Recently, I've had both the pleasure and the disappointment of having three separate conversations concerning Young Adult books. The disappointment was experienced when I realized that the people I was book chatting with where only familiar with YA from some of its more popular series, Twilight and The Hunger Games trilogy. Now there's nothing wrong with having read those two series. They are rather YA staples and really good examples of some of the worst and best aspects of YA literature, but while they are a good introduction to YA they are not, by far, everything YA has to offer. In an attempt to correct this, I've rambled off this informative little prattle about YA books I think you should read to either better or further your opinion of YA lit.
Looking for books along the lines of Twilight is what lead me to the various and assorted YA I've read today as well as taught me that the Twilight series is some of the worst shit ever written and nothing to hold sacred. MOVING ON... We'll also let this serve as a bit of an introduction to Young Adult fiction for those of you who haven't been bitten by the bug or who are like myself- no longer a young adult. We're going to take baby steps here, as not to overload you, and talk about one group of books at a time. We'll start with the above mentioned series and branch out from there.
First thing you need to understand about YA books is that despite poor product placement and bookstore marketing, these are NOT children's books, nor do they belong in the children's section. You might see them classified as "Teen" in some stores and that's a fair assumption but still a bit too segmented and stereotyped to draw in everyone the genre is actually targeted at. These books are written for, roughly, ages 14-22 and are written on a variety of reading levels. Take a gander at the Wikipedia entry on the subject and look at some of the titles that have traditionally appealed to the young adult age group. It'll give you an idea of what you could potentially be looking at- as well as the second grade reading level paranormal nonsense that has habitually caused this group of fiction to be pigeonholed as kid's crap. To fine tune it a bit, these are books that are aimed at ahem "youthful" people and the situations and reactions as they would apply at that point in life. While these books may not always get it right, there are those out there that more than assure the YA section a place in the bookstore (wherever they may put it).
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal YA
I'm speaking to YOU, Twilight fans. These are your vampire, werewolf, time travel, shape-shifting, psychic powers and other unexplainable what-nots, works of fiction. They can cover a broad range of time or place but are generally centered in our world (you know, the real one) and in vaguely real-time...or a warped but recognizable facsimile. These are not fantasy in the traditional sense in that they take place HERE and not in The Forest of Unpronouncable Awesomeness in the land of Farawaya. If you are wanting to spend a little more time hanging out with the unexplained (and maybe make a few new vampire friends in the process), here are a few Young Adult Paranormal books that don't bring shame upon the genre and the majority of which are thankfully, NOTHING like Twilight:
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Is a modern ghost story, with a bit of romance, a smidgen of gore and a lot of imagination. This was published in 2011, features a male lead character (something very rare in YA) and pushed past the idea that Paranormal YA had to be all light and fluffy.
The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare: While the pre and post trilogies are making it easy to dislike nearly the entire production, it's not easy to dismiss the awesomeness that is her debut trilogy. It's a good one to read if you're coming down from your Twilight high and hoping to get wrapped up in the emotion of impossible and all consuming love whilst battling evil and hanging out with powerful, magical folk. And Jace is hot. Seriously hot. I'll probably burn in hell for actually recommending this series.
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White: When you've had all the gloom and doom and brooding you can possibly stand but still don't want to leave a place where normal young adults have some not so normal abilities, you might want to spend some time with Evie in the International Paranormal Containment Agency, hunting down rogue vampires and falling in love with invisible boys. Evie is a refreshing change from the incessant brooding in paranormal YA. She's hilariously funny and even with all her powers, she's immune to the magical draw of a pretty pair of shoes.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: This little marvel, while loosely YA (I say this because the writing is perhaps a bit above the usual reading level of general YA), has a lot of YA appeal in that it features many people of the youthful persuasion with some most extraordinary abilities along with a boarding school (YA is littered with these), a tinge of romance and a main character (again, one of those allusive male leads) who is willing to risk everything to save his friends- even if they might not be real.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Taylor is a godsend for YA, I swear. You can't hope to top the level of imagination that went into this story. As an extra added bonus, it's remarkably well written. No vampires here, but we do have some angels- who aren't necessarily the good guys and the main character has BLUE HAIR (#thingsthatarecool).
The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa: As a grown woman, I often feel silly saying that I read YA, but if there is one series out there that makes me stand up proud and say "Fuck yeah, I read YA. So kiss it, Classics!" this is it. The is a serious win for the YA home team. We love it. We're proud of it and it's alllllllll ours. Real fairies (you know, bad ones), a STRONG female lead and lurve....lots of lurve.
So that should get you started. The one thing missing from this list is a kick ass Paranormal/Urban Fantasy YA stand alone novel. Having nearly every book published in YA be part of a series is definitely one of its short comings. So I'll throw The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater out there even though I had a "hmmmmm" moment when I tried to classify it. We'll call it paranormal fantasy for today.
Now go and read...and comment on your own favorite paranormal YA books- because that's the kind of stuff we do.