If you’re familiar with this blog, you know I read a lot of young adult books. I both enjoy them in their own right, but I also read them with my niece and nephew. Here are some young adult books I’ve discovered that aren’t just for kids. If you’re looking to get into YA, this is a great place to start.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I listened to the audiobook version of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and to be honest, I didn’t know this was a young adult book when I purchased it nor when I was listening to it. It was only after having my soul completely ripped from my body by this book and went researching the author that I discovered this is meant to be for young people.
Code Name Verity follows two young women in World War II. Their story is told through the “confession” of Verity, a spy captured by the Gestapo. Verity’s “confession” details how she became friends with a pilot named Maddie.
As you know, I don’t do spoilers on this blog, so I won’t reveal more than that, because the plot is so intricately woven one detail could give the whole thing away. Here is what I think you need to know about this book.
This story is visceral. Verity is tortured by the Gestapo, and you “see” it on the page. As with any World War II story, there are inhumane and cruel conditions faced by the protagonists, and this can be difficult to read. Finally, the story is about sacrifice. It’s the kind of sacrifice that had me pulling over my car and backing up the recording to make sure I heard it. (I’m not kidding. I did that.)
So to sum up, this book is about young women serving as spies and pilots during World War II in England and one of them is captured. But which one? And just what exactly does she confess?
Important note: this book is loosely part of a series. I would say VERY loosely. The next book in the series, Enigma Game, is due to be released on November 3, 2020 in the US.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
For a time, I was the manager of the children’s section at my local bookstore. During that time, I continuously received requests for this book because it was required school reading.
Well, color me purple when I actually read the book and wondered why the heck this was assigned to children!
I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman audiobooks because he typically reads them himself, and this one was not a disappointment. Gaiman has a lively style of reading that makes one feel as though a beloved grandparent is reading the story to her. The Graveyard Book was no exception.
The story is a rethinking of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books (in my opinion), as it follows the boy Bod, who lives in a graveyard and is hunted by the man Jack. Bod must straddle the world between the living and the dead, and it’s interesting to watch him figure out what is ghostly and what is human.
The Graveyard Book is categorized as children’s reading likely because the reading level is quite simple. However, the reading level makes the story flow and deceive the reader into thinking it’s all a lovely fairy tale. In reality, this story is dark and menacing, and I should never have listened to it traveling down dark, scary roads at night.
There are very dark concepts involved here including death, hounds of hell, murder, and kidnapping. While my favorite movie as a child was House II, be aware that some young readers may be more sensitive to such topics.
This story will consume you until you think you’re among the gravestones where Bod lives. Does the man Jack finally catch Bod? Can Bod ever survive amongst the living?
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
My nephew had the audacity to become a teenager at some point, and with that precipitous leap into adolescence, his reading changed. He handed me One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus a few years ago and told me to read it.
I’m currently reading the sequel, and I texted a teacher friend of mine to ask, “Does this crap really happen in schools these days?????”
One of Us is Lying is about a high school in California where a student suspiciously dies. After his death, his blog reveals secrets about his classmates. Four students are then investigated for murder.
I wanted to think this story was fantastical, but the writing is so realistic it made my skin crawl. The characters were intricately drawn with small nuances that made them pop from the page. The setting was deceptively boring, lulling the reader into a false sense of security. The plot…well, I snatched up the sequel as soon as it was published.
This young adult book grapples with concepts I didn’t know teenagers faced today. However, my nephew’s ardent reaction to this book will tell you just how spot on McManus is in this story. I warn you that the topics can be tough to handle as adults. When thinking about teenagers facing them, it can be downright difficult to swallow. That’s what makes this book so irresistible, but also might be difficult for some young readers.
Some topics include sexual harassment and assault, drugs, criminal activity, and suicide. It’s important to talk to your young ones should they take on this book. As adults, you may just be wondering what is going on in this world.