Listorama: 11 Books for the Younger YA Crowd
This week, Middle Grade and YA author Lisa Schroeder* made couple of great observations on Twitter about the importance of books that bridge the gap between younger readers and the upper young adult books that have a high crossover appeal to adults.
Adult crossover appeal is huge in the YA market at the moment (though I question this on some level, since the numbers aren't as huge as we're lead to believe), so it makes sense that these are the books that get attention, especially in the online reviewing world. But Lisa's comment got me thinking about that space in 7th, 8th, 9th grade where there's definitely a gap in terms of attention to the appeal of that audience in online reviews. So, I thought it would be useful to put together a list. (Please add your recommendations in the comments, if you're so inclined.)
And thanks to Lisa for helping with some suggestions!
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Obviously, I had to pick one of Lisa's books, since she inspired this list, but I'd have I Heart You, You Haunt Me on here regardless. Not only is it a super pick for that in between group, it's also a wonderful little novel for reluctant readers. The free verse is very accessible and the story is gripping.
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
This sweet story about a girl struggling with her father's diagnosis is a fabulous one for slightly younger YA readers. Payton, the narrator has an endearing sarcastic tone that's easy to connect with and I loved the family elements of this story that also features a charming beginning of a romance.
Also Known As by Robin Benway
I adore Also Known As and it's companion, Going Rogue. Maggie is part of a family of spies and she's an ace safe cracker. An assignment lands her at a New York City high school, which might just be the toughest assignment yet. There's so much to love about these books, including great family dynamics, fun friendships and a sweet romance.
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Two things really stuck with me about this novel about two inseparable friends. The first is that it's makes outstanding use of the dual point-of-view narrative by inserting banter between the two narrators in between the chapters. The second is that it spans a number of years in the narrators' growing up and their relationship both with each other and their friends and families change.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Unlike most of the books on this list, The Crossover is actually categorized as middle grade. However, with its 14 year old protagonist, it straddles the ages between middle grade and young adult quite nicely. This stunningly written novel in verse is one of those that will resonate with many young people, especially those who love sports and music, since those are the passions of the narrator. It also sensitively tackles changing family dynamics in a way that makes it pretty unforgettable.
Get Happy by Mary Amato
It's a known fact that the ukulele is the best instrument, so it makes complete sense that teenage Minerva's life goal is to acquire and learn to play the uke. This is a generally light-hearted book with a serious angle related to the main character's relationship with her family.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
One of the complaints on Goodreads is that Jenny Han's novel about Lara Jean, a teenager who's letters to her former crushes wind up being mailed to all her objects of affection, is that it reads as a bit young. For me that's much of the charm of this book. Lara Jean is pretty much a normal, well-adjusted teenager who's missing her older sister and trying to figure out life. The sister relationships in this novel are A+. (And I say that as someone who usually couldn't care less about sibling stories.)
That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is pretty much the Queen of YA, and over the years her books have taken on an older vibe. But her debut, That Summer, is definitely on the younger side of things, focusing on a rivalry between sisters and the challenge of families changing. I've never found this one to be as affecting as my favorite Dessen novels (The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride), but this one has its own specialness, especially in seeing the growth in her writing and career.
Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
Fifteen-year old Callie acquires some gorgeous Prada high heels which she has to wear on a trip to London, where she trips and falls and somehow is transported to 1815. This is a Pride & Prejudice-inspired story, so Austen fans should dig it.
Paranormalcy (Series) by Kiersten White
This series about Evie, a teenager who works for a paranormal investigative agency and carries a pink bedazzled taser she calls, "Tasey," is a straight up hoot. White's writing is funny, and I love that Evie embraces being both a girly-girl and a badass.
Gallagher Girls (series) by Ally Carter
The Gallagher Girls series is another fun one featuring a girl brought up in a family of spies. This is a good pick for readers who want to get stuck into a longer series and who have a soft spot for caper-type stories.
If you have recommendations for YA novels for younger teens, drop them in the comments--I'd love to add to this list!
*Disclosure: Lisa is a friend and we share a love of baked goods.