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One of the joys of being a librarian for both a middle and a high school is seeing students move throughout their reading journeys from middle grade books to young adult titles and eventually into adult literature. Watching readers grapple with increasingly complex texts is one of the best parts of my job, as is seeing them discover new favorite genres and authors as they grow up and read from a wider range of books. Many of the older students eventually begin reading books that are categorized for adult readers as they seek out new stories of interest to them.
Young adults reading adult fiction is incredibly common. Just look at the number of teens discovering horror writing through Stephen King or diving into science fiction with Frank Herbert. Often, fiction in a genre a young reader already enjoys paves the way for trying books not specifically written for children or teens and opens up a new world of possibilities. Young adult readers may also enjoy learning that their favorite YA authors have also written books for adults, expanding the backlist they can read their way through.
Though sometimes it’s tempting to list books written for adults as “YA crossover” simply on the grounds of containing a teenage character or two, good crossover books go beyond that. The books below offer introductions to adult literature in genres popular with adolescent readers, coming-of-age tales and stories about emerging adults, and compelling thrillers and mysteries sure to hook readers from the first page. Each of these provides a starting place for young adult readers to find new books and to explore a whole new section of the library shelves.
All Hallows by Christopher Golden
Horror is a category with multi-age appeal, and young adult readers who have already found Stephen King will enjoy expanding their horror reads with this novel that brings in nostalgic/Stranger Things vibes. On Halloween night in 1984 Massachusetts, the families of Parmenter Road are preparing for a night of trick-or-treating and Halloween scares. But amid the celebrating children lurks The Cunning Man, a killer spreading terror up and down the street. Teen readers will appreciate the combination of adult horror and coming-of-age storylines.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Dystopian novels help readers, including young adults, tackle big questions about society and how it functions. This immersive novel takes place on an unnamed island, where objects have begun to disappear both from the island and the memories of the islanders. The few people with the power to recall them live in constant fear of the Memory Police, a draconian force bent on eliminating certain things — and people — from the island.
Maame by Jessica George
A modern coming-of-age story that will appeal to both adult and young adult readers set in London. Maddie is a young woman balancing a job, being the primary caregiver for her father with Parkinson’s, and a mother who’s in Ghana more often than she’s at home. When Maddie’s mom returns from her most recent trip, Maddie seizes the chance to try out new experiences for a late-bloomer like her: a flatshare, after-work drinks, and internet dating. But as she grows in new ways, her complex family still draws her back home.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Young adult readers may find new books they love by exploring the adult backlists of favorite YA authors. Sutanto has written everything from romance to thriller, including beloved YA titles like the romance Didn’t See That Coming. Young adult mystery fans will definitely want to pick up her Aunties series, where Meddelin Chan and her crew of aunties fight crime, hide corpses, and help Meddelin deal with the reemergence of her first heartbreak.
Book of Night by Holly Black
Holly Black is another adult author who also has a YA catalog, and she writes fantasy stories that will appeal to YA fantasy lovers looking to jump into adult books in the genre. Black weaves a shadowy story full of thieves and secret societies where shadows can be manipulated — at a cost. Charlie Hall is a low-level con artist who is thrown into a fight for survival when a shadowy figure from her past reemerges.
The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab
The ever-popular (and prolific) V.E. Schwab’s books appeal to readers of all ages. In her newest adult novel, Schwab revisits the world of magical London with a new character, a girl with unusual magical abilities and a shadowy past. Her presence will challenge power-hungry queens, corrupt rulers, and the balance of power between the four Londons.
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
The setting of this twisted psychological thriller, an elite college in Washington, D.C., will appeal to young adults. Chloe Sevre is a college freshman, honor student, and psychopath who is there to take part in an unusual study of others like her under the supervision of an eccentric professor. But when one of the other students in the study is found murdered, Chloe is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game that turns her from the hunter to the hunted in this fast-paced and thrilling novel.
Homecoming by Kate Morton
Historical fiction and mystery are popular with readers of all ages, and Katie Morton is known for her popular books that combine the two. In her latest novel, a delivery man discovers a body in Adelaide Hills on Christmas Eve 1959, a discovery that leads to one of the most notorious murder cases in South Australia. Decades later, Jess is a laid-off journalist who has come home to Australia to care for her ailing grandmother. When Jess finds a shocking connection between her family and the murder of 1959 hidden away, it will upend everything she thinks she knows about her family history.
If you’re looking for even more great adult books for YA readers, we have them here! You can also check out our list of adult authors who have written YA books and this list if you’re an adult reader looking for YA reads.