Best Young Adult books for Old Adults?
May 22, 2021 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I am about to turn 40 *tears*.


Now I know i'm not the only adult who still watches cartoons* so there must be proper grown-up adults out there who still read YA fiction. Can you recommend some please? I would much prefer something that was published within the last 5 years but i'm open to whatever you think is good.

No other requirements - you just need to have enjoyed reading it.


Thank you,

posted by ihaveyourfoot to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:12 AM on May 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Hey I’m older than you and unapologetically read YA. I read books to relax and escape so why not?

Rainbow Rowell has a bunch or YA. I love Fangirl the most, but her Simon Snow series (starts with Carry On) is super popular. My fav of hers is Attachments, which is not labeled YA because the characters are in their late 20s. Some of these meet your 5 year ask but not all. She has a 3rd Simon Snow book coming out in July.

I like The Queen’s Thief series, which is labeled YA but I wouldn’t have guessed it.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

(checks Goodreads account)
I’ve read and enjoyed all of these within the past year or so—especially the first two. I think all are less than 2-3 years old.

Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Charming As A Verb by Ben Philippe
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Recommended For You by Laura Silverman
Five Total Strangers by Natalie Richards
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Have fun! Young Adult books are great!
posted by bookmammal at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2021

Yes to Rainbow Rowell! Especially the Simon a Snow books.
Also "Simon and the Homosapien Agenda" by Becky Albertali.
I also enjoyed "Warcross" and the sequel. Fun escapism.
posted by Zumbador at 10:55 AM on May 22, 2021

Oh hi friend, I love YA books.

For juicy fun I liked There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger is sitting on my table and I can't wait to crack it open.

An oldie but goodie is Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater

And I know this sounds like a joke but please please please read the insanity that is Modelland by Tyra Banks. You will not regret it.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

I love YA!

The House on the Cerulean Sea was review of like cuddling up in a big gay blanket and it delivers on that

Fire keepers daughter is a bit of thriller while also providing a lot of current issues in indigenous communities in Michigan

Legendborn, a fantasy book that is set on UNC’s campus and if you like the later Harry Potter books but with diversity and inclusion, this is for you

Akata Witch (and Akata Warrior), another fantasy book that is mostly set in West Africa and builds off of West African traditions to create a magical universe set within our own

Sorry for not linking, I’m on my phone
posted by raccoon409 at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

1981 was a ridiculously strong year for my peers, and YA is something that helps my ongoing sense of justice in a chaotic and unjust world.
posted by k3ninho at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2021

The Redwall Series, essentially woodland critters in a medieval setting, but rats and weasels are evil and rabbits, mice, and hedgehogs are good. Birds are simply insane.
posted by Beholder at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer was excellent, and I have the sequel (Chaos on Catnet) and expect it to be good, took.
posted by wintersweet at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2021

omg i love ya fiction. i often return to the faves of my youth

- the search for delicious
- from the mixed up files
- ...
and my grown son's childhood faves
- hatchet
- holes
- ...

looking forward to fresh ideas!
posted by j_curiouser at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking is charming and well-written.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

Little Brother, followed by Homeland. Also Pirate Cinema. All by Cory Doctorow
posted by TimHare at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I recently enjoyed It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (graphic novel), A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig, Always Human by Ari North, There's Something About Sweetie by Sanhya Menon, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks by 'Nathan Burgoine, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, and More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood. I could probably come up with more good ones or links if my arm hurt less, sorry. I'd also recommend the website Forever Young Adult (currently revamping their website but should be up again sometime soon) to keep up with good new books. (And I double-checked: these were published 2017-2021.) If you read a lot and these are up your alley, memail me for more. This is just a selection of my 5 star books that I thought were coolest.
posted by blueberry monster at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2021

Well, of course! YA is one of the best sections of the library. In addition to being fun and leaving out some of the unnecessarily grim stuff people consider "adult", I think YA authors are often ahead of the curve on social justice. In addition to Catfishing on Catnet, I have recently enjoyed (in no particular order)...

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed (also The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World)
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jissica Kim
The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (both of whom have written other YA books, I believe)
The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell and the subsequent Widdershins books
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore and basically everything else she's written.
Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
SLAY by Britteny Morris
Internment by Samira Ahmed, and her other books
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, and her other books as well
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid, and all his other books too
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Together, Apart
Welcome to Bordertown and the various other Bordertown anthologies and novels
A Tyranny of Petticoats and The Radical Element, both edited by Jessica Spotswood
Color Outside the Lines edited by Sangu Mandanna
Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman (note: one of these stories veered too far toward horror for my taste - I think it was by Rebecca Roanhorse, but not certain)
Ana of California by Andi Teran
Cinder and the rest of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

I think Fierce Reads (an imprint/division of MacMillan?) is all YA, and I keep reading good books and discovering that they're from Fierce or one of their sub-labels like Swoon Reads

I believe many/most of those are from the last 5 or 10 years? On the older side: Much of Patricia C. Wrede's work is lovely YA. I believe Terry Pratchett's Nation was intended as YA, and he has a few others in that category, including the excellent Tiffany Aching books and the Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

Now, off to borrow a bunch of the books everyone else is recommending...
posted by sibilatorix at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Diana Wynne Jones generally scratches my itch.
posted by bq at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year
posted by Constance Mirabella at 1:23 PM on May 22, 2021

