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Young Adult Books for Adult Readers
For most adult readers, a “young adult” or “teen” book is a no-go. To be seen reading a teen novel would be embarrassing, like getting caught reading one of those old romance novels with the peek-a-boo Fabio covers. But the young adult label can be very misleading, and adult readers are missing out on some great literature that inspires some passionate discussion. The following list of books proves that the line between adult and young adult is finally blurring and even fading. After all, a good story doesn’t care how old its reader is.   Print this list Print this list
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Contributed by KaliO     |    Comment on this list (1)     |     7314 views

The astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation. Volume one. the
M.T. Anderson’s other books (Thirsty, Burger Wuss, Feed) have all been books for young adults; it makes sense that his newest title is a teen book too. But that Octavian Nothing is different is apparent at first glance. Octavian is a young boy living in Boston on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Raised in isolation by a strange group of philosophers and scientists, Octavian doesn’t understand his place or purpose in the world—until one day when he does, and he is horrified. M.T. Anderson gives us a world and a set of characters that don’t know the outcome of the Colonies’ war with England, and that have some very difficult choices to make. Octavian Nothing forces us to ask a new set of questions about what we thought we knew—questions about history, hypocrisy, and personal choice--that are worth asking whether we took American History last year or last decade. The sequel, Volume II: Kingdom on the Waves, was published in 2008.
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Cover Art: The perks of being a wallflower /
The perks of being a wallflower
Chbosky, Stephen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a young adult title that its publisher nearly placed in the adult fiction section. True, the book is a coming-of-age story that tells the story of an awkward high school boy, but then again, we’ve all been awkward high school boys in our day (well, you know what I mean). Charlie is sensitive, intelligent, and endearingly bewildered about life in general. He befriends an older group of students who appreciate and understand his oddities, but will they be there to keep Charlie grounded when he starts to lose control? Charlie pours his heart out in letters to an unidentified recipient, and as readers we are privy to all Charlie’s charms, foibles, and deep secrets. Like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye or Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Charlie is a kid telling an adult story, and his unique point of view will be universally appealing no matter how long ago or how gracefully you got through your own high school years.
Teen Fiction CHBOSKY
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Cover Art: The hunger games /
The hunger games
Collins, Suzanne
In the not-so-distant future, the nation of Panem has risen from the ruins of North America. To keep its citizens in line, the Capital forces one boy and one girl from each of its twelve distracts to act as “tributes” in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death televised live to the people at home. Katniss Everdeen is this year’s tribute. She’s a fighter, but her determination to win is complicated by shifting loyalties, the pressure to perform for those in control, a desire to rebel, and the pressure to win at any cost. The story is more than an adventure of survival; it’s a commentary on government power and the entertainment value of reality TV. It’s also a dystopian moral tale in the grand tradition of The Giver, Brave New World, and 1984. More to the point, The Hunger Games (the first book in a planned trilogy) is an absorbing and thrilling page-turner, and that makes it required reading for any age group.
Teen Fiction
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Cover Art: The surrender tree : poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom /
The surrender tree : poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom
Engle, Margarita.
• The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle, 2008, Henry Holt and Co. Books (Children’s Fiction/ Teen Fiction/ Poetry/ Historical Fiction) The subtitle of this book is Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, but don’t let the word “poems” fool you. You don’t have to be a poetry reader to appreciate this remarkably unique story. Told in free verse (a poetry style that doesn’t rhyme and concentrates instead on a realistic rhythm), The Surrender Tree is a complete narrative, a novel, a work of historical fiction that tells a version of Cuban history we don’t read about much in history texts. In 1868, a few Cuban plantation owners freed their slaves and declared independence from Spain’s rule. For the next three decades, the tropical isle was wracked by nearly constant warfare. Amidst the turmoil and bloodshed emerges Rosa, a slave-turned-healer who spends the tumultuous years of the war hiding in the jungle and healing anyone and everyone she comes across—runway slaves, Cuban rebels, Spanish soldiers (many who change sides after Rosa helps them) and even the legendary Lieutenant Death, the son of a slave hunter who becomes a cruel soldier and Rosa’s most feared foe. Rosa and her husband José spend years camped out in make-shift hospitals in huts and caves, constantly on the move but always connected to the land by the plants, flowers, and herbs that Rosa uses as medicine. Rosa, José, Lieutenant Death, and others like Spain’s General Weyler, who in 1896 called for all Cuban peasants to be herded into “reconcentration camps,” and Silvia, a young girl who escapes from one of Weyler’s death camps, take turns telling the story of Cuba’s fight for freedom from their own point of view. This is where the verse poetry comes in; every poem is a glimmer of light into the world of one of the book’s characters. The story becomes an interwoven, haunting story full of brutal tragedy, quiet triumph, and, above all, the beauty and history of the nation of Cuba. Author Margarita Engle (whose mother is Cuban) writes about real historical figures, though she takes a few liberties with the facts of their lives to weave a more completely unified story. In the end, she tells a powerful story in an elegant style to create a work that won her a Newbery Honor (the first Latino author to do so), a Pura Belpré Award (for Latino authors and illustrators), and a Jane Addams Award (for children’s books that promote peace, equality, and social justice). The Surrender Tree may be a book for young readers, but is truly a story that should be ignored by no audience.
