildlife (2013) something terrible has happened to one of them and a completely new story takes place which partly involves the fall-out of this tragedy. Again, they can be read completely independently of each other.
6. Sarah Dessen
This popular US author makes lots of connections between her books in terms of locations (waffle shops and bars) but also characters. For example, Macy and Wes from The Truth About Forever also pop up in a scene in Just Listen. I bet someone, somewhere has written up every single interconnection.
7. Katie McGarry
Relative newcomer Katie McGarry has had huge success in the US with her YA romance novels, which each focus on a different couple. For example, the romance in Pushing the Limits is between Echo and Noah, but Beth who is also a character in that book is the girl who gets the guy in Dare You To.
8. Stephanie Perkins
Teenage girls who loved Anna and the French Kiss were thrilled to see the main characters pop up again in the companion title Lola and the Boy Next Door, and will get to enter that world again soon in Isla and the Happily Ever After.
9. Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity is about the friendship between two British women during WW2 and was published last year to critical acclaim. Published just this week is Rose Under Fire, about a girl who is sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1944 and also features the two girls from Code Name Verity, a year on.
10. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Okay, I cheated, the last one isn’t strictly YA…but you’re never too old for picture books and this set of connections is really cute.
The most famous Donaldson/Scheffler book is of course The Gruffalo, but what only true fans know is that in every other book they’ve collaborated on a gruffalo has been placed somewhere unexpected. For example, in Tabby McTat, a child in a pushchair is holding a toy gruffalo. There are gruffalo biscuits and gruffalo graffiti in other books. All this brings me a lot of joy. And the kids, I mean, the kids! I’m sure they like it too.
Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time.