With all the ways to watch TV today including; on demand, DVR, and instant streaming it is possible to watch an entire series’ episodes back to back rather than in a serialized week to week format. This kind of watching has been dubbed “binge-watching.” Maybe when you hear this term, an image comes to mind of someone mindlessly watching hour after hour of TV whilst eating chips. As fun as that sounds, “binge-watching” can also mean focusing on just one show over the course of many days or weeks. As a reader the way I become immersed in the characters and world of a good book are a familiar, comforting feeling, and binge-watching a quality show can offer a similar (on-screen) experience. Here are some great YA read-alikes inspired by some of my binge-worthy favorites.
Orange is the New Black – One of Netflix’s original binge-worthy series. This is the story of a Piper, a privileged woman who has to serve prison time for a crime committed in her 20s.
* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (2000 Printz Award Winner, 2000 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers , 2000 Best Book for Young Adults) A story told in the form of a screenplay by a young man incarcerated in a juvenile detention center.
* Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperback for Young Adult 2006 , 2003 Best Books for Young Adults). When Gantos was a young man with heavy debt and a promising writing career he agrees to help sail a ship packed with drugs from the Virgin Islands to New York City. This memoir describes this well known author’s short-lived criminal career and his incarceration.
* Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the show; Kerman tells the tale of how she spent a year in prison the humiliations she endured, and the relationships she forged.
Les Revenants (The Returning) – In this mysterious, atmospheric, and haunting (no pun intended) French series the dead come back unchanged and unaware of what happened to them. “Binge-valable” on Netflix. And if you don’t care for sub-titles check out the American adaptation which premiered in March on A&E.
* And We Stay by Jennifer Hubbard (2015 Printz Honor). Emily tries to forget her past; her ex-boyfriend shot himself right in front of her. But she can’t seem to let go. Like her namesake Emily Dickinson poetry is an outlet for her pain.
* Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan. Twins Dom and Pat move to an isolated seaside town after a terrible accident. Dom starts to become different: haunted by the ghost of young boy who died and Pat is determined to save his brother.
* The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin. Famous and beloved street artist Addison Stone plummets to her death from a bridge in New York City while hanging a billboard. Was it an accident? Suicide?
* Sabriel by Garth Nix. Sabriel journeys into the Old Kingdom (where the dead won’t stay dead) when her father goes missing.
The Wire – One of HBO’s most popular series ever. Baltimore crime depicted by in-depth explorations of the citizens, police, politicians, criminals, youth, news reporters, etc. Available for binge watching on Amazon Prime.
* Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Emily Bird is a private school straight-A student, parent and teacher pleaser, and a general “good girl.” Though out of character, Bird finds herself crushing on the school drug dealer “Coffee”. When Bird gets caught up in high political crime, it’s only Coffee she can turn to for help.
* How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Tariq was a sixteen year old boy who was shot dead by a white man. This compelling tale deals with racial issues, crime, and city life.
* My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt. Angel becomes addicted to drugs and is used for prostitution by an opportunistic John named Call.
* Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson. Laurel (who lost her mother and grandmother in Hurricane Katrina and had to leave her New Orleans home) becomes addicted to meth after being introduced to the drug by her new boyfriend.
Gilmore Girls – Mother daughter duo Lorelei and Rory (only 16 years apart) can handle anything life throws at them with weapons such as snarky comebacks, lots of junk food, and bad movies. Perfect binge-watching fodder available on Netflix. For more fun Gilmore Girls read-alikes check out this roundup from librarian Emma Carbone’s blog.
* Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher. Adrienne is forced to join a mother-daughter book club when she has to spend a summer in a knee brace. Fellow “literary prisoners” are CeeCee, Jill, and Wallis.
* November Blues by Sharon Draper. High school senior November discovers she is pregnant by her boyfriend Josh who died two months earlier in a hazing accident.
* Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2015 Morris Award Winner). Gabi’s diary accounts all the happenings on her senior year: teen pregnancies, college applications, a friend’s coming out, etc.
The Walking Dead – Have you been stuck under a rock since 2010? No? Well then I guess you know about one of the most popular shows on TV ever—this on-going story of survival features a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Catch up on Netflix and/or AMC.
* I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer. Ali meets Doug and they fall for each other. Ali thinks Doug is a serious goth– but what will she do when she realizes he really a zombie?
* Forest of Teeth and Hands by Carrie Ryan (2010 Best Book for Young Adults). Seven generations ago, the undead rose again. Now Mary lives in this post-apocalyptic world bound by “The Sisterhood”: a religious order which constructs all aspects of life.
* The Stand by Stephen King. The original post-apocalyptic tale of survival. An odd strain of illness kills of 99% of the population and those left fall into two categories: good and evil. This is an adult book with lots of teen appeal.
* Walking Dead graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Tony Moore. The graphic novels that inspired the show. Don’t get too comfortable– there are “walkers” coming and chances are, some of your favorite characters are gonna get bit.
Friday Night Lights– Don’t like football? Well, that’s OK. This dramatic character-driven show uses the power of a small Texas town and their devotion to a High School football team to propel this one of kind show. Available on Netflix.
* The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Shroeder. Lauren in the new girl, Coby is the football hero. Alternating chapters tell their story.
* Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp (2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). In Kennisaw, Oklahoma High School Football is the be all and end all. Linebacker Hampton is king on the field, but lost in life.
* QB1 by Mike Lupica. Jake is a freshman quarterback, following in the legendary steps of his big brother Troy in this football-obsessed Texas town. Inspired by Peyton and Eli Manning’s story.
* The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. Quarterback Brandon dies in a car accident and rumors about Alice being a “slut” spiral out of control. This compelling story deals with stereotypes in high school.
* Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger. The book that inspired the movie that inspired the show! This is a non-fiction account of the Texas town of Odessa and their obsession with the winning streak of high school football team the Permian Panthers.
Transparent– Jeffrey Tambor plays the patriarch of a kooky family who after a lifetime of keeping his secret finally tells his adult children that he always felt he was supposed to be a woman. Available on Amazon Prime.
* Every Day by David Levithan (2013 Teens Top Ten). Every day “A” wakes up in a different body in a different life. A does not identify with a gender and accepts this strange existence until the day he meets and falls in love with Rhiannon.
* Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. This non-fiction work depicts six transgender or gender-neutral teens; their struggles and joys. The pictures included help illustrate these young adults’ lives.
* Rethinking Normal: a Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. 19-year old Katie chronicles her own gender-reassignment journey.
* Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Non-fiction account by author Andrews on his gender-reassignment during his junior year of high school.
For more read-and-watch suggestions check out Hannah Gomez’s posts on this year’s mid-season lineup (part 1 and part 2) of new network shows and Colleen Seiser’s reality TV read-alikes collection. I also want to thank for my fellow HUB bloggers Becky O’Neil, Wendy Daughdrill, Erin Bush, and Mia Cabana and to Sarah Moon at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves for their contributions and awesome suggestions!
Speaking of more ideas: there are many more more binge-able shows out there with YA read-alike pairing potential! How about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bloodline, The Americans, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, or House of Cards: any thoughts?
– Tara Kehoe, currently reading And We Stay by Jennifer Hubbard