There’s no doubt that the Young Adult genre is booming in the book industry right now. With all the movie adaptions and promotional material coming from that direction, it’s unsurprising that even adult readers are spending a lot of time in the Young Adult section of the bookstore. Even so, eventually some readers start craving something a little more mature when recurring themes of coming-of-age and fighting the system start to get a little stale. The vast selection can make venturing over to the adult section intimidating for someone who doesn’t know the lay of the land, especially without all the extra press YA books get to suggest what’s popular. Here are some of my tips for getting comfortable in the adult book arena.
If you love the hard-boiled crime novel, you might not want to start in the dungeons and dragons section. If you find a book you like, pay attention to any author endorsements on the cover. If they were asked to write a sentence or two, chances are that those authors are also popular with the same audience base. Do some research and find out who the heavy-hitting authors are for the genre–chances are they’re popular for a reason. If you’re not sure what genre you’d like to shop around in, or even if you do, this might be a good time to branch out and try new things. The scarcity of teenage private investigators and Secret Service agents means there are more crime and thriller book options geared towards adult audiences. As long as you’re branching out, why not try keep your options open? What you learn about your preferences might surprise you.
It’s easy to find book reviews online, but with such diversity in reader preferences and opinions it’s harder to find reviews that are helpful to you specifically. Mary Sue might have loved the book you couldn’t read past the first ten pages. While general reviews can be helpful, there are tons of book blogs and review sites written by a one person or small group of people sharing a specific taste. If they have similar opinions about books you’ve already read and liked, chances are they’ve read and reviewed some other books that will appeal to you. Finding reviewers with the same general preferences as you can be infinitely more helpful than reading a bunch of varied and contradictory reviews for one book at a time.
Check out some of your favorite authors of Young Adult books. You might be surprised at how many have been writing for adult audiences on the side. J.K. Rolling switched it up after Harry Potter with not only her book Casual Vacancy, but she was also discovered to be writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Richelle Mead of Vampire Academy fame has written multiple series for an adult audience and is a personal favorite of mine. It’s not uncommon to find yourself enjoying their lesser known adult books even better than their YA work.
Books win awards for a reason. Pulitzer Prize winning novels can be dense and intimidating, but rewarding. If you’re going for a more relaxing read, search out awards chosen online by popular vote. Look for any prestigious awards within whatever genre you’re interested in. Big award-winners like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King constantly bring home the accolades because people enjoy reading them and their books continually garner international attention. The committees dedicated to picking award winners are pretty in touch with the rest of the literary community and generally do a good job of paying attention to what the casual reader wants to read.
Don’t expect every adult book to pick up to be a serious triumph of American literature. Adult books aren’t inherently of a higher quality than young adult books, they’re just targeting a different audience base. Adult books are as prone to over-used tropes and bad prose as any other books. You might be more likely to find fun, fast-paced books of little substance and high entertainment value than candidates for the next Great American Novel. Either way, remember to have fun it. The first book you read might not be the one you stay up reading until three in the morning. You might have to shop around a little before finding your niche, but there are always going to be some bad eggs. Don’t let that discourage you from trying to broaden your reading horizons.
Photo by Martin