Children's Nonfiction BookPS3555.N4254 S87 2008
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Cover Art: The graveyard book /
The graveyard book
Gaiman, Neil
The Graveyard Book is actually not a teen book—it’s a kid’s book, the 2008 winner of the esteemed Newberry Prize for children’s literature. But its storyline begs to differ. The book begins with a serial killer picking off the members of a family in the dead of night. The lone survivor is a baby. With no family and no home, the little tot wanders up to the town graveyard, is adopted by the ghosts who haunt the hill, and bestowed with the appellation of Nobody “Bod” Owens. The boy faces dangers within the graveyard and without, but the tale is ultimately charming and sophisticated—just what we expect from author Neil Gaiman, who is equally at ease writing his unique brand of fantasy for adults, young adults, and children. The Graveyard Book, much like that other fantasy about an orphaned boy (Harry Potter, anyone?), is an ideal crossover title for ages eight to thirty-eight to eighty-eight.
Children's Fiction GAIMAN
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Cover Art: Twilight /
Meyer, Stephenie, 1973-
Ah, Twilight, the teen-angst-filled saga about one teenage girl’s crush on the dreamiest vampire-hunk this side of Brad Pitt. Or should we say Zach Efron or the Jonas Brothers? Roll your eyes all you want—Twilight has made the name of fictional character Edward Cullen synonymous with those real-life teen idols, and that’s a rare for any book (in fact, more people might have crushes on Edward than on Mr. Darcy!). Twilight was written with a teen audience specifically in mind, but millions of its readers have turned out to be real actual grown-ups. There’s even a fan website called “Soccer Moms for Twilight.” Sure, the writing is clunky and the dialogue is corny. Yes, author Stephenie Meyer takes some controversial liberties with the classic vampire mythology. True, the depiction of Bella and Edward’s relationship has some sticking points that don’t resonate with every reader. But the appeal of Twilight is Classic Romance—two young lovers, torn apart by circumstances beyond their control, must fight against all odds to stay together. Whether you love it or hate it (and there’s really no in-between), even adults will find themselves passionately devoted to debating their own point of view. And any book that gets us talking—or crushing on its characters—is worth looking into, regardless of how old we are.
Teen Fiction MEYER
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Cover Art: The book thief /
The book thief
Zusak, Markus
The Book Thief is only a young adult book here in the States; in its home country of Australia, it was published as a general fiction title for adult readers. Why the publishers here opted for the young adult label is anyone’s guess, but lucky for us, it is readers who make a book great and not its publishers. In The Book Thief, Death narrates the story of grubby little Liesel, a mere child struggling to understand life in Nazi Germany. Despite being illiterate, Liesel copes by becoming a full-fledged book thief, stealing her first book from her brother’s graveside and moving on to raid Nazi book-burnings and rob the mayor’s library. Liesel’s accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read and Liesel is enchanted with the world of words, but life is dangerous, and more so when the family hides a Jew in the basement. World War II is always a complicated subject; when you make Death one of your main characters and let him tell your story, it’s really complicated. But that complexity makes it ideal for every age, especially when combined with Zusak’s sensitivity, intelligence, intensity, and humor (yes, humor, a very dark humor, much of which comes from Death's periodic bold-font bulletins). Whether you’re a teen in Australia or an adult in America, bibliophiles everywhere will beg, borrow, or steal to read The Book Thief.
Teen Fiction ZUSAK
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On Feb 8, 2010 at 1:55, Lilacs wrote:
You truly have a genius for composing and compiling these lists! So well written, so wonderful!
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