These are the most outstanding books about teenagers that you won’t find in the teen section of your local bookstore. Books that writers and publishers don’t want to admit to being YA, or have classed as ‘adult’ in order to get the biggest readership. Some of the greatest writers of our time have written about that most awesome eras of existence, the teenage years, and here are the best. Perfect for YA readers that yearn for MORE or those looking for the Next Step in their reading.
I remember reading this when I was probably a bit too young to read this. It features an awful lot of sexytimes that I remember being a more gross than titillating. And also thinking that boys were weird. There wasn't enough actual romance to get me hooked when I was a young teen, but looking back now it probably expresses quite deftly the thoughts that teenage boys have. Tell me now if I'm wrong!
This book haunted me a little when I was younger, and I ended up reading anything and everything by Margaret Atwood. I still hold her up as being one of my favourite writers of all time. This was because this book captured perfectly what I was going through in secondary school at the time, being bullied by my best friend. As paradoxical as that sounds, this book got it. And I truly felt that Atwood got me.
One I'm going to admit I haven't read yet (SHOCK! HORROR!) but it's been on my shelves for ages and ages. And from what I've heard from other people who've actually read it, I have absolutely no idea why it's not a straight-up YA book. Go into a bookshop and you'll find it in the adult section. Mystery. The only reason I can think of is that the publishers got scared that younger people wouldn't be able to pronounce his name. Which is stupid, because I'm in my twenties and I still can't pronounce his name.
This is one that I'm a bit too scared to read. One, because it's mean to be really sick and twisted, and two, because I think I'll enjoy it. From what I gather, there's a bit of murder, and a bit of incest. But it's still still about teens, the teenage experience and the workings of the teenage mind. So for me that qualifies it as adult YA.
We all know that growing up sucks, but it especially sucks if you've been adopted by a crazy religious lady and you think you might be gay. Based on her actual life, this is Jeanette expressing her own personal, teenage experience.
Ooooh this book gave me chills when I first read it! But it was the point of view that really interested me: first person plural - I remember being, like, woh. A group of boys look back on their teenage years and their obsession with the sisters that lived down the road. Creepy and wonderful.
Another one I haven't read yet, and only became aware of because a film was made recently. But like Perks, I have no idea why this isn't something that belongs in the YA section in shops. If anyone can enlighten me, then please do! Otherwise, it's one that's been on my 'to read' list for ages and ages. Along with a million other titles!
So I've given you a load of literary gems so far, but we all know what I'm like, and I do like the odd guilty pleasure swoon every now and again. Admittedly, I've seen the film and not read the book, but essentially if it's by Mr Sparkes, it's blatantly going to be a teary romance. This one has a dying girl and a bad boy who sees the light. Can't go wrong really!
I read this one when I was seventeen and visiting Durham university, where I was eventually going to study. And I know it's had a bit of a bad rap since it exploded on to the scene with ridiculous accolades, but I loved it. I thought it was great. And I thought that here is a writer that understands what it's like to be a young person in a world I knew really well: North West London.
Pretty much essential reading for any young person, although I think I was a bit too old when I read it in the sixth form. I was always a goody-two-shoes (prefect, Head Girl etc) so I never really 'got' Holden Caulfield. But I am pretty much convinced that if this book were published today it would be classed YA in the bookshops. In fact, why the hell has Penguin/Puffin not done a YA edition of this yet? Blatantly missing a trick.
Other Notable Titles
Whilst thinking long and hard about this list, I came across titles that I technically couldn't include because of the rules of 'Contempo-May' (no supernatural, historical or sci-fi elements). But there are some books that I just HAVE to give a mention to, because they are awesome and deserve it. So there.
- Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Carrie by Stephen King
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
As always, I want your comments and suggestions, so please leave them in the doobree below. Have I missed anything out?
Hugs and high fives,