So You Think You Know YA?

Article by Joy

So yes, the Brazos children’s and Young Adult (YA) sections are in the back of the store. Kid lit consumers have a lovely little cave in which to sit around and peruse titles and rock on our orange rocking chair and read picture books. Or ooh and ahh over the awesome covers of the newest YA titles.

But what is this YA stuff, you ask? Isn’t that just THE HUNGER GAMES and that other one—DIVERGENT, right? And that guy who invented YA…what’s his name? John Green? The one who wrote that book with Shakespeare-inspired title that no one knows is from Julius Caesar?

Yeah. I’ve heard it all, and I’m here to tell you that if you are an adult and not reading YA, you are missing out. Way out. Because YA—which I define as an age span and not a genre—is so much more than just the lead titles from the big publishing houses. It is often quieter and weirder and funnier and stranger and genre-blending/rule bending amazing.

(Plus, John Green didn’t invent YA. In case you thought that one was true.)

Thus this quick, down and dirty tutorial that I call, “So You Think You Know YA?”

Do you like magic realism? Then move beyond Gabriel Garcia Marquez and check out BONE GAP by Laura Ruby or THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma, two authors at the very top of their game.

Bone Gap Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780062317629
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - April 26th, 2016

The Walls Around Us Cover Image
$9.95
ISBN: 9781616205904
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - March 22nd, 2016

Or THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (who wrote the Raven Boys series, which you should also read. Then read the very fabulous ACCIDENT SEASON by Moira Fowley-Doyle. And I haven’t even mentioned the talking pagoda in PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A. S. King, whose work you also need to be reading. While you’re at it, check out this blog post.


Grasshopper Jungle Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780142425008
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Speak - February 17th, 2015

Have you read absolutely everything by Andrew Smith, who really seems to be a genre unto himself? Start with the weird and wonderful GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, (beware the preying mantis sex), then move on to THE MARBURY LENS and THE ALEX CROW and all the rest.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780786838196
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Disney-Hyperion - August 1st, 2009

E. Lockhart’s big YA book in the past few years was WE WERE LIARS. But I say you should start off with her funny as hell feminist-leaning titles like THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU BANKS. And then move on to the Ruby Oliver quartet, which you would probably skip if you weren’t reading this because the first one is called THE BOYFRIEND LIST. Don’t skip it. You are welcome.

Want a YA author who rivals Anne Tyler for her spot on depiction of Baltimore? Find a copy of HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford. And if you are lucky, you can hear her play in the all YA author rock band called Tiger Beat along with Libba Bray, whose work, including the very satirical BEAUTY QUEENS and the very amazing Diviners series set in the 1920s you must read. Yes, Amy Tan is not the only author in a band.


Beauty Queens Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780439895989
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Paperbacks - June 1st, 2012

Want sparse prose? Try anything by Lauren Strasnick.

Want hard-hitting contemporary? Read Houston’s own Jennifer Mathieu’s THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE (and all her other work).

Want someone who nails boy voice? Try Geoff Herbach.

A retelling of Amityville Horror? AMITY by Micol Ostow, a master of horror.


Amity Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781606841563
Availability: Backordered
Published: Egmontusa - August 26th, 2014

And that’s just the beginning.

Try these out and I’ll be recommending more in the future.


Joy Preble is the author of several young adult novels including the DREAMING ANASTASIA series (Sourcebooks), the first book of which was named an ABC Best Book in 2009; the quirky/humorous SWEET DEAD LIFE series (Soho Press); a contemporary road trip/family drama, FINDING PARIS (Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins), which SLJ called, “An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation,” and IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, which Kirkus Reviews called ‘a modern Tuck Everlasting with a thriller twist.’ (Soho Press) Joy lives in Texas with her family, including a sweet but slightly unhinged basset/boxer. In between writing and working at Brazos Bookstore as bookseller/Children's Specialist, she teaches and lectures widely on writing and literacy and is currently on faculty at Writespace Houston.


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