YA for Adults: How to find the right books

I think I was seventeen-years-old when I lost my love of reading. Determined to study English Literature at University I put down my kid spy and vampire books and picked up the classics. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the classics are bad, there were a few that I did really enjoy – Huckleberry Finn being one of them. But I realised one day that I was having to tell myself to read at least ten pages a day. A few months later I was in hospital and I bought myself a YA book (YA stands for young adult btw (btw stands for by the way fyi (fyi stands for for your information umt) Okay you got me, that last one doesn’t stand for anything. Back to the point in hand, I read that YA book in under a day. I finished the last page and was filled with that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’re reading a good book. I hadn’t lost my love of reading, I’d just been reading the wrong books.

So what if technically I’m an adult? So what if the books are ‘marketed’ at teenagers? When I was ten I was reading books way above my age range. Adults all around the world are obsessed with Harry Potter – a ‘children’s book’. Writing is writing, a story is a story. If you enjoy it, read it.

There is a slight problem with this though. YA bridges a wide range of topics and writing styles. There are those that, for me, aren’t as enjoyable, not because the story isn’t as good but because the writing is closer to that of Middle Grade. This can make finding the right books for you tricky.

It sounds simple but I’ve found that the best guide for finding young adult stories with adult level writing is looking at the main characters age. For me, if the main character is under fifteen then the book will be too young. This isn’t an absolute but it’s a good guide.

If you want to avoid any sexual elements then stick to characters seventeen and under. Amazon also does a good job at high lighting when I book might not be appropriate for younger readers.

If, on the other hand you want something with a bit more romance and the sexy stuff that comes with i, then look for characters aged nineteen and above. Also try looking for New Adult books. I haven’t entirely figured out what this genre includes but I know romance is often a key part of it.

If you’re struggling to find a book then Goodreads is a great website. You can search for a book you’ve read and it will recommend others like it or you can find your favourite authors and discover others that write in the same style or genre. Once you’ve built up a bit of a list through ordering, then Amazon also does a good job at recommending books for you. Oh and always remember, whichever site you’re using, to add books to your reading lists otherwise you’ll find yourself in the dreaded purgatory of searching through your browsing history to find that one book you know you wanted to read but can’t remember the name of… trust me, you don’t want to go there.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So Sasha is going to be very proud of me when she discovers that I am reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s a big fan of Douglas Adams. This is a new genre for me, I don’t tend to read much fantasy and when I do it’s YA. So I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency but I guess there is a reason for Adams’ success. The jury was still out on the book until I read one of those wonderful lines that made me laugh out loud. For those of you that know the book, it was the quirky professor Reg who stated, whilst at a candle lit collegiate dinner,

“It seems odd, don’t you think, that the quality of the food should vary inversely with the brightness of the lighting. Makes you wonder what culinary heights the kitchen staff could rise to if you confined them to perpetual darkness. Could be worth a try, I think.”

I have to admit that despite the fact he is two hundred years old I am falling a little bit in love with Reg. His absurdity reminds me somewhat of Sasha, a comparison I am sure she will be thrilled by. So it was Adams’ delicious combination of observant humour and exaggeration that drew me into the book. I am now about half way through and it’s really quite satisfying watching the different threads, that seemed utterly disconnected to begin with, weave together. When you’re a writer there’s a fine line between leaving your reader confused but intrigued and leaving them like a bamboozled baboon who doesn’t have the patience to read on. I’m glad to report that as of yet I am still very much a literate human and not a frustrated ape. Congratulations Mr Adams.