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 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 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 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.