By Diane Parfitt
Young Adult (YA) novels are not just for the young! While many of these books target teens from 12 to 18 years old, they are also appropriate for readers up to age 25. But how many adults in their older years have read Harry Potter, The Hunger Games or the Twilight series? I have and, I must say, I’ve found them captivating and well worth my reading time. There are several others such as The Fault in Our Stars, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Book Thief that are on many young reader’s lists as well as adult book club lists. In fact, 55% of YA books are sold to adults.
How to define a Young Adult book? Generally, there is an adolescent protagonist who will face significant difficulties and who will experience growth as a character over the course of the novel. Often called coming-of-age books, these novels may blur the lines of rigidly-defined literary fiction. They are written to appeal to young adults, often favoring their language, issues, and mannerisms. For older adults reading these books, it gives us an opportunity to encounter diverse protagonists and situations that we will never experience (not being a teenager again, thank goodness) but which allows us to empathize with them.
In addition to the above YA books we may have all heard of or read, there are several more that would appeal to older readers. For parents, this can be an opportunity to read and discuss a book that your own YA is also reading.
If you liked All the Light We Cannot See, this historical fiction set in East Prussia during WWII will be equally readable. Based on the true-life tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, this is a story of adults and children struggling together to save each other.
This may be more appropriate for older YA’s. Parents may want to read it first and be prepared to discuss it with their child. It is on the recommended YA reading lists but it is about rape on a college campus. While we are beginning to learn more about this awful situation, this story will illuminate the issues of memory, judgment, and reputation that intensify the difficulties encountered.
An asteroid is about to hit earth in a few weeks and what are high school seniors Peter, Eliza, Anita and Andy to do? They have attended school together since they were little kids, but they really don’t know each other. The coming calamity forces them to let go of barriers between them and to see each other as they truly are.
Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? This one is set in Kenya and the main character Tina sets out to avenge the murder of her mother. Having come to Kenya as refugees from the Congo, Tina and her mother hoped for a better life. After her mother’s death, Tina spends four years underground. When the opportunity for revenge arises, she has to decide if vengeance is worth her own life.
When her life is thrown into chaos, Marin up and goes across the country to college in New York City. But putting the entire United States between herself and her problems does not solve any of them. When her best friend comes to visit, Marin is forced to face the issues that she had tried to leave behind but that are still haunting her.
Are you one who always worries? Imagining the worst is going to happen? Maeve sure does and when her life is turned upside down she just seems to worry more. Forced to go live with her alcoholic father and her pregnant step-mother who wants to deliver at home, Maeve seems to have even more to worry about. She meets a new girl who never seems to worry but then finds she may be falling in love with her. Does this only increase Maeve’s anxiety or will the two of them find a balance for each other?
The central character in this novel, Carver Briggs, sends a simple text message while driving to a friend in another car, which results in a wreck killing all three friends in that car. Carver blames himself but doesn’t understand how texting while driving can spare his life while taking his friends’ lives. A criminal investigation may be opened and when the parents of the three victims want to have their own “goodbye days” with Carver to reminisce about their lost sons, Carver suspects things may be about to get much worse for him.
The Brady Bunch this is not! Divorce and remarriage does not always create nice blended families. Class differences and betrayals can cause more struggles. A group of five estranged step-siblings are forced to confront their past memories with their very messy present over the course of a summer on Long Island. As they struggle to let go of the past and move forward, can love heal the wounds between them?
You will not get any younger by reading these YA books, but you will have a wonderful reading experience which may just help you understand the younger generation a bit better – or at least the books they are reading now.