Over the last few years, I've mulled over the reluctance for adults to venture into YA territory. I understand it - there's a certain perception that teenage fiction is likely to be a bit rubbish. They assume it will contain giggling girls who endlessly moon over their latest vampire boyfriend (because ALL teenage fiction has vampires, right? Or at the very least a rogue werewolf) or perhaps think that it's all about the American high school experience. With added vampires. Really, S. Meyer has done YA few favours in terms of potential readers who aren't inclined towards the undead.
With this in mind I've carefully honed a list of titles that I believe will hook people. Books that even when opened in cynicism are so moving, beautifully written, exciting or downright fun that they are impossible not to enjoy. Even when your a grown up who REALLY doesn't want to. Now I don't give everyone the same list - like a true pusher, I stagger my gifts, dripping them honey like, one by one, until the poor unsuspecting reader finds themselves drifting towards YA sections in bookstores and libraries across the land - but the top five, in reverse order are as follows:
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer - Lish McBride
Not enough people have read this, particularly not enough adults. It is the closest thing to an out and out adult book that I have on the list with the protagonist Sam being older than most YA protagonists. It's also extremely funny. If you have a friend who loves the Dresden Files then buy them this for Christmas... you won't regret it.
Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
This book starts out with such a striking first chapter that I'm pretty sure no-one could put it down. At once a beautiful study of identity it's also a gripping mystery and Marchetta's writing is some of the best I've read.
How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff
This, really, is probably the book that got me interested in YA writing. It's mesmerising, tackles a fascinating and difficult subject matter and above all is beautifully written. It is a gem and a suprise to anyone who believes YA to be depthless.
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Really, did you think I was going to NOT include this? Truly extraordinary, Ness writes in a way uniquely his own - you won't find anything else out there like this, adult or young adult. It is the book that I recommend to everyone, my test book in that if someone doesn't like this I start to wonder what might be wrong with them...
So all of these are well and good and have been recommended by me with some success - they really are excellent books and when passing on a bundle of YA these usually make the final cut. However, what you really need when recommending is that hook - the book that is so enjoyable that the reader comes back to ask for more. And that book is, in my experience:
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
To be honest, this has always surprised me a bit. I would regularly pass this book on to friends just because it is one of my personal favourites. It's the book I read when I'm not well, the book I read when I'm stuck in a reading slump - in short, I love it and have since I first picked it up. However, it's probably the most "teenage" of my entire list, it has a good bit of swooning over a suitably handsome boy (Oh, Jace...) and it has, whisper it, vampires. Yet, almost without fail, it is the book that has people phoning up and asking for more - usually the next book in the series. From teenage girls to men in their forties, The Mortal Instruments is by far the most useful tool in my conversion-to-YA toolkit and really, I shouldn't be so stunned. The writing is excellent, the characters fascinating, the world intriguing and the storyline truly original. Want to convert a friend? Clary, Simon and the gang are there to help you do it.
Now, I know I'm not the only book pusher out there - I'm certainly not the only one who gets asked for recommendations - so share your stories, people... what books have worked for you? What books do you wish people would read more? What converted you to YA? Inquiring minds wish to know! Until then, I'm off to read City of Bones. Again. And the rest. Ah, Jace.... where have you been?
All of the above titles are available in your local bookshop! Isn't that great! And in especially exciting news, The Mortal Instruments (books 1-3) are now available as a lovely jubbly box set - why buy one when you know they're going to love ALL THREE!