Five Gateway YA Books

Many adults are reluctant to pick up Young Adult books. Reasons vary, from being afraid to look silly to thinking YA books are pure fluff. Many think that YA is not worth their time. To try to remedy this, here are five YA books to get you started if you’re reluctant to pick up a YA book or want to convert someone to the wonders that are Young Adult books.

1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“I’m dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.”

This book is amazing. Melina Marchetta is an Australian author who never fails to deliver. Taylor is a very strong and very fierce girl who has been through so much and never gives up. Her story is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

2. Luna by Julie Anne Peters

“For years, Regan’s brother Liam has been nursing a secret. By day, he is Liam, a passably typical boy of his age; at night, he transforms himself into Luna, his true, female self. Regan loves and supports her brother and she keeps her Liam/Luna secret. Things change, though, when Luna decides to emerge from her cocoon. She begins dressing like a girl in public; first at the mall; then at school; then at home. Regan worries that her brother’s transgender identity is threatening her own slippery hold on normalcy.”

Luna by Julie Anne Peters.
Luna was a finalist of the National Book Awards.

This is a powerful and important book. As someone from a very sheltered household, this book educated me a lot. It’s told from the point of view of Luna’s younger sister, which I think it’s brilliant as we get to see Luna’s struggles through the eyes of someone who loves her and who is suffering alongside her.


3. The Astonishing Life Of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party

In this fascinating and eye-opening Revolution-era novel, Octavian, a black youth raised in a Boston household of radical philosophers, is given an excellent classical education. He and his mother, an African princess, are kept isolated on the estate, and only as he grows older does he realize that while he is well dressed and well fed, he is indeed a captive being used by his guardians as part of an experiment to determine the intellectual acuity of Africans. As the fortunes of the Novanglian College of Lucidity change, so do the nature and conduct of their experiments.

This book has it all: a great plot, fascinating characters, it’s written in 18th Century language, which is a challenge to read but very satisfying. It touches issues of racism, human rights, slavery, free will, among other topics. A must-read.

4. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Strange, sleepy Rogerson, with his long brown dreads and brilliant green eyes, had seemed to Caitlin to be an open door. With him she could be anybody, not just the second-rate shadow of her older sister, Cass. But now she is drowning in the vacuum Cass left behind when she turned her back on her family’s expectations by running off with a boyfriend. Caitlin wanders in a dream land of drugs and a nightmare of Rogerson’s sudden fists, lost in her search for herself.

Dreamland is about a girl whose boyfriend abuses her. He hits her and manipulates her and destroys her self esteem. It is thought-provoking and terrifying, and you will feel as if you are Caitlin, struggling for an exit.

5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents–swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa’s Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Graceling has one of the best, strongest female characters in YA. It has fantasy, romance, epic fights, great character development, and I just can’t sing its praises high enough. We watch as Katsa grows and struggles with her wants and beliefs. If you loved the Hunger Games and Katniss, you will adore Graceling and Katsa.


What do you think, readers? What other books are a good gateway to YA?


By Beezus

I'm Bee. I'm an avid reader and an aspiring writer. I love everything Doctor Who and I watch way too much TV.

17 replies on “Five Gateway YA Books”

I would add Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, which easily crosses over to steampunk or alternate history fans.

Also, Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, which comes out next Tuesday. I’m actually kind of shocked that it’s being marketed as YA. It’s very Margaret Atwood, and it deals with polygamy and rape and consent impressively. I would be wary about recommending it to younger teens, but I would absolutely recommend it to adult readers.

I love all the YA love here. I’m a teen librarian and so it’s pretty much part of my job to read a ton of YA stuff – luckily, there’s a lot of great YA being written these days, although I’m getting sick of wading through bad paranormal romances lately. I’m SO glad to see Jellicoe Road at the top of your list. I love love LOVE Melina Marchetta and Jellicoe Road is my favorite of hers. I also highly recommend John Green’s books, especially his latest that he wrote with David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (mostly for Tiny Cooper, who is the “world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large” and also pretty much runs away with the whole book). Another recent book I really liked was Paolo Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker, which won the Printz award for young adult literature this year and would be a great read for those who liked Bacigalupi’s adult fantasy and scifi novels. Oh! A great, GREAT feminist YA read is E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Frankie is one of my all-time favorite female YA characters.

Phew. I’ve got lots of other recommendations but I feel like I’ve blathered on forever already. I’ve made up lots of booklists over at my library’s teen blog if anybody’s interested in checking out some more.

Kristin Cashore graduated from the same teeny-tiny grad program as I did, so I always get extremely excited to see her books being talked about! I adored Graceling and Fire. Her third book has been delayed a few times, which makes me nervous, but I’m hoping that just ends up meaning it will be even more amazing.

I would also say that His Dark Materials is a good gateway, since it’s actually marketed for adults in the UK. It is inexplicably in the middle-grade section–not even YA–at Barnes and Noble, although can also be found in the fantasy/sci-fi section with a different cover.

I love books! Talk to me about them! My master’s degree is in Children’s Lit, but I don’t work in that field at all, so I get really excited when other people are interested in what I studied!

I just recently got into YA books, and now I’m totally hooked. Accio YA Books ( was what did it for me, but DON’T GO THERE! Your reading list will immediately be longer than you could possibly finish in a year, and all you will want to do is read awesome books that actually have good characterization, interesting plots, and well-crafted prose. Seriously, don’t do it! YA will take over your life!

I love the Garth Nix trilogy books (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) as if you couldn’t tell by my username. They are YA but could easily give adult fantasy books a run for their money. Even though the main character is a teenager the author doesn’t have her going through “teenage” issues for the most part. She is just on this AWESOME quest to save her dad (in the first book- Sabriel)

I LURVED the Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing). They’re paranormal, but they also touch on a lot of women’s issues and have a decidedly feminist heroine. I’m giving them to my younger cousin as soon as she’s old enough to read them.

True story: Sarah Dessen grew up in my neighborhood and is a childhood friend of my dad’s. What’s really neat is that when you read her books, it’s so clearly my hometown, and even my neighborhood that she’s writing about. It made her stories all the more compelling for me when I was in high school!

The thing about YA is that lately there have been a LOT of adults reading and talking about YA novels, and a lot of them made into movies. This has meant two things: commercialization, which means that we get things like the paranormal romance section at B&N and 95 000 YA dystopias of varying quality. But it has also meant that a LOT of YA novels are now written with that adult audience in mind, and they’re a lot less “fluffy” than they were even ten years ago without necessarily being “classroom books.” If your last dip into YA was Sweet Valley High, I really encourage you to look through the YA shelves now and then. Every genre is represented! There’s something for YOU in the YA section!

/book nerd speech.

You can also assume that I’ll intersperse my favorite YA novels in my own reviews (which usually post on Monday evenings here). I try to keep a good mix!

I’m excited to see books (with the exception of Graceling) I hadn’t heard of before. Impossible by Nancy Werlin was the first YA book that popped into my mind. I recently read Matched by Ally Condie; both are good gateway books. They’re definitely YA fiction but still “meaty” enough for an adult reader.

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