I’ve been taking a bit of a break from teen lit this summer. Funny, then, that I should end up with a bedside table full of books that, while technically adult, are undoubtedly finding plenty of teen readers. Here are three recent adult titles that will challenge and delight older teens:
To say that Alif, a young computer hacker living in the Middle East, is having a bad day would be a bit of an understatement. He just found out that his girlfriend is engaged, she is marrying the head of state security (who happens to be Alif’s most dangerous enemy), and her final gift to Alif is a ratty old book. Why would she give him a collection of stories rumored to have been written by magical beings? It is only when security forces begin to ruthlessly pursue Alif that he realizes the book’s importance as a tool that might possibly allow him to defeat his enemy once and for all. Alif the Unseen is a perfect bridge book for teens ready to move into adult fiction. The premise alone will be enough to hook readers, but the rip-roaring adventure and fantastic characters make for a rich and rewarding reading experience as it explores complex themes and ideas. Sarcastic jinn and a smart young protagonist make this one an obvious choice for fans of Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy.
King City by Brandon Graham is one of those books that takes time to get through, but it’s totally worth it for the sheer creative genius crammed on the pages of this graphic novel. Catmaster Joe pines longingly for his super hot ex-girlfriend as he roams the city completing all manner of odd jobs with the help of his trusty friend/lethal weapon, Earthling J.J. Cattingsworth III. Throw in some shady dealings, dangerous goons, a handsome war veteran, and a kidnapped alien, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a story. Graham has a knack for making the absurd seem completely pedestrian, and his meticulously crafted future world creates a great backdrop for multiple plots and a large cast of characters. Teens might sympathize with the lovesick main character, but they will love the seriously warped sense of humor, including some rather crass but brilliant visual puns. This is really fun stuff.
Dare Me by Megan Abbott has been on my “to read” list for months now, but it’s been so popular in my library system that I just got my copy this week. I can already tell it’s going to be phenomenal. Cheerleading teams and the hidden dynamics behind them might not be new territory for teen readers, but this adult novel uses them as a launching point for exploring themes of rivalry, adolescence, sexuality and loyalty. Reviews for this one have been universally glowing, with accolades coming from Oprah, the New York Times Book Review, and Entertainment Weekly, just to name a few. Teens looking for sophisticated, mature realistic fiction will find it here.
Have you read a great book for adults that you think will appeal to teens? Suggest it to the Alex Award committee!
— Summer Hayes, currently reading The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves, edited by Sarah Moon