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Crossovers: It Happened to Me

Jon and David Kushner
David and Jon Kushner

Earlier this year, journalist David Kushner published his eloquent memoir, Alligator Candy. At the core of his story is a terrible crime. When Kushner was just four-years-old, he watched his older brother, Jon, ride away on his bicycle, never to return. Jon’s mutilated body was found later. At first, Kushner is a confused small boy missing his brother, fearing that he could have prevented the crime had he not requested candy from the store. Then, as a thirteen-year-old boy, he secretly begins reading accounts from the newspapers on microfilm at the library. There were details that he couldn’t have even imagined as a four-year-old boy.

After publishing several books and articles as an adult, Kushner was ready to write about Jon’s disappearance and murder. As part of his research, he received access to police records. He discovers details that are so horrific that he wonders how his family survived.  Kushner also realizes that while Jon’s disappearance and murder devastated his family, the entire community was deeply affected by the violence of the crime.

Crossovers: Call Me Unreliable

At first, there is a sense of, “what?…wait!” Something a character says, perhaps, that contradicts the words of the narrator. Maybe you suddenly realize that the narrator has never actually been in the green bedroom, or that she doesn’t speak unless her husband is there. Out of loyalty or expediency, we readers tend to accept our narrator’s version of events. But sometimes the author reveals hints that the narrator’s perspective may be a little…off. Once the suspicion is planted, the story becomes a wild thing, just as likely to conjure psychic terror as it is to end in benign misunderstanding. Here are three adult books with unreliable narrator that will appeal to teen readers.

girl on the traincartwheelhead full of ghosts

One of the most popular books of 2015 was Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. What begins as a tale about a lonely woman who is mesmerized by young lovers seen daily as she passes by on her commuter train grows into an impossible series of coincidences and misunderstandings. Every character in the book is suspect. Readers come to realize that at least one person is lying, at least one person is delusional, and at least a couple of characters are dangerously violent. Hawkins deftly twists the readers’ loyalties, alternating between three unreliable narrators.

Crossovers: Weighty Issues

DietlandOne of this year’s hot debuts is Dietland by Sarai Walker. Written for adults, the novel is related by the immensely likable Plum Kettle, an intelligent young woman who responds to “Dear Kitty” emails from adolescent girls in need of guidance. Beyond that, Plum hides. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, Plum attracts all the wrong kinds of attention, and it’s just unbearable. Her plan is gastric bypass surgery, after which she can reclaim her given name, Alicia, and wear all the cute clothes she’s been storing in her closet.

But Plum’s life goes completely off course when she meets a group of woman who battle society’s preoccupation with physical beauty. Plum alternately loves them and hates them, reactions, no doubt, shared by many readers. What seems to be a straightforward story about one overweight woman explodes into a high stakes action adventure featuring a terrorist group known as “Jennifer.” This book packs a lot, but perhaps most poignant are the “Dear Kitty” emails. Teen readers will come to love Plum through her thoughtful and funny responses.

Not Just for Adults: Books that Resonate with the Teen Reader

Today’s post is written by teen Jayla Johnson. In her own words: Jayla is an avid reader, and her favorite type of books involve anything with fantasy, dystopias or science fiction. Jayla loves writing nonfiction, giving out recommendations and talking about books; she is really excited to be a guest writer on The Hub, especially since it combines all of these things. She will be attending Denison University this fall, majoring in biology and minoring in literature studies.

Thank you, Jayla, for sharing your thoughts with us! -Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading The Marvels, by Brian Selznick.

As a long time reader, I’ve always felt that in order to truly appreciate books you have to explore and read all types of them: children’s, young adult, and the adult genre all hold gems that deserve to be discovered and treasured. I only read kid- and teen-related books up until I was around fourteen or fifteen; the idea of taking a plunge in the adult fiction section before that was too scary to even imagine. Even when my interest in adult books finally peaked, I was still slightly at loss as to what books to try, and wondered how different they could be. It wasn’t until I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) that I realized, perhaps quite obviously, adult fiction could posses just as interesting and page-turning stories as teen books. And, suddenly, my entire world of book reading possibilities expanded tremendously.

For teens who have not yet ventured to reading non-YA books, or reading them for fun and not for school, it’s easy to get stuck in the thought that adult books are only composed of either dusty, boring classics or lengthy, seemingly unobtainable novels (I’m looking at you War and Peace). Fortunately, that’s far from the truth. There are countless books geared to adults that can generate just as much, if not sometimes more, interest in a teen reader.

Whether you have already read several books from the adult genre or are searching for your first to try, check out the list below of seven books that offer exciting and mature plots, intricate characters and absorbing settings. Ranging from romance to fantasy to poetry, these books, while marketed towards adults, offer plenty of appeal to teenagers.

