Was that you I just saw at Walgreens, stocking up on Visine, coffee beans, and pretzel sticks? (And was that a stadium pal hiding behind your back?) We’re all preparing for our Orange Is the New Black bingewatch in different ways (season 3 hits Netflix tomorrow!), but we know we’re going to end up in the same place: despondent and twitchy, unsure how to fill the void of hot prison action (we’re talking social, emotional, psychological AND sexual action, of course) left in our lives between the end of season 3 and the eventual launch of season 4. Here are 6 recommended YA reads for OITNB fans, to add to your shelf for when the watching is done.
The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
Dubbed “Orange Is the New Black Swan,” Suma’s latest is the first place you should turn to when you’ve exhausted season three. Two girls speak in this twisting, dreamlike novel, but three girls’ stories are told. There’s Violet, a high-strung, high-achieving ballerina whose triumph has a bitter edge, and Amber, an incarcerated juvenile delinquent whose life line is the prison library—and who the other inmates consider the only innocent in lockup. They’re linked by their relationship with Oriana, Violet’s former best friend and Amber’s juvie roommate. What Oriana did, what Violet’s hiding, and what Amber knows weave together in a time-hopping, supernatural narrative that gets under your skin and settles there. Suma times her tale’s reveals in a series of growing detonations, leading to a genuinely haunting conclusion.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes
Following her escape from the polygamous cult her parents joined when she was small—an escape that came at the cost of her amputated hands, and followed the torching of the cult’s land—Minnow Bly commits a random, violent assault that lands her in juvie. But for Minnow, incarceration offers more freedom than she’s ever known. Through learning to read, the tutelage of her lifer roommate, and the opportunity, for the first time, to tend to her inner life, Minnow begins to learn about the world she’s been kept from—and starts to want to actually live.
Something Like Hope, by Shawn Goodman
One of OITNB’s more eye-opening subplots is the release and almost immediate reincarceration of Taystee. In the changed world outside prison, she has nowhere to go, nobody to count on, and no help from the system in making a reentry plan—so it’s no surprise when she finds herself locked in a vicious cycle of recidivism. Something Like Hope‘s Shavonne, daughter of a junkie mom, has been locked up since junior high, and the approach of her 18th birthday and freedom fills her with fear. A new therapist opens her up to self-knowledge, empathy, and even hope, in a world where caring too much can be used to destroy you—but she still has to survive the vengeful inmates and sadistic guards standing between her and a life outside.
The Knife and the Butterfly, by Ashley Hope Pérez
This surreal prison-set story has an irresistibly eerie hook: Azael comes to after a brawl with a rival Houston gang to find himself locked up, again—but this time there’s no phone call and no lawyer. Instead, he’s forced to watch a young white woman, fellow detainee Lexi, undergo therapy sessions through two-way glass, in the hopes that observing her will jog his buried memories about what happened before he was knocked out. As he learns more about Lexi, Azael—the son of a deceased mother and a deported Salvadoran father—starts sensing spiritual similarities between their lives, even as he attempts to suss out the real-life connection that has led to their shared imprisonment.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth
Cameron Post wades through a lot of misery to find her joy, starting with the sudden death of her beloved parents. That they’re killed in an accident right after Cameron starts acting on her feelings for her best friend, Irene, makes her believe the world is punishing her for being gay. She tries to walk a lonely path to avoid the cold eye of the universe, but intriguing cowgirl Coley threatens her resolve—until a betrayal leads to Cameron’s banishment to a “de-gayification” camp. There she learns how to follow the rules of a closed society intent on brainwashing her into submission, including the most important one: how to hold onto the kernel of who you are, even as you’re doing what you must to go under the radar and survive.
Between Shades of Grey, by Ruta Sepetys
The women of OITNB’s Litchfield Penitentiary do anything they can to survive intact, whether it’s ruling their small corner of the prison plot with an iron fist, sneaking a tryst whenever in the chapel, or losing themselves in books. In Stalin’s Siberian prison camps in 1941, under unimaginably horrific circumstances, Between Shades of Grey‘s Lina loses herself in her art. After she, her brother, and her mother are deported out of the blue by Soviet soldiers, drawing isn’t just a means of mental survival: it’s a way to let her father know—if her pictures ever reach him—that his family is still alive.