Regardless of how old you are, the books we read in our teen years often set the stage for what we prefer as adults. The intensity of Young Adult (YA) literature brings us characters and situations that set a high benchmark for drama and plot development, as well as introducing us to some of our favorite genres and authors. YA literature is defined by protagonists in their teens, but it has a universal appeal to a growing, adult audience attests to its enduring power and its ability to entertain and let us slip into another world. Considering our teenage reading habits can help us find books that bring us back to our younger selves, so check out the choices below to find your next great read.
If you liked The Face on the Milk Carton, try Sadie by Courtney Summers
Before there was binge-watching true crime dramas, there was binge-reading your way through Caroline Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton books. Featuring high schooler Janie Johnson, who finds out through a missing child picture on her school milk carton that she was kidnapped years ago, the books chronicled Janie’s reunion with her parents and siblings as well as her high school relationship.
Dishy and cheesy in a Sweet Valley High kind of way, these books probably paved the way for our appetite in true crime stories. For a modern twist try Sadie, which interweaves two stories: that of Sadie, missing girl on the run, and West McCray, the podcast host captivated by her story. Combining the modern taste for missing person podcasts with the thoughts of Sadie as she tracks the man who may have killed her sister, this is sure to be an edge of your seat read.
If you liked the Harry Potter series,try Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Being immersed in the magical world of Hogwarts was a special kind of treat as a kid and the rise in similar series and children’s fantasy books shows that we all still have a love for clever witches and wizards as well creaky, old schools of magic.
Young adult author Leigh Bardugo sets a similar scene in her debut adult novel, Ninth House set against the ivy-covered backdrop of Yale in the fall and winter, this book takes you inside the secret world of the magical societies, or “houses” that main character Alex discovers. Offered a full-ride to the school after witnessing a grisly homicide, Alex is trying to figure out who her mysterious benefactor is and why she’s been chosen for this mission in a grown-up twist on The Boy Who Lived.
If you liked The Princess Diaries, try Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Since Meg Cabot published her first Princess Diaries book in 2000, we’ve been treated to not one, but two(!) real-life royal wedding spectacles as well as a slew of books, TV shows, and Lifetime movies about the real and imagined lives of royalty. For a fresh spin on the royals in love genre, check out Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, & Royal Blue, where the president’s charismatic son finds himself falling in love with his former adversary Henry, who just happens to be a British prince.
As Alex and Henry are forced together in the name of improved international relations, they find the chemistry between them is undeniable, but being in the public eye won’t make sharing who they really are easy. A story about having royalty and glamour thrust upon you and how much choice we have when it comes to who we love, this book is sure to warm up your heart with plenty of royal luxury along the way.
If you liked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, try Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
Whether you were a Carmen, a Lena, a Bridget, or a Tibby, you knew the power of female friendship, sisterhood, and a well-loved pair of jeans. For a similar take on the power of friends who last for years, check out Jessica Francis Kane’s Rules for Visiting, about May, a professional gardener who uses her unexpected leave from work to spend a year dropping in on four, longtime friends.
Determined to reconnect in real life, as opposed to through screens, May is driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to see friends who were once close but have drifted away. Her relatable odyssey examining adult, female friendships will resonate with anyone who has wondered if it’s possible to rekindle the deep friendships of their younger years and all of us trying to maintain offline friendships in an increasingly online world.
If you liked The Giver, try Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Lois Lowry’s The Giver was my first introduction (via sixth grading reading class) to the idea of dystopia as a genre that could make me think about my own world and what was valued in it. By reading the thoughts of the main character Jonas, who is chosen to hold all the memories of conflict and sadness for his community, I and other kids like me learned to think more about our notions of happiness, loss, and just what it might mean to live in a “perfect” world.
Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven sets up a slightly different spin on the dystopia, in this world most of humanity has been wiped out by a flu pandemic, leaving the survivors to regroup in settlements as they fight to maintain the last bits of civilization. A touching tribute to the power of art, beauty and love, this book invites the reader to consider the same questions as The Giver did: What is it, after all, that makes us human?