Teen Titles with Adult Appeal

by Brandy Sanchez, Regional Services Librarian
Originally published by Columbia Daily Tribune.

Many of today’s most popular book titles, such as “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008), “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown, 2008), or “I Am Number Four” by Pittacus Lore (HarperCollins, 2010) were written as young adult novels but have been quickly gaining popularity among adult readers. While the protagonists of young adult literature are teenagers, the complex themes and rich characters can be appreciated by all ages.

Looking for Alaska

Miles Halter begins his term at an Alabama prep school in “Looking for Alaska” by John Green (Dutton, 2005). With his roommate “The Colonel” and friend/love interest Alaska Young, he traverses the often harsh landscape of modern adolescence: bullying, drug abuse and other illicit activities. When tragedy strikes, Miles must “find a way out of this labyrinth of suffering.” Green’s book won the 2006 Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

Mark Haddon, author of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Doubleday, 2003), follows in the footsteps of Douglas Adams with his sci-fi misadventure “BOOM!” (Random House, 2009). In this quirky comedy, James’ best friend Charlie goes missing after the pair secretly investigates two teachers they suspect might be aliens.

Clockwork Prince

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction blended with fantasy. Such novels are set in time with highly advanced technology but with culture and aesthetics of Victorian England. Cassandra Clare’s “Clockwork Angel” (McElderry, 2010), follows 16-year-old Tessa from New York to London, where she is kidnapped for a unique power she doesn’t even know she possesses. The highly anticipated sequel, “Clockwork Prince,” is due out in December. Other steampunk favorites include “Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest (Tor, 2009) and “Leviathan” by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2009), both of which lure readers with imaginative steam-powered machinery and adventure in airships.

Fans of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian “Hunger Games” series will appreciate “Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown 2010). Set in the distant future along a devastated Gulf Coast, Nailer works as a ship breaker salvaging copper wiring from wrecked oil tankers. After a hurricane hits, Nailer and his friend Pima find a beautiful girl among the wreckage of a luxury clipper. Nailer works to protect her from his abusive, drug-addicted father, who would ransom her to enemies. This title was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award for young people’s literature.

Suspense-lovers should check out the young adult mystery novel “Shift” by Jennifer Bradbury (Simon & Schuster, 2008). To celebrate their high school graduation, best friends Chris and Win set out on a cross-country bicycle tour. However, when Win goes missing somewhere in Montana, Chris is forced to return home, where he becomes the lead suspect in an FBI investigation of his friend’s disappearance. Young adult author Carol Plum-Ucci is another writer of gripping mysteries such as “What Happened to Lani Garver” (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and “The Body of Christopher Creed” (Houghton Mifflin, 2000).


If you enjoy a literary journey back in time, try “Revolution” by Jennifer Donnelly (Delacarte, 2010). While researching for her senior thesis in Paris, Andi Alpers discovers the 200-year-old diary of the last Dauphin’s companion, Alexandrine Paradis. The journal transports her to the time when it was originally written — during the French Revolution. Donnelly also penned “A Northern Light” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003) which is set during the famous 1906 murder of Grace Brown at Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. This book was awarded a 2003 L.A. Book Prize and a 2004 Printz Honor Medal.

As you can tell, teen novels are as varied in theme and style as their adult counterparts. Most important, though, this body of literature serves to remind us that good storytelling knows no age boundaries. For more book recommendations, visit the library’s teen blog.

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