Great Adult Books for Teens

Library booksBecause I work with teens and read young adult books almost exclusively, it is always pretty tempting to recommend young adult books to young adults.  Makes sense, right?  But just like elementary school kiddos eventually make their way from the children’s section to the books for teens, teenagers transition from the young adult collections to reading adult books.  Some folks plow right on by and start reading adult books almost exclusively, while others go back and forth between their favorite authors for teens and books published for an adult market.  I’ve put together a short list of adult books I’ve read or read about recently that I think some teen readers would really enjoy.  With your library card you also can access a database called NoveList where you can search for “adult books for young adults” and find some great recommendations! 


Mer’s Great Adult Books for Teens Picks

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  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender: Being able to taste people's emotions in food may at first be horrifying. But young, unassuming Rose Edelstein grows up learning to harness her gift as she becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown: The astronomer who inadvertently triggered the "demotion" of Pluto in his effort to officially recognize the solar system's tenth planet describes the ensuing debates and public outcry while revealing the behind-the-scenes story of his discovery.
  • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow: Rachael, whose mother is Danish and father is African-American, loses both her parents and is forced to move to a new city to live with her strict African-American grandmother, but when she is immersed into an African-American community, her physical appearance draws attention and Rachel struggles with her own uncertainties about her identity.
  • The October Killings by Wessel Ebersohn: The first installment in a new series finds lawyer Abby Bukula, the grown daughter of parents killed during an anti-apartheid protest, repaying the man who saved her life by teaming up with an eccentric psychologist to investigate attacks on the massacre’s soldiers.
  • Juliet by Anne Fortier: When Julie Jacobs leaves for Italy per the instructions of her late aunt's will, she never imagines that she'll be thrust into a centuries-old feud, not to mention one of the most legendary romances of all time.


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  • Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda: Interweaves the stories of a baby girl in India, the American doctor who adopted her, and the Indian mother who gave her up in favor of a son, as two families--one in India, the other in the United States--are changed by the child that connects them.
  • Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan: Describes how the author's three-month service as a volunteer at the Little Princes Orphanage in war-torn Nepal became a commitment for advocacy and reform when he discovered that many of his young charges were victims rescued from human traffickers.
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.
  • War by Sebastian Junger: Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm," turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat in this on-the-ground account that follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.
  • The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri with Susan Urbanek Linville: A founder of the Nyaka and Kutamba AIDS Orphans Schools describes how he returned to his native Uganda after college and was compelled by the dire circumstances of his village's AIDS orphans to make tuition-free education available.


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  • The Sherlockian by Graham Moore: When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for Arthur Conan Doyle's missing diary. But after a Doylean scholar is murdered, it is Harold who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore: Traces the parallel lives of two youths with the same name in the same community, describing how the author grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar and promising business leader while his counterpart suffered a life of violence and imprisonment.
  • Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez: Seeking refuge in the southern Indiana home of an evangelical pastor after a flue pandemic decimates the planet’s population, thirteen-year-old orphan Cole witnesses the community’s preparations for a prophesied religious cataclysm and struggles with memories of a very different world.
  • Where’s My Wand?: One Boy’s Magical Triumph Over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric Poole: Describes the author’s emotionally turbulent childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where he endured alienation from his peers and escaped into magical fantasies before developing a greater understand of his beliefs and sense of self-worth.
  • Life by Keith Richards with James Fox: Autobiography of the guitarist, songwriter, singer, and founding member of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards.


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  • Procession of the Dead by Darren Shan: Young, quick-witted and arrogant, Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark in a world of sweet, sinister sin. Then Capac crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever. Faced with hard choices and his own soaring ambition, Capac must find his way alone in this deadly world.
  • The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse: A novel that explores the lives of those who shed their ethnic identity in pursuit of the American dream highlights a different character in each chapter, including Hector, a middle-aged day laborer who witnesses a murder, and his ex-wife Felicia, who survives a drive-by shooting.
  • Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth by James M. Tabor: This is the story of the men and women who risked everything to find the deepest cave on Earth, earning their place in history besides the likes of Peary, Amundsen, Hillary, and Armstrong.  Tabor focuses particularly on the heroic efforts of Bill Stone in the vast Cheve Cave of southern Mexico and Alexander Klimchouk in the supercave Krubera of the Republic of Georgia.
  • The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel: Ruminating on his past relationships with the men in his family, New York city theater critic Yedidyah is assigned to cover the murder trial of a German expatriate whose enigmatic plea triggers Yedidyah's own revelations.
  • Blackout by Connie Willis: When a time-travel lab suddenly cancels assignments for no apparent reason and switches around everyone’s schedules, time-traveling historians Michael, Merope, and Polly find themselves in World War II, facing air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history – to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignment but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control.
Flickr CC: Library books Photo by: CCAC North Library


Like you, I tend to mainly

Like you, I tend to mainly read young adult books. I occasionally branch out, but it is really hard to know what else is worth reading. It's good to be reminded that exciting books exist beyond the YA collection! 

This list of books you have put together is fantastic. I haven't read any of the books on the list, but I've heard of most of them. I'm particularly interested in Blackout, Where's My Wand, and The Sherlockian.

I'm also curious about How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. A couple of years ago I read a different book, The Pluto Files on the same topic.This one was written by Neil deGrasse Tyson, another astrophysicist in the middle of the Pluto debate. It was an approachable, highly enjoyable book, and I'm interested in seeing Pluto's fate from another viewpoint.

Thanks for the great recommendations!