Collage of YA book covers


Not just another teen book: YA reads that adults will enjoy


Raise your hand if you’ve secretly browsed the young adult section of your library. The key word here is secretly, because for the longest time it was almost taboo for adults to read books meant for teenagers. It’s something we’re supposed to grow out of after high school, right? Try again!

Yes, books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight define a certain generation of young adult (YA) literature that I like to call the “YA Renaissance.” These popular series invited adults in and made YA novels a little more mainstream. As someone who reads a lot of YA, I can attest that the emotions can be stronger and the fantasy worlds can be much more immersive. Some people might argue and say it’s too angsty and why would you want to read about teenagers? But it can be refreshing to read from a different perspective (one that we all once had). And guess what? You aren’t alone in your love of YA reads.

The Libby app has all of the newest YA releases you could possibly want, and some you might want to revisit, too.

Divine RivalsDivine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

If you like historical fiction and fantasy but don’t see enough of them together, you’ll love the Letters of Enchantment series. Our main characters Rowan and Iris are both in their late teens and competing journalists in a setting that reminded me of World War II London, except the two opposing forces at war are gods. Iris’s brother has enlisted in the war effort and gone MIA, so she spends her time writing letters to him on their grandmother’s old typewriter. One night she shoves one of her most recent letters into the wardrobe in her bedroom, only to see another piece of paper slide through with the words “I’m not Forrest” written on them. If you think that’s a cliffhanger, keep going!

The best part is that it’s only a two-book series and the sequel, Ruthless Vows, is already out and waiting for you.

A Good Girl's Guide to MurderA Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Black

If you love a good thriller/mystery, Holly Black is an excellent YA author to check out. Our story centers around the death of Andie Bell, who was murdered by her boyfriend but whose body was also never found. Five years later, Pippa can’t help but wonder if there’s more to what happened to and decides to investigate for her final project. As an aside, if you’re a Veronica Mars fan, you’ll definitely see her in Pip. She teams up with Andie’s boyfriend’s brother and the two set out to clear his name, but of course no mystery is ever that easily solved.

This is a fantastic, nail-biting, edge-of-your seat read with main characters who just happen to still be in high school.

The BlackwoodsThe Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert

If you like Hollywood drama or just the golden age of Hollywood, this is a great multigenerational story that will make you completely forget you’re reading a YA novel. The story has three points-of-view, the first is the matriarch of the family, Blossom, and her movie career that started back in the 1960s. The other two points-of-view come from her great granddaughters, Ardith and Hollis. Ardith grew up as a child actor and was always thrown into the spotlight, while Hollis wants nothing to do with her family’s history.

This reminded me of reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and I loved the perspective from Blossom on being a black actress in the 60s. The writing is also just fantastic and the transitions between timelines were seamless. By the time I was finished, I wanted this to be a series.

ScytheScythe by Neal Shusterman

The Arc of a Scythe series is one of my favorite series of all time, and trust me, I don’t say that lightly. This is a dystopia where humans have conquered hunger, death, disease, and war, and only scythes have the ability to end lives. If you were ever a fan of Pushing Daisies or Dead Like Me, then this is your series. Our main characters, Rowan and Citra, are both chosen as apprentices to a scythe, a role that neither of them really wants throughout the story. They’ve seen what can happen when power corrupts the wrong people, and they want nothing to do with it. Who can blame them?

Although both main characters are in the thick of their teens, this book has a lot of potential for thought-provoking discussions.

We Deserve MonumentsWe Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

This debut novel got a lot of well-deserved attention in 2023 and is another story with multiple points-of-view. It follows our main character, Avery, as her family moves to Georgia to care for her grandmother. As the story unfolds, we learn about generational trauma and a family secret that’s been hidden for decades. The mystery that gets slipped into the book gives you so much insight into Avery’s family and their past, and its implications provide a completely separate way of looking at the characters. Also, generational trauma isn’t just for teens.

What the River KnowsWhat the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

OK, confession time: When I first saw this book cover, I didn’t think it was a young adult story. Needless to say, the crossover appeal is there, especially since it’s been described as The Mummy meets Death on the Nile. But if you like a mix of mystery, history, mythology, and romance, then you need to try this book.

Inez Olivia is upper class in the 19th century, and unfortunately at 17 years old, she’s also neglected by parents who’d rather travel the world and explore magical artifacts around the tombs of Egyptian queens and pharaohs. When her parents are presumed dead, she’s taken in by her uncle and flies to Egypt to uncover the real cause of their death. In between, there’s an enemies-to-lovers romance and secrets that Inez may have been better off never discovering.

The Surprising Power of a Good DumplingThe Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

I’m not intentionally hitting all the heavy topics with these picks, but it’s a good indicator of how much young adult novels have evolved over the years. Even though this novel is a few years older, it’s easily one of my favorites of the last five years. Wai Chim’s story tackles mental health in Asian American families as we meet Anna, who takes care of her father and brother while also working at her father’s restaurant and trying to be a normal, functional teenager. At the same time, they’re all handling her mother’s progressing mental illness in different ways. The conversations feel more natural for the teenage characters and the book handles a lot of sensitive topics extremely well.

Be warned: Don’t read this book on an empty stomach. The descriptions of the food at Anna’s father’s restaurant will have you starving by the time you finish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Remember how I said that the worlds in YA novels can be just as immersive? This is a perfect example. Orisha is a land that used to hum with magic until the day it disappeared. Zelie remembers the day the maji and her mother were killed and grows up in a land without magic as a result. This is an interesting look at Nigerian mythology and folklore with a lot of elements that are recognizable in the world today. The book alternates between the eyes of Zelie and Princess Amari and, as the first book in the series, it’s so fun to watch them develop and grow as characters.

If you love fast-paced fantasy stories, this is one to check out. Since the debut in 2018, Adeyemi added two more books to complete the series!

Check out these picks, regardless of your age, on the Libby app from your library.

*Title availability may vary by library & region.

RELATED READ: The most popular YA books of all time

Published May 15, 2024


About the Author

Sarah Filiberto spent 10 years in public libraries planning programs, doing community outreach and answering every question under the sun. In her spare time, she loves to craft and try new hobbies, go to comic cons and spoil her pets, not necessarily in that order.


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