So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post from Daisy Whitney (author of When You Were Here)

Today’s guest post for our “So you want to read YA?” series comes from author Daisy Whitney!

Daisy Whitney reports on television, media and advertising for a range of news outlets. She graduated from Brown University and lives in San Francisco, California, with her fabulous husband, fantastic kids, and adorable dogs. Daisy believes in karma and that nearly every outfit is improved with a splash of color. She is the author of The Mockingbirds novels, and is also the author of Starry Nights, coming in Fall 2013. Daisy invites you to follow her online at

The big blockbuster teen series have lured millions of new readers to young adult literature, but if you’re new to the genre, it can be daunting to know what to read beyond The Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures and, of course, Twilight.

Especially because young adult literature is all that and a whole lot more. 

Many of my mom friends — gasp, they’re not teens! — have read these series and are eager for more young adult books, so have turned to me for recommendations. 

My “gateway drug” to the bounties of teen lit for anyone who has devoured the big series is Gayle Forman’s If I Stay.

Fine, fine. Everyone loves that book, and everyone recommends it. That’s because it’s amazing and crosses over from teens to adults. Its sequel, Where She Went is as heart-wrenchingly beautiful and hopeful as the first story.

Beyond that, several other titles that I lean on to lure new readers to YA include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Dana Reinhardt’s The Things a Brother Knows, E Lockhart’s Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks, Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal, Melissa Walker’s Unbreak My Heart, Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and The French Kiss, Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Amy Plum’s Die For Me, Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy, Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood, Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable, Cynthia Omolulu’s Dirty Little Secrets, Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere and anything by Courtney Summers.

But I wouldn’t recommend all these books to every reader. 

For starters, a book like Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the sort of coming-of-age with humor-and-pathos story that you can put in anyone’s hands. 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is an exquisite novel and a masterfully wrought tale of love and war, and everyone I have recommended that book to from my mother-in-law to friends to my age to teens has adored it.

For smart girls, and the boys who love them, I like to recommend E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Witty, clever and anthemic, I haven’t met a reader of this book who doesn’t count it as tops on their list of best books.

Then there is Holly Black’s Curse Workers trio. It is quite sophisticated and is usually a hit with readers who enjoy mysteries, plot twists, and heist-style stories. If your new YA reader is an Ocean’s Eleven fan — give them Curse Workers!

For readers who want an intense, literary story, that’s when I’d hand them a Dana Reinhardt book, Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy or Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable, which packs such a punch, but is also a gorgeously written story and a wonderful example of an unreliable narrator. 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake combines mystery, a touch of romance, and a whole lot of suspense, along with gore and ghosts. Make sure the reader likes blood and guts with their stories, but if they do give them this book. On a side note, I’m a complete scaredy-cat, but I devoured this novel and its sequel.

I would easily talk up Courtney Summers to any teen. Her novels are all hard-hitting, and they are all amazing. I am continually awed by her mastery of subtlety and intensity at once. Another edgy novel — and this one works for 12 and up readers — is Cynthia Omolulu’s Dirty Little Secrets, a fast-paced story about a girl whose mother is a hoarder. For a bit of hard-won truth and romance in the same place, turn to Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal

Now, if you haven’t read a Stephanie Perkins romance, you are missing out because she is the Princess of YA romance. Her novels are deep, rich and achingly romantic. Likewise, give Melissa Walker’s books to Stephanie Perkins’ fans, and for readers who want a bit of the supernatural, add in Amy Plum’s Die For Me. I simply adored that book. Last but not least, I don’t know a single girl or woman who hasn’t fallen in love with Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere.

Daisy Whitney’s When You Were Here comes out tomorrow.
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