If you’ve stayed up late reading “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” or anything “Harry Potter,” you’re not alone. Turns out that 55 percent of the buyers of books designated for kids 12 to 17 are actually adults, according to a biannual study from Bowker Market Research.
To find out what makes the young-adult (YA) genre such a hit with people well past prom age, we spoke with Sarah Pitre of Forever Young Adult, a popular site “for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A,” a tagline that makes total sense when you read the blog post on the “Pride & Prejudice” official movie drinking game.
Pitre says it’s understandable that adults are enjoying YA titles. “There is something universal about the first crush, the first kiss, when you realize your parents are human beings,” she says. “Harry Potter” really “woke people up to the idea that they could stray from the adult section and find something fascinating to read.” And once “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” became global phenoms, publishers truly caught on to the genre’s ability to reach all ages — which is why the YA section at your local library is so much bigger than it was when you were still in high school. Here are some of Pitre’s favorite recent YA picks for grown-ups.
If you love “The Hunger Games” and dystopian titles, you’ll like:
“Divergent” (book one of the “Divergent” trilogy), by Veronica Roth ($9.59)
“Divergent” and its recently released sequel, “Insurgent” ($12.71), are “fantastic,” Pitre says. The books are hugely popular, and “Divergent” “probably is going to be a movie,” she adds. Read this now and have bragging rights to being the first of your friends to have read the next “Hunger Games.”
If you love “The Walking Dead” or apocalyptic, end-of-the-world books, you’ll like:
“Ashes” (book one of the “Ashes” trilogy), by Ilsa J. Bick ($9.59)
This “really scary and great” book is one of Pitre’s current favorites in the YA genre. It’s about Alex, a girl with an incurable brain tumor, who goes off by herself in the woods. While she’s out, an electromagnetic pulse wipes out much of the human race and turns many of the survivors into zombies. It’s such a page-turner that you’ll probably want to order the second book, “Shadows” ($10.79).
If you’re obsessed with “Twilight” or other epic love stories, you’ll like:
“Daughter of Smoke & Bone” (book one of the “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” trilogy), by Laini Taylor ($9.99)
This is a “really epic love story” about two fascinating and unusual teens named Karou and Akiva. “It’s a beautiful, magical, fantastical book, and the romance is really great,” Pitre says. “Twilight” fans will love this novel, but Pitre adds that the heroine is much “more independent and confident” than Bella, so even you “Twilight” haters out there will be happy. The sequel, “Days of Blood & Starlight” ($11.77), is out as of Nov. 6, making for some very happy wintertime readers. Side note: The trilogy’s author has pink hair and a kid named Clementine Pie, so she is officially the coolest human being ever.
“The Raven Boys” (book one of the four-book series “Raven Cycle”), by Maggie Stiefvater ($11.77)
Set in contemporary Virginia, this book has a lot of lore in it as well as supernatural elements and mystery. Pitre says “it’s phenomenal, and probably my favorite book that I’ve read all year.” It’s about a psychic’s daughter named Blue who has been told all her life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. But when she meets Gansey, a mysterious — and compelling — prep-school boy who has secrets of his own, she isn’t sure what to do. This book “pulls you in, and you don’t want to let it go,” our expert adds.
If you love suspenseful tales a la Dan Brown, you’ll like:
“The Book of Blood and Shadow,” by Robin Wasserman ($11.98)
It’s a tough plot to summarize in a short space, so let Pitre boil it down to this: “It’s like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ but with teenagers.” Intrigued? Me, too.
If you like plots that could actually happen, otherwise known as contemporary YA, you’ll like:
“When You Were Mine,” by Rebecca Serle ($10.98)
Based on “Romeo and Juliet,” the story takes place in a modern setting and is written from the perspective of high school senior Rosaline. Basically, Pitre says, “this girl has been in love with a guy, but then her cousin moves to town” and messes everything up. It’s “super swoony,” Pitre raves, and “the writing is great.”
“The List,” by Siobhan Vivian ($10.97)
Every year, “the list” papers the entire high school, naming the hottest girl in each grade — and the ugliest one, too. Told from the perspective of each of the eight girls named, the book covers serious topics in a non-preachy way.
“Burn for Burn” (first in a trilogy), by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian ($10.97)
Pitre had kind words for another one of Vivian’s books, this one co-written with Jenny Han, about three girls who get tired of being bullied and make a pact to take revenge on their tormenters.
“The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life,” by Tara Altebrando ($11.98)
Mary is dying to finally be sprung from the hell that is high school, but she’s stuck doing one last activity with her classmates: the annual Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. The plot takes place over just a few hours, but Altebrando still manages to distill high school down to its very essence. “The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life” is “really fun,” Pitre says.