Whether you don’t read YA because you think you’re too old for that or because you think there isn’t enough for you to learn from them, here’s a book list to help change your mind:
1. When Dimple met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Why: When Dimple met Rishi is purly romantic, beautifully modern, and full of tradition. This story ties culture into personal life into STEM camps, and it’s perfectly nerdy and romantic. This book had me laughing, crying, and hoping for things, all within the same breath. The switching points of view fit this story perfectly. Your brain will certainly be challenged to think about conflicts of race and tradition, especially where the two intersect.
2. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodsen
Why: This is a memoir inside a collection of poetry that will blow your mind away. While it is written about Woodsen’s childhood, and created with a middle grade audience in mind, Woodsen’s writing is prolific in that everyone should absolutely read it and would be hardpressed not to get something wonderful out of the story. She’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. She tells the story of what it means to be young, to be black, and to be a girl, meanwhile getting at the intersection of all those things. She talks about family, love, and so much more, and I loved every minute of reading this collection of poetry. I don’t even like poetry!
3. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Why: I need books that make me think about sad things like detention camps. This book is a great read because it’s from a young adult perspective and tells the story with a lord of the flies-esque tone. Fraillon spins a children’s story whose scariest feature is that the children don’t understand the magnitude of their situation.
4. One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi
Why: One Half from the East explores gender identity in Afghanistan culture. This beautiful story of friendship and family is sure to have you feeling strongly for these young kids.
5. Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan
Why: If you haven’t read much LGBT fiction, I really recommend YA books. Books like Boy Meets Boy is a perfect way to dip your toes into what life is like in High School. This is a well-spun coming of age story that made me feel all the feelings. Leviathan writes with ease, and it’s pure enjoyment to read a book that’s as smoothly written as Boy Meets Boy is.
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Why: In a similar vein as Brown Girl Dreaming, this is material that’s hard to hear even as an adult. These are deeply emotional, heart-wrenching autobiographical essays from Maya Angelou. I knew she was a prolific, classic writer, but I’d never read any of her work before this book, and I’m so grateful I picked up her memoir. Now I want to read all her books.
Why: Sarah J. Maas crafted a beautiful world of humans and faerie. Even if you don’t like fantasy novels, I recommend giving this series a try. Maas’s writing is quick paced, but covers topics such as domestic violence, classism, racism, sexism, and more. The subjects are told through stories of the characters, ingeniously and intricately embedded in their actions and interactions. My roommate and I still have discussions from time to time about all that the characters have been through in these two stories. Definitely lots of room for discussion!