The Brian Lehrer Show, and Must-Read YA Titles

That was a lot of fun being on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC this morning! The segment is online here.

One commenter asked me to recommend YA titles that would give an adult a sense of the richness of the genre. Here are a few of my favorite YA titles that I think have huge adult appeal:

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. I was completely swept away by the voice of this novel and I couldn’t put it down. I would finish one page and then read it again because the writing is so beautiful.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This novel has touched many readers and is destined to become a classic. Alexie’s novel Flight was also published last year; I loved Flight just as much as True Diary, and though Flight was released as an adult title, teens will love it as well. Flight pays tribute to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which I read in high school when I was fourteen, and I fell head-over-heels in love with it. It affected me so deeply that I can still quote parts of it from memory. Teaching Slaughterhouse-Five and Flight back-to-back in a high school english class would be amazing.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Meg Rosoff’s novels have been published in so many dual YA and adult editions in different countries that she told me “You need a flow chart to keep track of it.” All three are fantastic.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham. This book also has a voice that grasps you and does not let you go. I started reading and stayed up well into the night until I finished it.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. This book defies many of the “What makes a YA book” rules since there isn’t even a teenage character–or even a sentence!–in it. It’s a graphic novel composed entirely of illustrations, and I think it was published as YA partly because YA publishers are more open to genre-defying books, and partly because the adult publishing industry has yet to figure out how to market graphic novels successfully. It’s beautifully produced and it’s as large as a coffee table book; it’s the kind of book you can’t help but pick up and pore over.

In Summer Light by Zibby ONeal. This title is out of print now, but I’m adding it here because I first read it when I was 17 and I’ve re-read it many times since, and it affects me every time. It’s partly the story of a 17-year-old falling in love with a 25-year-old, and though the love is mutual they never act on it. It’s a wonderful portrayal of that unique kind of friendship/romantic love that, even if it’s never acted upon, is still so powerful and is so hard to define, but which ONeal articulates so beautifully. I really hope this book comes back into print sometime, but in the meantime used copies are available here.

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