Children's Books

'New adult' fiction targets readers from teens to mid-20s

August 24, 2013 

Publishers and authors have created a new children’s book category, “new adults,” written for 18- to 25-year-olds. These are often crossover books that also please older adult readers. A few recent favorites:

Gayle Forman’s “Just One Day” and “Just One Year” (Dutton, ages 14 and up) are companion books that track the same event and its consequences from two points of view. Allyson, the 18-year-old rule-bound focal character of “Just One Day” is just winding up the European trip her parents gave her for graduation when she meets Willem. Uncharacteristically, she scoots to Paris with this handsome, avant-garde Shakespearean actor. In a day, she falls in love for the first time, challenges her belief system, frees herself of her parents’ expectations and thrills at living in the moment. When she wakes alone the next day, her newly forged worldview is broken and she’s lost. The book really takes off as Allyson starts her solo journey to selfhood. Readers witness her breaking through depression as she becomes honest with herself about her needs and wants, taking risks in a healthier way, finding intriguing role models and moving from wimp-dom to courage.

“Just One Year” is Willem’s version of their meeting and the year that follows. Willem has not deserted Allyson, but has been beaten. He returns to find their love nest deserted. He too begins to find himself as he searches for a girl whose real name he doesn’t know. More importantly, his quest includes finally reflecting on his father’s death and his confusing relationship with his mother as he travels from the Netherlands to Mexico and India. The uniqueness and parallels of these two young adults are engrossing and poignant.

Maureen Johnson’s “The Madness Underneath” (Putnam, ages 13 and up) is the second in the “Shades of London” series. The protagonist is Rory Devereaux, a Louisiana native who has moved to a London boarding school, where in the first book she had a near-fatal run-in with a Jack the Ripper copycat killer. Things are not as they appear, for a ghostly world exists alongside the one known to the general populace. In this second book, Rory discovers she has a one-of-a-kind gift mandating that she must plunge into the middle of otherworldly murders. Horror, a new and evolving genre in young-adult fiction, finds a sophisticated expression as Rory struggles to come of age in a world that constantly threatens to catapult her into death.

Two more series will please “new adults.” “Quintana of Charyn” is Melina Marchetta’s action-packed, emotionally sophisticated fantasy that is part of the Lumatere Chronicles, tales of a world torn apart by wars (Candlewick, ages 13 and up). Robin LaFevers’ “Dark Triumph” (Houghton, ages 13 and up), the sequel to “Grave Mercies,” stars Sybella, a heroine raised by a sadistic father who has tortured her in every way imaginable. He’s also filled her with the hate and skills she needs to vanquish him in this tense, romantic-adventure, page-turner.

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