Looking for Something New? Try YA

One thing I have learned in my years of working at the library is that it’s difficult to get people to try new things sometimes. People have their comfort zones, and there is definitely something to be said for that. But when that makes us reluctant to try something new, it means we could be missing out on something really special.

I can use myself as an example. I used to read mostly classics. I turned my nose up at most books that were popular. I still love classics, but I have made an effort to branch out and try new authors and genres. I have even tried a few series, which I used to stay away from. Have I liked all of these new books and authors? Of course not. But I have discovered quite a few that I like.

YA (Young Adult, for those who aren’t familiar), is one category of books I wish I could get more people to try reading. I think there are several reasons why people resist trying YA. At the Tracy Library, we have the YA books upstairs in the mezzanine. A lot people don’t even think about going up there to browse. Some people are just resistant to trying something new. They know what they like and where to find it, so why take the time to search for something else? Some also feel that YA just “isn’t for them.” They think that because these books are written for teens and young adults, that’s who should read them. These are all valid.

If, however, you’ve ever thought about trying YA, you should go for it. There’s really nothing to lose, and you might find that you really enjoy it. I go in phases where I’ll read a lot of YA, and then not read any for a long time. It’s good to have in my rotation, though, for when I need a change.

As with adult books, there are many genres within YA. Just like in Adult Fiction, YA has mysteries, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and more. At the heart, you’ll often find a really good story. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? It is for me.

Here are a few YA books that I’ve read and would recommend to anyone looking to get into this category.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

I have read a lot of books set during World War II, but “The Book Thief” is probably my favorite. It’s about a girl named Liesel who lives with a foster family near Munich. Liesel has an affinity for books and becomes, as the title implies, a book thief. The book is narrated by Death, so you know there will be sadness involved. “The Book Thief” definitely has its share of sadness, but there is also just something magical about it. It’s lyrical and beautifully written.

Long Way Down, Jason Reynold

I discovered Jason Reynolds when we read “Ghost” for book club last year. That’s a great book, too, but I loved “Long Way Down” even more. The whole book takes place in the span of 60 seconds – the amount of time it takes 15-year-old Will to take the elevator downstairs from his apartment. It’s also the amount of time he has to decide whether he’s going to murder the person who killed his brother. It’s every bit as intense as it sounds. It’s a quick read, and very worthwhile.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

“The Hate U Give” is about a very difficult topic. The main character is 16-year-old Starr, who witnesses the shooting death of her childhood best friend, Khalil, after they are pulled over by a police officer. Khalil is unarmed at the time he is shot. As I said, this is a difficult subject, but Thomas handles it well.

“Dumplin’,” Julie Murphy

“Dumplin'” is about a teenage girl named Willowdean, who is overweight. That doesn’t bother her, but it seems to bother a lot of other people, including her mother. Willowdean’s mother’s greatest accomplishments in life are winning the local beauty pageant and fitting into the same dress she wore for the pageant every year when the new queen is crowned. Willowdean decides to enter the pageant to prove a point, and she inspires several other girls to join her. If you’re looking for a feel-good story, this might be right for you.

Pride, Ibi Zoboi

“Pride” is a retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favorite books, and generally I am not a big fan of retellings. However, I really enjoyed “Pride.” Sisters Zuri and Janae Benitez are proud of their Afro-Latino heritage. But the neighborhood they grew up in is being gentrified. Making matters worse, a rich family – the Darcys – move in across the street. Zuri’s instinct is to hate the Darcy brothers, but Janae begins to fall for the charming and handsome Ainsley. It’s a clever retelling, and I enjoyed a different take on the classic plot.

These books and many more great YA finds are available on OverDrive or the Libby app. The next time you’re looking for a change, give one of these a try or browse the YA catalog.

Happy reading!

~Val