As a child of immigrant parents, my reading list was not limited to any specific type of genre; my parents were just happy that their oldest child pushed hard to overcome her dyslexia by reading so much. Growing up I loved comic books and science fiction — the escape to other worlds was wonderful for a kid who had difficulty reading and didn’t have much. I still enjoy reading today, and I love that there has been a rise in reading for all age groups, whether through e-books, audiobooks or your traditional paper copies.
If you’re looking to add to your reading list, the young adult section is a great place to start. The content themes can actually be pretty deep, with many of them featuring dystopian worlds, most likely as a way to speak about the conflicts in the world around us and to teach us lessons about past, present and future. Sometimes there’s a pretty fine line between what’s considered YA and what’s considered a novel for adult audiences.
If you don’t know where to start, these are the YA books I recommend you SHOULD read (or reread) as an adult.
*Content warning: some of the following books include themes of sexual violence, perceived unwanted sexual advances, animal cruelty, and death.*
Forever by Judy Blume
“Forever” is a highly controversial book for young adults. It’s a candid read about what is going on in the minds of teenagers when it comes to sex, masturbation, birth control and relationships. I loved seeing a well-developed character who is smart and responsible, and the nostalgia of first relationships and experiences is what makes this a great read. We all experience that first love but eventually experience more of the world and discover that there are other people we might be more compatible with.
Starting from $1.45 from Alibris
Feed by M.T Anderson
If you are looking for a futuristic American world with overtones of corporate exploitation, young relationships, changing the environment and, yes, brain implants, pick up this book. One of the reasons I find this book so interesting is how ingrained technology is in our culture, where toddlers have dedicated iPads and 56% of kids ages 8-12 have their own cell phones. Although an implant is a common theme in many shows and movies, how far off is this in real life?
Starting from $0.99 at Alibris
Blankets By Craig Thompson
This autobiographical graphic novel is a wonderful story of the author’s childhood through young adulthood in an Evangelical Christian family. Being raised in a very strict religious household, I can relate to this journey. While religion plays a role in this relationship with family and meeting his first love, the story is really about questioning one’s self. I think we have all questioned the direction we are going or the relationships we have.
Starting from $17.22 from Alibris
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This book gave me some great insight on what Asperger’s Syndrome is and what people with this condition might be going through. The major plot arch involves 15-year-old Christopher, who lives with his father after his mother dies, while investigating the death of his neighbor’s dog. It proves a difficult task for him due to his limitations in interpreting the world around him, his emotions and people he comes into contact with. The book also explores themes of familial relationships as Christopher discovers a family secret involving his parents.
Reading the perspective of a teen who cannot clearly verbally express his feelings is an eye-opening experience. As parents, we often feel overwhelmed with daily responsibilities and don’t always realize we might be asking too much of our children. I have definitely been guilty of that. For a YA book, the message of understanding the complicated thoughts of your children is brilliant.
Starting from $3.46 from Alibris
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Content Warning: Sexual Assault
This book is about how Melinda deals with the trauma of her rape with some very descriptive scenes of sexual violence. She is wounded and chooses not to speak, although her silence speaks volumes. While working through her trauma, she also faces embarrassment, shyness, bad grades, cliques, backstabbing friends, and, eventually, having to face her rapist. While some of the content is not suitable for younger readers, there are moments to learn from. While Melinda faced her struggles alone, there is always help, and that is a powerful message for readers of any age.
Starting from $5.76 from Alibris
The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman
Bod lives in a graveyard and was raised by ghosts. If that doesn’t hook you, I’m not sure what will. For those who are not a huge fan of fantasy, this slightly macabre book makes you want to keep reading to figure out just what happens next. The extremely deliberate parallels with Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” are also fun and exciting. The mixing of mythology and folklore with modern settings is exciting for readers who love adventure and a mix of old and new, and the character development in this book is fantastic.
Starting from $4.43 from Alibris
Night by Elie Wiesel
“I believe it’s important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.” Elie Wiesel, “Night.”
“Night” is one of those books that stays with you as a young adult. It details the horror of Nazi Germany at the height of the Holocaust, which for many of us is a distant event in history. Although there are clearly still remnants of segregation and disdain for people, cultures, and religions, the horror that is encapsulated from this time in history seems foreign.
This is the only book that’s ever really made me cry. There’s a passage in which a son murders his own father over a piece of bread, and the Nazis were so amused by this that they started hurling bread in the cars to incite more violence. I absolutely wailed after that scene and couldn’t pick the book back up for a long while.
Starting from $4.20 from Alibris
Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
There has been a lot of debate over whether “Ready Player One” is really a science fiction book. I see this book as simple, fun and enjoyable for what it is — a plot-driven novel without much depth. It’s such a fast-moving story that any flaws you might notice are easily dismissed while you’re reading the adventure. There are also a ton of fun 80’s pop culture references strewn throughout, so if you don’t know what Vulcans, Atari or Space Invaders are, then you might be a little out of the loop.
Starting from $9.29 from Alibris
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Following the gruesome murder of his grandfather by an unknown creature, Jacob follows clues left behind in his grandfather’s old photographs, leading him to an abandoned orphanage on an island. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book (the first in a three-part series) is the author’s personal collection of vintage photographs, which help tell the story of the “peculiar” children and the monsters they must evade. Equal parts creepy and eccentric, I was delighted to see that Tim Burton signed on to direct the film adaptation. I’ll re-read the entire series all over again before the film comes out Christmas 2016.
Starting from $4.40 from Alibris
Many of these books have been challenged or banned do you think there is a good reason to for younger readers? What do you think is pushing the boundaries for YA, challenged or banned books? What’s your favorite YA book? Give us your recommendation!