So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post by Heidi Zweifel (Middle School Librarian & blogger at YA Bibliophile)

This week’s guest post comes from the blogger/librarian who actually inspired the first incarnation of this series, Heidi Zweifel. She’s a local-to-me middle school librarian who asked me simply where to tell teachers they should begin if they wanted to give reading YA a shot. 

Of course, I had to ask her to weigh in and round out the second batch of posts on this very topic. 

Heidi is a middle school library media specialist. She gets to spend her day with seventh and eighth graders so she never knows what to expect. The best part? Getting to talk about books with teens at least once a day! Heidi is passionate about reading and young adult literature. Her goal is to show her students that even if they don’t love reading they can find books that are interesting to them. Her passion of young adult literature is expressed on her blog YA Bibliophile. Follow her on twitter for ramblings on YA lit, pictures of her adorable nieces and nephew, and far, far too many tweets about nothing in particular.

When I think of how I fell in love with young adult literature it’s not individual books that come to mind. It’s authors. I’m the kind of obsessive reader who finds an author they love and must read everything that author has ever written right now. This was especially true when I first started reading YA. Below you’ll find a few of the authors that showed me YA lit can be smart and clever and not “speak down” to it’s readers. They showed me that books can tackle the real issues that teens deal with and not have an “after school special” feel They showed me that YA books can be fun and light or dark and twisted or some combination of the two and still be authentic. If you’re looking at trying out young adult literature I highly suggest you start with any thing by any of these authors.

John Green: If you’ve been to my blog or you follow me on twitter you probably know that I am a total John Green fangirl. He is my favorite author. Ever. I stumbled across An Abundance of Katherines at my local public library. It was on display in the teen section and I passed it up a couple times. The whole math aspect threw me. I am so not a math girl. After seeing it a few times I added it to my pile. Best. Decision. Ever. It was funny and clever and there were footnotes! Basically it was everything I wanted from a book. I eagerly snapped up Looking for Alaska and have impatiently waited for every new book from John Green since.

Holly Black: My first introduction to her writing was her Modern Faerie Tale series. I didn’t think I liked Faery books. Then I read Tithe.  I don’t think I have the words to express how Holly Black’s writing captured me. She is so incredibly talented. The storytelling and world building blew me away. Her books were also some of the first I read that were considered “edgy.” Let’s just say the faeries aren’t of the Tinkerbell variety!

Chris Crutcher: This man published his first YA book in 1983. His books have been being challenged ever since. Crutcher is a child psychologist and doesn’t shy away from addressing issues like abuse and racism. Because of this, censors find his books to be “too mature” for teens. I find them amazing. They typically feature sports in some way but I would not call them “sports books.” There is so much more going on. Deadline is a great place to start. Another favorite of mine is Whale Talk. But really, they’re all good!

Tamora Pierce: I randomly picked up Alanna: The First Adventure when I got my job as a middle school librarian. The cover was pretty unappealing and I wanted to read it to decide if I should order an updated copy or just get rid of the book. Over the next couple months I read every book ever written by Tamora Pierce. The worlds that she creates are fascinating and her characters are authentic and diverse. I recommend starting where I did with the Song of the Lioness quartet.

Sarah Dessen: Sarah is my go-to author for contemporary romance with a bit “more.” The public library is to thank for my introduction to her as well. The Truth About Forever was on display and the cover appealed to me. I couldn’t put it down. I loved the characters and the story. It just seemed like the people and places could be anyone, anywhere. I  love accessibility in a book! I also love that many of her books are set in the same fictional locations so we get glimpses of characters we’ve met before. Just Listen is my all time favorite of hers.

Other authors I read when new to YA lit: Lisa McMann, Melissa Marr, Robin McKinley, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, and Meg Cabot.

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  1. says

    Bonus points to Heidi for including Tamora Pierce! She's one of the most influential authors of my childhood and I still own every single one of her books published. This is a great post to lay out some great authors from many different YA genres.

  2. says

    Nice picks! My favorite Sarah Dessen book is The Truth About Forever; my favorite John Green book is Looking for Alaska. Have you read Holly Black's Curse Workers series? I liked the Tithe books, but I LOVED the Curse Workers.

  3. says

    It's so funny because I would literally day the EXACT SAME THING about Holly Black and her Faerie Tale series along with this same listing if I had to do it! It was my first taste of YA and fairies and it blew me away! Tamora Pierce and her Tortall world is just amazing!

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