One-Minute Book Reviews

August 1, 2008

What Books for Adults Would You Recommend to Teenagers – August Meeting of Ruthless Book Club

Filed under: Ruthless Book Club,Young Adult — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:12 am
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Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the increasing crossover between books for the adult and young adult (YA) markets, typically defined as ages 13 and up. More people in each group seem to reading books written for the other.

This crossover is occurring partly because the young-adult market has exploded and offers many more books that might appeal to adults than it did a generation ago. At the same time, as cultural literacy has declined, books for adults have gotten dumber. A lot of them would suit adolescents better than people who haven’t been carded since the Clinton administration. So the adult and young-adult markets are meeting in the middle: The average bestseller is pitched to an 11- or 12-year-old, to judge by the calculations of authors’ writing levels that that I’ve done using the Microsoft Word readability statistics. Still another reason for the crossover might be that parents are more involved with homework than they used do, so they’re dipping the books their children bring home and finding that they like them.

So here this month’s question: What books for adults have you read that you would recommend to teenagers and vice versa? One of the best recent examples I can think of is The Red Leather Diary, a journal kept in the 1930s by a woman now in her 90s whom the journalist Lily Koppel tracked down and interviewed. This adult book would no doubt appeal to many teenagers, too.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. For adults: M. T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party. (The concluding volume will be out in October.)

    For teens: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

    Comment by medinger — August 1, 2008 @ 7:15 am | Reply

  2. Thank you! “Octavian Nothing” won a National Book Award for young people’s literature, and I’ve been wanting to dip into it for a long time.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 1, 2008 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  3. Octavian is very strange… there is such a plot shift that it’s almost like reading two different books. But I’m planning to read the next one just to see where on earth the author is taking the story.

    I’m on a committee that selects nominees for a state book award for teen readers. (The committee picks the nominees and they are voted on by teen readers) So…I read a lot of teen books but not as many adult books. We try to have at least one book on the final list of 20 nominees that was actually marketed to adults but that teens would enjoy, to promote crossover reading.

    I read one recently that was excellent for any age from about 14 up. It is called Impossible, by Nancy Werlin. It’s a combination of a realistic-fiction type contemporary story, with folkore and fantasy elements, and a lot of music lore. It is very intriguing on a number of levels. I don’t think it has been published yet (I read an ARC) but it should be out soon.

    I think that overall the quality of fiction being written for teens has improved dramatically over the past few years. I have read a number of “teen” books that I would recommend to adult readers.

    Comment by heykat — August 1, 2008 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  4. Would love to hear more about a few of the nominees for the state award are after they’re released if you’re free to say that.

    I raised this month’s question partly because many, many of the young-adult books I read are better than the adult books. When I was growing up, so many YA seemed to be trashy — unless I just gravitated to those instead of others. And the trashy ones are still around, but the overall quality seems to have improved.

    Does your committee ever select graphic novels, or does another committee do that? I’m very new to that genre, so welcome all suggestions —

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 1, 2008 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  5. Another YA for adults that I’d recommend is Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman.

    Comment by medinger — August 2, 2008 @ 7:56 am | Reply

  6. The New Policeman is a 2007 fantasy from HarperTeen about a 15-year-old boy in Ireland who asks his mother for more time with him for his birthday, which apparently sets up a plot involving time travel and a lot of info about Irish music. A School Library Journal review on Amazon has more.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 2, 2008 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  7. The book awards for teens page at is a good place to look.

    Comment by mcomco — August 3, 2008 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  8. The American Library Association gives Alex Awards each year to ten or so books for adults that may have special appeal for 12-to-18-year olds. The Alex site may also be useful Thanks for your comment.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 4, 2008 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  9. “Girl Coming in for a Landing” by April Halprin Wayland is a good one for teen girls – I read it in middle school and loved it, and am an incoming freshman in college now and still think it’s wonderful. It’s a novel about sophomore year written entirely in poems… a quick read, but still the one I recommend most for young adult readers.

    Comment by g0jumb0s — August 17, 2008 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  10. A high school teacher once told me that it’s easier to get some students to write poetry than prose, because the shorter lines make it seem less difficult to them. I wonder if a novel in verse would have the same effect? Interesting suggestion.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — August 17, 2008 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

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