When I reviewed The Sharp Time last week, I mentioned that it would be a great gateway young adult novel for people who avoid the YA category. While it’s debateable whether or not that particular novel is a YA or not, I got to thinking about what would be good gateway YAs—particularly contemporary YA, which is near and dear to my heart.
Here are three suggestions (all Printz honorees, which helps your case for reluctant adult YA readers) for contemporary YAs you can trick your friends into reading, taking both plot and cover artwork into consideration (because let’s admit it, some people will never read a book if the cover screams, “I’m a teen book!!!”)
Looking for Alaska, John Green
John Green’s 2006 debut is one I shove in people’s hands all the time when I hear the words, “There’s no way I’d read a book for kids.” While the boarding school setting may turn a few folks off (because YA characters attend boarding school at a far higher rate than normal kids), the dark, literary-looking cover should cancel out any boarding school phobias. Plus, the main character, last words-obsessed Miles, is a fantastic narrator who’s equally angsty and clever. I’m yet to force anyone to read this one who’s regretted the time spent reading it.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King
Vera is one of my must-reads. PIVD is ridiculously sad, heartbreaking really, as the secrets and pain related to Vera’s childhood friend’s death eat away at her. But, it’s not all doom and gloom as the story unfolds, there’s plenty of humor and wildly creative writing, especially in the brief chapters which shift perspective from Vera’s first-person narration to that of her father, her dead friend and even a pagoda in her hometown. The narration also shifts timeframes, so it’s a challenge to piece together all the circumstances (and this is a good thing). It’s a challenging, wonderful read that will change people’s perceptions of YA lit.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
Some folks really dislike the popular first-person narration in young adult fiction, so Frankie will appease the folks who prefer third-person narration. This is a smart novel, full of hijinks and commentary about gender dynamics. It’s also written in a very unique voice, and the writing itself is more sophisticated that you see in a lot of fiction, adult or YA. You’re going to have to search for the old hardcover edition, as the new edition is afflicted with the dreaded teenage torso.
Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
Let’s all bow down to the Queen of Aussie YA and pay homage to her complex and beautiful novel, Jellico Road—one of my favorite all-time reads. The cover is a smidgen more YA-ified than I’d like for a gateway read, but it’s tolerable. This is one of those books that I always fail at describing, because the plot is so incredibly unusual. But, it’s an incredibly intense novel about family and love and connection. (After your victim reads and loves this one, give them Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son—the U.S. covers are too horrid for YA initiation candidacy.)
Are you a YA book pusher? What do you force encourage reluctant adult readers to check out in the contemporary YA category?