Parasite – Mira Grant

parasiteIt is the year 2027 and all diseases have been eradicated thanks to a genetically modified parasite created by SymboGen Cooperation. Once the tapeworm is inserted into the human being, that person begins a life guarded from illness. Behind the success of SymboGen, however, lies deep secrets that the company is hiding. Secrets that may come to light as, all around, the very parasites put in to protect people are now the ones taking over their lives. With zombie and dystopian stories more popular than ever, and especially beloved by teenagers, Grant’s Parasite is a great addition.

The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

rosie projectWhat would you do for love? Professor Don Tillman is an awkward, and incredibly smart genetics professor who decides to create a scientific formula to find his perfect wife. Despite being brilliant, he is clueless when it comes to love and is mostly socially disliked by both his peers and the general public. During his hunt for a wife, proclaiming it as “the Wife Project”, Tillman sets to stick to his strict rules that together form his ideal picture of a wife, yet realizes along the way that, a lot of times, the best people come unexpectedly. Similar to a lot of teen romance books, The Rosie Project features an unlikely couple falling in love, and the trials and trumps of discovering that perfect person the character was destined to be with.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

s-typeopts13Among the fictional land of Avryn, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn make their living working for the various nobles and aristocrats. Hadrian, an adept mercenary, and Royce, an expert thief, are hired for a seemingly normal job until they suddenly find themselves charged with regicide and arrested. Now, on the run from authorities and angry over whoever framed them, Hadrian and Royce set out to seek revenge. What starts as a straightforward mission ultimately leads the two partners in crime to ancient conspiracies and on a quest that could alter their whole world. While this book has its plenty share of elves, goblins, and exciting sword-fighting scenes, the witty banter and faithful friendship between Hadrian and Royce are what sets this fantasy book apart from others.

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

no matter the wreckagePerhaps you might recognize her name from her infamous TED talk or spoken poetry performances. If not, Kay’s debut fills in for the moments and locations where it’s not possible to be consumed live. She writes about love, family, traveling, history, friends and dozens of other topics in this debut. Each poem various in length, but they all pack an emotional punch, equally raw and honest.

Is This Just Fantasy?: Fantastic Adult Fiction For The Voracious YA Fantasy Fan

Just Fantasy crossover 1.jpgI love sharing, discussing, and contemplating fantasy fiction–especially with fellow fans and readers. Happily, opportunities for such conversations happen on an almost daily basis for me.  Many of the most voracious readers among my students are fantasy fans; even as their tastes expand, these readers return again and again to this genre.  So where’s an ardent fantasy reader to turn when she exhausts her local library’s supply of young adult fantasy? One solution is to expand the search area–into the  world of adult fantasy fiction.

ocean at the end of the laneFor some, the easiest entry into a new area of fiction is through an author. For example, Neil Gaiman writes highly imaginative fiction imbued with dark beauty and twisted humor; his adult fiction is highly popular with teens at my library. Fans of unusual fairytale retellings might start with delightful Stardust (2000 Alex Award) while urban and offbeat high fantasy readers should investigate American Gods or Neverwhere.   And frankly, all fantasy readers should read his most recent release, the enchanting The Ocean At The End of The Lane.  

BEA trendspotting: YA Crossovers

Last year around this time, I spent a lot of timing sighing over my Twitter feed as authors, librarians, and publishing types that I follow and admire tweeted excitedly about BEA. After three days of keeping tabs on publishing’s biggest weekend, I resolved to go in 2013, and with a little luck and a couple of vacation days, I was able to make it happen. I spent most of Thursday and Friday roaming the massive exhibits hall, going to panels, meeting authors, and picking up ARCs that I’m excited to share with the teen readers at my library. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just for things that piqued my interest: new titles from authors that I or readers at my library love, plots that sounded fresh, covers that drew me in. I wasn’t planning to look for trends, but I noticed one anyway: crossover titles.

Crossovers straddle the line between YA and what’s traditionally thought of as adult fiction. Books in this category are sometimes referred to as “new adult.” I’m not a fan of that term because I think it’s exclusive; to me it implies young adult books are for people aged 12-18, “new adult” books are for people aged 18-30, and, I guess, adult literature is only for people aged 30+. “Crossover” feels more inclusive, like saying “here’s a book that will appeal to teenage readers and people in their 20s and 30s and beyond.” Crossovers often have protagonists who are a little older than the typical YA novel or who are dealing with more adult issues. Other times, the writing style, plotting, or other literary elements help create all-ages appeal. I spotted lots of crossovers at BEA; here are the five most buzzed about:

If You Could Be Mine Sara FarizanIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Fariszan

Sahar and Nasrin: two young women in love in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. When Nasrin is engaged to be married, Sahar becomes desperate to keep Nasrin, and discovers a strange loophole in Iranian law: although homosexuality is a crime, sex re-assignment surgery for transgendered people not only legal — it’s paid for by the state. Sahar has never felt uncomfortable in her body, but the surgery would allow her to be with Nasrin, legally and openly. This novel grapples with complex cultural issues, which often appeal across ages, and features characters dealing with adult decisions. If You Could Be Mine was featured at the YA Buzz Panel.