Young adult fiction is not only the hottest genre in all of publishing these days, but it's also quickly becoming the most powerful influencer at the box office. From The Hunger Games and Divergent series to the summer tearjerker that is John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (not to mention the upcoming release of the nineties dystopian classic The Giver), this is one pop culture takeover we recommend getting on board with. If you're new to the genre and want to read the next big young adult book before its movie adaptation is released, here's a rundown of six authors whose work you ought not miss, even if you’re decades removed from your own sweet sixteen.
In terms of genre popularity, Rowell is nipping on the heels of Green—and with good reason. Her novel Eleanor & Park is one of the most enduring coming-of-age stories this side of a 1980s John Hughes flick. Speaking of the '80s, that's E&P's setting, in which Rowell explores the way "big girl" Eleanor (with flaming red hair) wins over the half-Korean Park (lover of comics and good music). The ups and downs of their tumultuous coupling paired with fantastic emotional writing makes for a page-turner you won't put down till well past your bedtime.
Lockhart's summer release We Were Liars is one of those books with a cover every bit as great as its wellborn concept. Narrated by the beautiful, WASP-y Cadence Sinclair Eastman, all you really need to know about its plot is that it's about four kids, a complicated family, money, and an island. To say any more is a disservice to this suspenseful read—one with an ending that will haunt you.
John Corey Whaley
The April release of Corey Whaley's Noggin brought with it one of my new favorite first lines in fiction: "Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn't. Now he's alive again. Simple as that." Travis's journey takes him from dying of cancer to having his head surgically removed and cryogenically frozen, then reattached five years later. If it sounds like a Frankenstein-like plot twist, it is, but the real story is the engaging way the author reveals what it's like to be a teen when everyone else in your world—your best friend and girlfriend especially—have grown up and moved on.
Vampires and zombies have had their turn in young adult dystopian thrillers; aliens are up next. Yancey's Fifth Wave features young heroine Cassie Sullivan outliving waves of worst-case scenarios that kill off everyone around her. (I would have never survived the bird plague of the third wave.) She's on a mission to save her little brother, all while trying to decide if she can trust the handsome but evasive Evan Walker, who injects a dose of romantic suspense into this book's fast-paced sci-fi plot. Watch for Hollywood up-and-comer Chloe Grace Moretz to star in the big-budget adaptation of Fifth Wave, with future installments to follow.
Last fall, A.S. King released Reality Boy with a plot that couldn't be more relevant for the exploitative era we live in. Sixteen-year-old Gerald Faust was barely five years old when his mom introduced a reality TV crew into his family's life. Now he can't outlive the haunting memories of his dysfunctional, televised past. King chronicles Gerald’s desperate attempts to break free of what the watching world thinks it knows about him as he tries to trust the girl who might just be his first love.
In her debut novel, Love Letters to the Dead, Dellaira introduces us to the unforgettable Laurel, whose story begins with a high school English assignment to write a letter to someone who's dead. She chooses Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, as a tribute to someone else who died too young—her sister, May. As she continues writing other letters to the dead (Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Bishop, Heath Ledger, and Judy Garland, to name a few) the reader gets glimpses into the lives of Laurel’s correspondents. And pieces of her own history are revealed, reminding readers what it's like to be young, to be hopeful, and to have your heart broken for the very first time.