Why you should care
Because one of these books might be the next Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games. Harry Potter. Divergent. All are novels that transcended the “kids’ books” designation and became mainstream reads — not to mention blockbuster films. This middle ground between children’s books and ones for adults is young adult (YA) territory, with fast-paced action, adult scenes and impetuous characters. And the genre is overflowing with talent.
When Knight Agency literary agent Lucienne Diver started her career, young adult titles didn’t get bought much, she says, “unless it was a tie-in or a TV series.” Harry Potter changed everything, and YA books are now common on best-seller lists. The allure for adults? Flawed protagonists. “We’ve all been that age and gone through those issues,” Diver says. “We’ve all thought, ‘These can’t be my parents, this can’t be my life.’” Mandy Buehrlen, founder of the blog YA Books Central, agrees: “The genre has become less of a pulpit and more of a sanctuary” — a place of understanding.
Here, some YA books you might want to read now — before they’re made into movies.
Unwind Dystology series
By Neal Shusterman
With 30-plus books to his name, American sci-fi author Neil Shusterman explores the darker sides of society in his fiction. His four-book Unwind series probes the underbelly of parenting in a universe where abortion is illegal, but parents can “unwind” unruly teenage offspring. Body parts are reused, which means the kids are technically “alive,” allowing members of this dystopian society to feel morally justified. “It’s topical, looking at issues we’re dealing with today, such as reproductive rights, in a sci-fi setting,” Diver says. You’ll be absorbed by the struggles faced by the young protagonists as they attempt to change the status quo.
Chance of becoming a movie: Pretty good — one may already be in the works, but secrecy abounds.
By Scott Westerfeld
Artificial intelligence. Cannibalism. Trend-spotting teenagers. All are common themes in Westerfeld’s 30-plus novels. His background in philosophy is evident in the deliberate way he analyzes the human condition in his writing. Uglies, a four-book series, looks at how we idolize beauty and examines what beauty’s real worth is. The protagonist, Tally, is an “ugly” who dreams of turning 16 and becoming a “pretty,” a state that consists of undergoing staggering amounts of cosmetic surgery — which is considered normal in her society. “Fantasy is a perennial, especially well-written YA fantasy with strong female main characters,” says Bent Agency agent Molly Ker Hawn, who specializes in YA. “Readers have always come to YA fiction for characters and stories they can relate to.” Westerfeld’s writing can shock, as it echoes issues that are all too prevalent in our image-obsessed society. One of Tally’s friends rebels against the system and Tally must retrieve her — or be exiled from Prettyville forever.
Chance of becoming a movie: Hard to say — there’s been chatter for years.
Chaos Walking trilogy
By Patrick Ness
“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking,” writes Ness, who holds dual British-American citizenship and resides in California. In his Chaos Walking trilogy, Ness has created a world without privacy, where all thoughts are broadcast in “the Noise.” The idea that oversharing can be every bit as dangerous as secrecy is examined — the “oversharing virus” is what has killed all women. But one day 12-year-old Todd discovers a girl surrounded by silence. FYI: The movie rights for this chill-inducing series were bought by Lionsgate in 2011. Might want to read this one first.
Chance of becoming a movie: High — there are casting rumbles, but nothing confirmed.