There are plenty of young adult books that have crossover appeal—particularly those with adventure and romance. But there are too many adult readers who pass over the best of teen lit because of the "YA" label. Do yourself a favor—ignore the fact that you're in the "Teen Reads" section of the bookstore, and you just may discover some insightful stories with emotional resonance and gorgeous prose.
Here are a handful of teen books from this year (and a few coming soon!) that adults need to read:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
"Anyone who has had a broken heart and sifted through the detritus left behind will find Min’s collection extremely relatable. If that’s not you yet, just wait; Why We Broke Up is a beautiful story, but also soul food for dark times. Don’t miss it." Read more of our review and our interview with Handler.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Mention excellent YA books this year, and this is always at the top of lists. It should be considered one of the best books of the year, period. Read our interview with Green.
In Darkness by Nick Lake
The overlapping tales of Shorty, trapped beneath the rubble of a hospital during the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and Toussaint L’Ouverture, the real slave who set Haitians free from the French, make this one much more than just a teen book. "Let this incredible novel initiate a call for action." Read more of our review.
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
The mass killing during the Khmer Rouge’s overthrow of Cambodia in 1975 is relatively forgotten in the history of genocide, but this one fits right in with several August fiction titles that delve into Cambodian history (such as In the Shadow of the Banyan). National Book Award finalist McCormick's YA version is just as gripping. Read our review.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
"Elizabeth Wein’s astonishing new World War II novel is a reminder of the power historical fiction can have in the hands of an accomplished author. Set in Great Britain and occupied France both before and during the war, Code Name Verity is . . . likely to find a home on the shelves of teens and adults alike." Read more of our review.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
"Debut novelist Rachel Hartman has created a unique and imaginative fantasy kingdom. Her world-building is so detailed and well-integrated, each character and place so well-drawn, one wonders if they truly exist somewhere. . . Seraphina is an engaging and innovative fantasy that uses the plights of dragons and humans as an allegory for the real prejudices we all must face." Read more of our review.
Small Damages by Beth Kephart
A pregnant teen is sent away to a bull farm in southern Spain, where she is to live out her pregnancy and give the child to a Spanish couple. The writing in this one glows just as much as the imagery of the Spanish countryside. Watch for an interview with Kephart in our August issue.
Every Day by David Levithan (out 8/28)
You could call this one a story of teen love. But the tale of A, who wakes up every day in a different teen boy or girl's body, and the girl A loves is so much more than that. No other book this year has so holistically captured every possible crisis a teen can face. This may be Levithan's best yet.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (out 9/11)
Two-time Printz Honor winner Lanagan has created a vibrant, ferocious and romantic mythology, filled with witches, seal-women and a commanding coastal setting. The writing is so good, it would seem that these legends have always existed.
What would you add? Which 2012 teen books belong on every adult's TBR list?
Valentine's Day, Schmalentine's Day. Inspired by Daniel Handler's new novel, Why We Broke Up, I decided to come up with a list of books to read if you just ended a romantic relationship.
Why We Broke Up, a 2012 Printz Honor Book and BookPage's Children's Top Pick for January, is the story of a breakup told through the items Minerva collected while she was dating Ed. In BookPage, Heather Seggel described it as "a beautiful story, but also soul food for dark times."
What is your soul food for dark times? Let us know in the comments. (And share your own breakup stories on the Why We Broke Up Tumblr page!)
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (Harper)
This deliciously long novel makes for excellent reading if you're going through a breakup—or if you're still looking for The One—because it shows you how life can change in a single moment. (So perk up, why don't you—who knows who you're going to run into on that subway!)
Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (Random House)
Some people might think I'm crazy for recommending this tearjerker to a person going through a breakup, but I have my reasons: This is an engrossing story of a powerful friendship between two women, and it can be refreshing to read a book that portrays a meaningful, non-romantic relationship. The memoir is about how Caldwell became friends with Caroline Knapp, and what happens after Caroline is diagnosed with terminal cancer (no spoilers; you know from page one). I don't think I've ever cried so hard during a book, so if you're looking for catharsis . . .
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (FSG)
From A-Z, The Lover's Dictionary tells the story of a relationship through dictionary entries. (Example: Fluke (n.), “The date before the one with you had gone so badly—egotist, smoker, bad breath—that I’d vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth.”) It'll make you feel wistful, sad and hopeful about the search for love.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (Simon & Schuster)
Jennifer Weiner's debut novel had its 10th anniversary in the spring of 2011, and it's just as funny and empowering as ever. What happens when a guy breaks up with a girl—and then writes a magazine column called "Loving a Larger Woman"? If anything, this hilarious book will make you feel good your ex didn't go to a national mag with your story (let's hope). More than likely, it'll make you feel happy to have a new friend in heroine Cammie Shapiro.
MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche (Ballantine)
This memoir is about a 20-something woman who moved to Chicago to be with her husband, then realized she was missing an important slice of the pie of her life: a best friend. If you're sick of reading about romantic dates, you'll love this heartfelt and charming story of the search for true friends. (And hey, if you don't have the perfect significant other, maybe you'll remember that a BFF is pretty darn significant in its own right.)
What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman (St. Martin's)
The title here says it all. These funny (and eye roll-inducing) bad boyfriend stories will remind you that you're not the only one who's had a lightbulb moment that made you realize he's just not Mr. Perfect. You'll no doubt start to think of your own breakup story as fodder for happy hour with your best friend—not cause for agony.
Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: By Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith (Harper Perennial)
Perhaps your breakup will lead to creative expression: How would you describe your breakup in six words? The examples here range from the sweet and sad ("She owns my heart, always will") to the funny and terrifying ("He posted our sex tape online").
Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics by Michael Barson (Harper)
Because sometimes love is agonizing and that's just the way it is. We interviewed Michael Barson about his book on 1940s and 1950s romance comics, and my favorite answer responded to the question: Is love always agonizing? He says, "In my experience, yes. Because if it isn’t you that’s doing the agonizing, then the other person probably is. The real question is, would we really have it any other way? The empirical evidence of the past 100 years suggests the answer is no."
What's not to love? His books are hilarious. Even though I'm not a teacher, a librarian or a parent, I have been a camp counselor and a big sister to a tween (a long time ago)—and I've seen how readers giggle as they turn the pages, then demand the next book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. (How many arguments did my tween sister and I have over which was better: Harry Potter or Unfortunate Events?)
So I am very excited to share that Lemony Snicket's "authorized autobiographical account of his childhood" will come out on October 23, with a first printing of one million copies. This will be part one of four. The first book is called Who Could That Be at This Hour?.
In a funny press release from publisher Little, Brown, there's a quote from Snicket himself: "These books are questionable and contain questions. I, for one, question why anyone would be interested in reading them.”
Are you excited about reading Who Could That Be at This Hour? What's your favorite Snicket book?
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Snicket's "representative," Daniel Handler, about his Printz Honor Book, Why We Broke Up. Read about one star-struck editor's experience of meeting Handler at ALA.
Earlier this week we posted about this year's Youth Media Awards, and since then we've been lucky enough to interview two of the honorees!
First up: Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, talks to us about Why We Broke Up, an "intoxicating, melancholy meditation on love" that is even more special for its illustrations by Maira Kalman. In the interview, Handler discusses writing from a teenage girl's perspective, collaborating with the talented Kalman and why he won't reveal his own worst breakup. Why We Broke Up received a Printz Honor. Read more here.
John Corey Whaley, a 28-year-old debut novelist (and former schoolteacher) probably had the best day of his life earlier this week when Where Things Come Back was honored with the Printz Award. In his enthusiastic interview, Whaley tells us about how he reacted to this incredible news, how he came to write this story and what he's working on next. This book is of special interest to me because it takes place in Arkansas, and one of the themes is the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker! (As a native Arkansan, I have gone searching for this very bird in the Big Woods.) Read more about Whaley and his Printz Award-winning novel here.
Finally, I know that not all of our readers are children's book enthusiasts, but both of these novels definitely have "crossover" appeal—the stories are universal, the writing is superb and you don't have to be 14 to connect with the characters.
We featured both of these interviews—as well as 10+ other book recommendations—in this morning's edition of Children's Corner. Click here if you'd like to sign up for the enewsletter.
Will you be checking out these novels? What teen books do you think will appeal most to adult readers?
Fans of kid lit look forward to the Youth Media Awards every year, in which the American Library Association announces the year's best children's book authors and illustrators in a variety of categories. This morning, the awards were announced in Dallas.
You can read the full list of winners here. The list includes many BookPage favorites; here's a sampling:
John Newbery Medal ("for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature"):
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (FSG)
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins)
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (Holt)
Blackout, written & illustrated by John Rocco, (Disney-Hyperion)
Grandpa Green, written & illustrated by Lane Smith ( Roaring Brook Press)
Me . . . Jane, written & illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (Little, Brown)
The Returning by Christine Hinwood (Dial Books)
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Knopf)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press)
Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award ("recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults"):
Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Balzer + Bray)
Coretta Scott King (Author) Honors:
Eloise Greenfield, author of The Great Migration: Journey to the North (Amistad)
Patricia C. McKissack, author of Never Forgotten (Schwartz & Wade Books)
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
Shane W. Evans, author & illustrator Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom (Roaring Brook Press)
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honor:
Kadir Nelson, author & illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Balzar + Bray)
Do you have a favorite from this bunch? Were you surprised by any of the annoucements?
Handler was at ALA to promote his upcoming collaboration with artist Maira Kalman, Why We Broke Up (Little, Brown), which currently holds the title of my favorite book published in January 2012. I have never been so entertained watching an author sign books before: Handler took time to joke with everyone, interrogating the woman in front of me about the man whose heart she broke most recently and teasing me about the illegible handwriting on the Post-It that was supposed to show him how to spell my name. In short, he talks with the same freewheeling charm he displays in his books.
Later, Handler read from Why We Broke Up, interrupting himself with hilarious asides. Told through letters that teenaged Min writes to her ex-boyfriend, Ed, after their breakup, Why We Broke Up attempts to answer that unanswerable question by telling the stories behind objects Min has collected over the course of her relationship with Ed. Handler mentioned after the reading that he liked writing about teenagers because "everything's more interesting when it happens to a teenage girl." (He added that he meant that in the least inappropriate way possible.)
Handler is no stranger to writing about teenagers (his first novel, The Basic Eight) or love (the excellent novel-in-stories Adverbs). Here's a section of the first chapter of Why We Broke Up:
The thunk is the box, Ed. This is what I am leaving you. I found it down in the basement, just grabbed the box when all of our things were too much for my bed stand drawer. Plus I thought my mom would find some of the things, because she’s a snoop for my secrets. So it all went into the box and the box went into my closet with some shoes on top of it I never wear. Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb.