Genre Crossovers for Teens and Adults
Teens who love a particular genre—romance, say, or science fiction—often explore outside the teen section for even more of their favorite stories. Meanwhile many adults have discovered—or re-discovered—that great reads can often be found in the young adult shelves.
However, it can be a challenge for members of each group to find the sorts of things they want in an area of the library that might be less familiar. Below, I have suggested some personal favorites from both sections that I think would make good crossovers--books in the teen section that adult genre fans might enjoy, and books in the adult section that would appeal to teen readers.
Though found in adult fiction, the heroine of The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King is 15-year-old Mary Russell, an embittered budding intellectual packed off to stay with her aunt in England, after her parents' death in an accident. She stumbles—literally—on the ideal mentor: a retired Sherlock Holmes, who has retired from detecting, and the world itself, to keep bees. Released in 1994, when I was fifteen myself, I gobbled down this tale of Edwardian detecting and derring-do mixed with feminist awakening, and would still recommend it to teens who enjoy suspense alongside rich character development.
Likewise, I'd encourage mystery-minded adults to step over to the YA section and check out The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I broke my own personal rule about "no books featuring serial killers" to read this one—and I'm not sorry, as it delivered dark moments, intensity and suspense, without an excess of torture or gore. Cassie, the main character, is gifted—not in a supernatural way, more of a "top 1% of the population" way—at reading people, and finds herself pulled onto a team of youth with similar talents (yes it's a little unrealistic, but no more than shows like "Alias"). However, Cassie has a hidden agenda—she wants to solve her mother's murder, which she witnessed as a young child. The series continues with Bad Blood and All In.
As a science fiction-loving teen in the early 1990s, I was making pretty regular forays into the adult section, devouring authors like Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, and more; this is probably where my affection for sci-fi tropes like "characters with psychic powers" and "telepathic bonds with alien beings or creatures" comes from. Those concepts fell somewhat out of fashion in sci-fi for awhile, so I was pleased to see noted YA authors Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine breathing life into them for a new generation of teens in their series opener, Honor Among Thieves. Also this book has telepathic space whales. Telepathic. Space. Whales. All former '90s sci-fi kids should go read it, in my humble opinion.
Artificial intelligences acquiring sentience and seeking independence are common in science fiction, but despite its name, Murderbot, the main character in Martha Wells' short novel All Systems Red, doesn't want to conquer the world. Or save it. It really just wants to be left alone to watch its favorite soap opera, Sanctuary Moon—but events might force it to care, despite itself. Told in a dryly hilarious first-person voice, All Systems Red should appeal to witty, geek culture-obsessed teens who can relate to Murderbot's unexpected emotional journey.
Despite the name, Jaclyn Moriarty's novel Feeling Sorry for Celia is not about Celia, not really. Celia has possibly run away, and her best friend Elizabeth, is worried. In fact, Elizabeth's having a difficult year in general. The hilarious and sometimes poignant ups and downs of that year are revealed entirely through notes and letters—the increasingly frantic attempts at cheery notes that Elizabeth's busy mom leaves on their fridge, the letters that Elizabeth herself writes to a pen pal at another school (the brainchild of her retro English teacher), and the notes she composes in her head, from imaginary organizations like the Association of Teenagers. Feeling Sorry for Celia is followed by a couple of companion novels focusing on Elizabeth and Celia's friends—The Year of Secret Assignments and The Ghosts of Ashbury High. Moriarty really captures the self-discovery and awkward moments of the early teen years and I highly recommend her books to adult readers who are brave enough to go there
When I was 17, the same age as Cassandra Mortmain, the narrator of I Capture the Castle, I loved the first paragraph of that novel so much that I memorized it. I can still quote it mostly accurately (I was super fun at parties). It starts as Cassandra starts her writing journal, and begins, "I write this while sitting in the kitchen sink." Narrated through Cassandra's journals, it tells the tale of her family's adventures in eccentric rural penury in 1930s England, her sister's attempts to win a rich husband, her famous father's struggles with writer's block, and her own growth as a writer and a person. I Capture the Castle has also been made into a delightful film, starring British actress Romola Garai as Cassandra (available on Kanopy).
Co-authors Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede have created something unusual in young adult fiction—a series which begins with the main characters as teens, then follows them into their early 20s, including marriage and children. Sorcery and Cecelia, the series opener, is an enchanting blend of humor, fantasy and Regency romance; the later books, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician, show the delightful cousins and best friends Kate and Cecelia, determined not to let growing up be a obstacle to having adventures, fighting crime and generally being themselves.
Similarly, though the characters in Zen Cho's Regency fantasy Sorcerer to the Crown are 20-somethings, many teen cans relate to their fierce desire to prove themselves and achieve their goals, often in the face of nay-sayers who judge them on the basis of youth, race, gender or all three. Freed from slavery as a child, Zacharias Wythe has risen to the position of Sorcerer Royal—but many of his colleagues are rooting for him to fail, and magic itself seems to be drying up and growing less powerful in England; meanwhile, Prunella Gentleman has decided she wants more from life than working as servant in a girls' boarding school, but the powerful magic she conceals from the world could make her life more dangerous.