Angie Thomas and Julie Murphy
posted by brujita at 1:28 PM on May 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Any books by Francis Hardinge but especially Fly By Night and Fly Trap. Think Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett and Dianna Wynne Jones. Then you have the classics by Natalie Babbit, Tuck Everlasting and The Search For Delicious. Also Kneeknock Rise.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am even older! I am heartily endorsing a bunch of the suggestions above:

Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

I didn't see this recommended earlier:
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

And NOT from the last few years, but I loved it:
A nameless witch by A. Lee Martinez

Everyone of the books above gave me a new lens with which to see my place in a richer world. YA is for anyone who is open to transformation or continuing to assesses the ways they can be in the world!
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 2:28 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger is AMAAAAZING! Angie Thomas is great. T. Kingfisher is womderful (not all her books are YA, but they’re all great); also check out “Castle Hangnail” by Ursula Vernon, which is middle-grade.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi was tremendous. The “Three Dark Crowns” series by Kendare Blake was very good. The Ash Princess trilogy by Laura Sebastian was very good. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta was lovely, powerful, and a very different type of story from much of YA, which reminds me of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, another book that’s excellent in unexpected ways.
posted by epj at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding Queen’s Thief series. Maybe also the Graceling series, if you like fantasy. These started before the specified time frame, but entries have come out within that time frame.

Quibble: a few of the recs here are not YA, but juvenile or middle reader (the next age category down). If it won a Newbery, it’s probably not YA. That could make a difference if you prefer stuff for a slightly older audience... but they’re still quality reads.
posted by verbminx at 3:18 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

George O'Connor has a series of graphic novels about the Olympians. He started publishing back in 2010, but the 12th and final book is due out next year.

You should read the Bartimaeus Series, even though they are older then 5 years. They are 3 books about some young people in England who have magic powers. That's all you need to know. There is a fourth book that is a prequel, which you should still read but it's as good as the core 3.
posted by soelo at 3:51 PM on May 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Marrow Thieves and Fangirl.

I liked The Book of Essie (2018) by Meghan MacLean Weir, about a teenager from a large fundamentalist Christian family with a reality TV series (kind of like the Duggars). At the beginning of the book we learn she is pregnant and planning a way to escape her family. Content warning: sexual abuse.

Pride (2018) by Ibi Zoboi is very good. It’s a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice set in Brooklyn, with an Afro-Latina teen protagonist.

I Killed Zoë Spanos (2020) by Kit Frick is a gripping YA mystery along the same lines as Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:46 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity.

That Goodreads link tells me there's another prequel - I was aware of one but not the most recent. I need to find the emotional fortitude to read them because CNV was very good but also heartwrenching and I think I need to be in the proper mindset to read them.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:35 PM on May 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm actually not sure if this a YA of not but I thought it was. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. Set in a magical school, a young heroine. It's excellent.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:49 PM on May 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

No shame: there are some great cartoons to watch.

YA that I earnestly dug (most of which were published prior to the last five years):

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Pretty much anything by Holly Black (Tithe is what hooked me)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (debatable if it's YA or no)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Feed by M.T. Anderson
posted by xenization at 6:49 PM on May 22, 2021

Response by poster: Yay! I genuinely did not expect there to be so many grown YA fans! I appreciate all of the recommendations. There's loads to get through here! I will explore further in the coming days. Thank you! :)
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:16 PM on May 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

I really like Kristin Cashore's Graceling trilogy. The first one starts out as a relatively straightforward action fantasy with some interesting ideas, and they only get better and deeper from there. The thesis of the second and third books is essentially, "what if basically everyone around you has PTSD because your dad was such a powerful asshole, and yet you still need to move forward and attempt to build a good life for yourself?", and both books handle those themes incredibly well.
posted by terretu at 12:23 AM on May 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I struggle to identify YA. It feels as if the definition has shifted since I was a teenager in the '90s, or perhaps the target age range has shifted. So I may be off target with these, in which case, apologies... but they're very good and you should read them anyway. :-)

Right, having got that out of the way:

People have already recommended Frances Hardinge, Naomi Kritzer, Kristin Cashore , Martha Wells' Emilie books (there are two!), The Queen's Thief series and Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher. Seconding all of those. And Diana Wynne Jones of course, technically not last-five-years, but I'd defend her writing as timeless. Fire and Hemlock was published in a YA imprint when it first came out, as was Howl's Moving Castle; Deep Secret, Hexwood and The Time of the Ghost feel geared towards older readers too.

I'll add to the Bartimaeus recommendation that everything Jonathan Stroud has written since has also been gold. (And before, to be fair, but that's well outside your date range.)

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee was good fun; I see it has sequels, hurrah! And I thoroughly enjoyed The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James.

Finally, blanket recommendations for Sophie Anderson (coming-of-age stories inspired by Russian fairy tales), Alison Goodman (Regency romance with demons) and Garth Nix (fantasy and science fiction - perhaps start with Sabriel to get into the still-running Old Kingdom series, or pick a more recent standalone). And if you like historical fiction, I would also take a look at The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:09 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen’s books since I was 11, and will likely never stop. Her writing style takes me right back to being a teen again, every time.
posted by oywiththepoodles at 8:35 PM on May 24, 2021

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