Crossovers: Adult Fantasy Books for YA Readers

I really do love young adult fiction (which is good, because it’s part of my job to buy it). The stories are often about firsts—first love, first betrayal, first encounter with grief or injustice—and because it’s the first time, it’s intense. Which makes for a good story.

The writing is often brisk and intimate, and the plotting is fast. All this together, and you’ve got an un-put-downable book.

Some people love YA, and might even be hesitant to branch out into adult fiction. Likewise, some readers turn their nose up at YA.

Which is why I want to talk about crossovers: both YA books that adult readers will love, and adult books that fans of YA will enjoy.

First up: fantasy books!

Not only are these great crossover fantasy books, but they’re also great for readers just dipping their toe in the fantasy waters.

The Best Fantasy Books for YA Readers

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet

if you like carry on

Carry On is delightful, and especially perfect for die-hard Harry Potter fans who got into fanfiction. It’s based on the faux-fantasy series that appears in Rainbow’s novel Fangirl and probably works best for those who have read it first. It’s very meta, and playful with fantasy tropes. Plus there’s love-hate-enemies-to-kissing, which is definitely my jam.

Mal Peet is a British author who has written much YA, but his adult novel The Murdstone Trilogy is also very meta-fantasy fiction, and is a satire of the modern publishing world where authors can’t just write “jolly good books” but are expected to interact with the public/blog/tweet. Brilliant, funny, and original, it will really resonate with fans of Carry On. Plus Muderstone is the best name ever.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel by V. E. Schwab

if you like six of crows

Six of Crows is for people who like action, heists, and characters in refreshing shades of moral grey, and of course, interesting and unique fantasy world-building. I’ve heard from a lot of people, and have felt this way myself, that adult fantasy titles can feel difficult to get into or are intimidating to dive into (it’s so much easier to dip your toes into other genres in YA, isn’t it?).

While A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel has all the appeal of a story like Six of Crows — a couple of thieves, a fresh take on portal worlds, a traditional fantasy setup, and great action scenes, it’s sophisticated without being dense in the way some adult fantasy book titles are.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski and The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel by Erika Johansen

if you like winner's curse

The Winner’s Curse trilogy is very much a story of forbidden romance, but it’s really the politics that makes it so compelling. Kestral is the daughter of a general that has conquered and enslaved a neighboring kingdom and his army has occupied it for most of her life. Still, Kestral’s moral compass is true enough that she recognizes the injustice of her world and sympathizes with the slaves. Aron is a proud, strong slave connected to a group sowing the seeds of rebellion, and is conveniently placed in her household. The complicated way that their loyalties are tested as they fall in love makes for an emotionally intense read.

The Queen of the Tearling is also very much about the complicated political machinations of a kingdom and the difficult decisions that rulers must make. Kelsea is a reluctant monarch ascending the throne after years in hiding, who inherits a struggling kingdom threatened by the mad queen of a neighboring land. She has a strong moral compass and a sense of duty, just as one would want in a queen. She is neither stupid nor cowardly. The world-building her is fantastic, and while I was lukewarm on the first installment of the series, the second book blew me away. It’s very complicated and layered, and I can’t wait for the final book to come out this summer.

What young adult fantasy titles do you recommend? Do you have favorites in adult fantasy? Would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

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  • I don’t read a ton of YA or fantasy, so I’ll be curious to check out some of these. I’ve had Fangirl on my list for some time now, and I’ll have to add Carry On as well. I always *think* I won’t like fantasy, but often the things I don’t expect to like I end up loving, so I’m trying to keep an open mind 🙂

    • I read across all genres – but understand that some people don’t. It is nice to get outside of your comfort zone sometimes. I found that Fangirl is mostly going to resonate with people who love Harry Potter and/or read and write fanfiction. If that’s not you, it wouldn’t be my first contemporary YA or Rainbow Rowell novel to rec (I have a million suggestions for contemp YA that are better and the best Rainbow Rowell novel is Attachments, in my opinion).

      I’ll be doing these crossover pairing for lots of different genres, so more suggestions to come!

  • Stefanie Meier

    Oh wow I’ve honestly always wanted someone to make a post like this, bookmarked your page!

    Stefanie | Casualllyawkward | Bloglovin’

    • I’m going to do an entire series of crossover recommendations! Glad it helped.

  • I like these posts, excited to see more if you make them. 🙂 Interested in The Queen of the Tearling. I haven’t read any of these. I try to read lots of genres, but do end up reading a lot of YA. Sometimes more than I would like. Sometimes book challenges have me reaching for YA because it’s quick, but other times they have me reaching for adult fiction because it needs to be more diverse. I should probably stop doing shorter reading challenges for a while! It’s feeling limiting right now. I have been wanting to read Attachments and other Rowell for ages. Hopefully soon! XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • I will definitely be doing more of these type of posts!

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading lots of YA no matter your age (obviously). Reading should be whatever you need it to be, and if that’s quick and fun and escapist, so be it. YA can also be just as nuanced and deep and complex as fiction for adults — it’s the full range, because it’s more of a category than a genre.

      I know what you mean about challenges. I am doing two this year: one for the professional blog I run, focused on last year’s ALA award winning YA, and then the one for the other site I write for, Book Riot, has challenge that is all about focusing on diversity and stretching your reading and getting out of your comfort zone. When it comes to challenges, you just have to do what works for you.

      I do really love Attachments. It’s my favorite Rainbow Rowell.