We had high hopes when “New Adult” was introduced as a fiction genre. Novels with traditionally young adult themes (some magic, a touch of dystopia, rad female narrators) plus elevated language and plot? Yes, please! However, publishing trends suggest that “New Adult” is proving to be just more vampire books, now with more sex.
As “New Adult” has been a bit of a letdown, we’ve decided to cull some of our favorite “YA for Adult” books of the past few years. These novels (or series) have gripping, page-turning plots and elements of the fantastical, but with very adult challenges and solutions. Are they YA novels? Science-fiction? Does it really matter as long as they’re good?
The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman
When high school senior Quentin Coldwater thinks he is undergoing a regular college admission interview, he is actually taking an entrance exam into the country’s most prestigious magic university. Passing the test, he enters a world of sorcery, budding romance, and collegiate hijinks. The Magician King picks up where The Magicians leaves off, bringing our hero and his friends to a Narnia-esque realm full of danger and terrible repercussions for the real world.
Your Should Read It If… you ever checked the back of your closets for secret doorways to magical kingdoms or wished that Harry Potter had a lot more sex and drugs.
Culture Binge Mashup: Harry Potter meets The Secret History by Donna Tartt meets Vampire Weekend.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, exist only at night. Its black and white tents appear and disappear in towns without warning. The audience experiences something magical — flying acrobats, surreal animal trainers, mind-bending illusions — and keeps coming back for more. Yet at the core of the circus is a cruel competition orchestrated by two master magicians that pits their young prodigies, Cecilia and Marco, in a dark duel.
Your Should Read It If… you like star-crossed lovers, Edwardian elegance, and adult fables.
Culture Binge Mashup: The Prestige meets HBO’s Carnivale meets Amanda Palmer.
The Apothecary and The Apprentices by Maile Meloy
The Apothecary is set in 1952, a time when 14-year-old Janie Scott lives a blissful life in Los Angeles until her screenwriter parents are forced from Hollywood by a McCarthy witch hunt. Upon arriving at their new home in London, Janie makes an odd friend in a local apothecary. When her new friend is kidnapped, she teams up with his son, Benjamin, to track him down, uncovering some secrets that jeopardize global political stability. Russian nuclear warheads, ancient Chinese potions and budding teen romance — a heady concoction indeed — continue in the sequel The Apprentices, but the stakes are higher, the dangers more threatening and the heartbreak greater.
Your Should Read It If… you prefer your magic to have a scientific explanation, like nerdy heroines, and are nostalgic for Cold War baddies.
Culture Binge Mashup: Nancy Drew meets Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade meets Joss Whedon.