Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Broadening Genre Horizons

As a writer of contemporary YA stories, I tend to read a lot of contemporary YA novels. It is my default genre; the one that fills both my Goodreads virtual shelves and my physical bookshelves.  At times, my obsession can lead to an unhealthy exclusion of other genres.

For example, my local library is having a summer reading program in which adults can read any three books, attend a library event, and be entered to win a Kindle Fire. I was enthused about the program until I saw the catch: those three books have to be adult books. Non-YA books. Grown-up books. Books that I don't read.

I stifled the urge to have a conversation with the librarian about the devaluation of YA novels, then stepped back to take a look at my own reading habits. A quick scroll through the books I've read over the past couple of years shows that some of my highest-rated books are not contemporary YA. 

I may be reluctant to pick up non-YA, non-contemporary, and/or even (*gasp*) non-fiction books, but when I do, I typically like them. Plus, stepping outside of comfort zones can be good for growth. Just because I don't write sci-fi or non-fiction doesn't mean I can't appreciate it and learn from it!

So here are a few of my favorite non-contemporary-YA books I've read recently along with a few I'm going to make a point to read this year:

Non-Contemporary-YA Favorites
  • Every Day by David Levithan (Fantasy YA) - Words cannot express how much I love this book. Suspend disbelief and let yourself get sucked into this intriguing premise and beautiful story.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (Adult drama) - Very few books keep me up reading into the middle of the night. This was one of them.
  • Home Front by Kristin Hannah (Chick lit) - I've read and enjoyed a couple of Kristin Hannah's books, but this one with the military family story launched it onto my list of favorites.
  • Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz (Fantasy YA) - Magical fish are about as far from contemp YA as you can get, but this exquisite book is well worth the read.
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan (Christian) - Extremely well-written and convicting in the very best way.
  • Exposed by Kimberly Marcus (YA in verse) - So, technically this is contemp YA, but since it's written in verse (which I don't normally read), I'm including it here. With characters that leap off the page, exquisite writing, and a heartbreaking plot, this is another book that I don't just love, but LOVE.
Non-Contemporary-YA Books I Plan to Read
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Adult mystery) - I've heard all good things about this one. Plus I really just want to know what The Twist is.
  • Losing It by Cora Carmack (Contemporary NA) - I want to give the whole "NA" thing a try, and this seems like a good place to start.
  • Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (Chick lit) - Generally I try to avoid books written by celebrities but as an avid Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fan, I think I'm going to give this one a chance.
  • Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis (Memoir) - An 18-year-old who gave up everything to go to Uganda and adopt 14 children? Yeah. I want to read her story.
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (Classic fantasy) - No, I've never read the books. No, I've never seen the movies. Yes, I plan on changing that.
Don't get me wrong - I still plan to stay on top of "my" genre. I will still read and adore the fabulous contemporary YA out there. (I mean really, have you read Eleanor & Park yet? So good.)

But I'm also going to broaden my reading horizons. Maybe I'll enter that library contest after all.

What non-contemporary-YA books have YOU enjoyed lately? 


  1. You know I'm basically your flip in terms of my usual reads - reading contemp is my non-comfort-zone (although I am learning to love contemp!) Some of my favourite non-contemp reads are...
    GONE by Michael Grant (YA SF)
    WAKE by Lisa McMann (YA Paranormal)
    THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers (YA Zombie)
    THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook (Adult Steampunk Romance)
    UNWIND by Neal Shusterman (YA SF)

    1. Thanks for the recs! I've heard of WAKE and of Courtney Summers, but haven't heard of the rest! (And as I just read and enjoyed my first steampunk, I'm particularly interested in that one!)

      Glad you're broadening your horizons to include some contemp as well. =)

  2. I do think it's important to read within the genre you write... BUT... I read this recently, and it made so much sense to me that I no longer feel guilty about reading books in genres I neither write nor edit. Basically, fill your creative tanks with culture you wouldn't normally gravitate toward. And if Joss Whedon thinks so, it must be so :)


    I'm currently reading, and loving, MR PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE. Completely and utterly outside of the genres I usually read/write/edit. And so worth it!