Books

Crossovers: Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is not my go-to genre. I generally prefer literary fiction for adults that is set in the present day, and I am very picky about historical fiction for young adults. But because I like to be a well-balanced reader and I don’t want to discount an entire genre and miss out on some great stories, I occasionally will pick up a story set in the past.

crossover historical fiction

I also think that historical fiction is one of the best genres for crossing over between YA and adult fiction. Especially readers who are interested in a specific time period, there’s a wealth of corssover appeal. Historical novels are often more sophisticated writing than many realistic YA stories, and also well researched, but have a quick pace and engrossing writing that will also appeal to readers who typically read adult fiction.

Crossover Historical Fiction

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

burn baby burn and everything i never told you

I really loved Meg Medina’s earlier novels, both The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind with its hints of magical realism and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for its authentic characters and relatable teenage dilemmas. But when I saw her most recent novel was historical and set in 1970s New York, I was skeptical. Some librarian friends convinced me to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a thrilling coming of age story set against the wild summer when the Son of Sam serial killer was terrorizing the city.

Set in a similar time period but a world away is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This was a really solid debut I listened to on audio last year. It’s about family secrets surrounding the death of a favorite daughter, and like Burn, Baby, Burn, it’s a compelling look at gender, race, and family. It definitely has appeal to fans of YA—it was on YALSA’s Alex Award list for adult books that will appeal to teen readers.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

code name verity + the nightingale

There are approximately 15,843 WWII stories in young adult fiction. I’m usually quite wary of them. We read so many in school growing up, and while I think it’s an important topic to explore (and to never forget) the stories are almost always quite sad and depressing. But I highly recommend Code Name Verity. It’s told in a very unique way through an unreliable narrator, and is an empowering story of female friendship.  The Nightingale is also a story set against German-occupied France during WWII, and follows two very different sisters.

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys and Madam: A Novel of New Orleans by Cari Lynn and Kellie Martin

out of the easy + madam

Ruta Septys has also written two amazing stories set during WWII that are based on parts of the war that are relatively unknown. Between Shades of Gray follows the Lithuanian occupation, and Salt to the Sea is based on the tragedy of  the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. But my favorite of her novels is Out of the Easy, a murder mystery and coming-of-age tale set in 1950s New Orleans.

The characters are so well-drawn and complex. Josie is the daughter of a prostitute determined to escape her life and attend an elite college. One of the most compelling characters is the madam that runs the brothel where her mother works, and where she grew up. For a story that explores the world of sex workers in historical New Orleans, check out Madam: A Novel of New Orleans.

For more recommendations, check out other installments in the Crossover series

Do you have favorite historical fiction novels, whether written for adults or YA? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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  • I loved Salt to the Sea – can’t wait to check out some of your other recommendations! Code Name Verity sounds amazing.

    • If you loved Salt to the Sea you will probably enjoy Code Name Verity. If you’re an audiobook listener, it’s really good that way!

  • I loved The Nightingale and have had Code Name Verity on my list for a while now–I really need to pick that one up. I enjoy historical fiction but it’s been a while since I’ve read much. I think my all-time favorite is The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George.

    • I’ll have to check out The Memoirs of Cleopatra! I read the Schiff biography of her and really liked it.

  • Oh goodness. I love Historical Fiction. Love it. Grew up reading The American Girls books and it never left me. Looking into all of these as I have read none of them… but I really really love New Orleans. So I am specifically excited for that one! Off to goodreads! – Alexandra

    PS – I am pretty sure I saw some of you books at Dusty last night. hehe I bought Soulless – was that yours? hehe

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • I loved the American Girl books as a kid, too. I always wanted the expensive dolls and matching clothes for me and my mom thought they were terribly overpriced and a waste of money so I never got them. Ah, such is life.

      Haha, Soulless wasn’t mine, but I bet tons of my books are out! I know I read Soulless on my Kindle. But it’s super fun and I bet you’ll like it!

      • My mom agreed to get me a doll (an extravagance for our family) if I read all of the books. I don’t know that she expected me to… but I did. And so for my 10th birthday that’s what I got. It came with one extra dress. I was SO excited. Worth it for me, but I had to work for it. 🙂 In return of course I always thought it was silly when girls who hadn’t read the books had a bunch of the dolls. LOL

        Ah how funny, I kept seeing very shiny recent YA stuff that you’d posted recently. I think I will like it, excited to read it. 🙂

  • Great suggestions but also have to say I love the graphic!