YA books are great, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of reading them. They’re exciting and full of big emotion (remember how it felt to be a teen?), and most of them hinge on fast-paced plotting that can keep the attention of even the most reluctant teenaged reader. If you’re not already adding them to your list, you should be. Here are some incredible suggestions to start your life as an AYAR (Adult YA Reader):
Coraline: This short, suspenseful gem of creepy magical realism proves that no one does it better than Neil Gaiman. Coraline’s a smart, pragmatic heroine, always thinking several steps ahead. When she finds a mysterious door in her house, she unlocks it to find a complete replica of her own house and life, except four hundred percent better. Her parents are fun and attentive, her toys all come to life, and the food is delicious. But things that are too good to be true can become horrifying fast. Coraline’s “parents” have black buttons for eyes, and the more her “mother” gets attached to her, the more she wants to replace Coraline’s own eyes with buttons, keeping her in the mirror world forever. Coraline has to use her guile to outsmart the mirror mother and to save not only her own life, but the other children trapped in the alternative world. Eeesh, shiver city! You’ll love it.
Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series: Brilliant million-dollar idea: fake book covers. Hear me out! I’m talking about really simple book-sock type things that can be strapped around paperbacks. (Reading on a NOOK would also solve this problem.) I suggest this because the covers of Louise Rennison’s series The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson tend to feature way too many cats and bras, which might shame you out of reading them on the train. But you’d be missing out! Rennison is a hilarious Brit who truly, painfully remembers what it is to be fourteen, thus providing a never-ending fountain of mirth and misery. Her protagonist, Georgia, is the swoony, hand-on-forehead type: she cares about boys to the point of exhaustion, but never compromises her wit, her Frenglish (French and English) conversational style, or her love for her terrifying cat, Angus. Told in a style similar to Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, but much less cringe-inducing, these books are smart and LOL-worthy.
His Dark Materials: Feeling like you’re too late to the party on this one? Does it seem like the fans of these fantastical, rich books have known about them forever, and like you should already have chosen a side in the war that’s been raging in Philip Pullman’s parallel universe? Well, it’s never too late to jump in! In Pullman’s world, people’s souls take the form of shapeshifting, talking animals called daemons. Awesome. Lyra, our orphan-protagonist, is a diamond in the rough, whisked out of her simple life to become the focus of a war between the heavens and the earths. This trilogy faced harsh criticism for depicting religious zealotry as a deeply dangerous and controlling thing, but this controversy doesn’t overtake the series’ other themes. Reading the books is a nonstop thrill ride, something that’s more often said about movies but is totally appropriate here.
Fade: If you’ve read The Chocolate War, you know that Robert Cormier’s work is dark. Like, really dark. Fade is seven or eight steps past “dark,” and well into enthralling, riveting, sad, and shocking, with a touch of “WHAT?!” Every time you close the book, it will be slowly, and with wide eyes, but it’s worth it. Here’s why: as a teen, Paul Moreaux discovers he has the power to “fade”—aka become invisible—a gift that is passed down from uncle to nephew. He is first terrified and then empowered by his new ability, until it reveals to him things that no teen should ever witness: murder, incest, and his inner monster. For any normal person, coming of age is confusing (and even scary) enough, but Paul’s development is completely arrested and controlled by the power of fade. Halfway through, the book’s perspective switches to the next victim of fade: Paul’s nephew, who is, if possible, even less suited than Paul to manage his power.
What’s your favorite YA book for all ages?