10 Fiction and Nonfiction Titles, Including Elizabeth Acevedo's Adult Debut, with YA Appeal | Adult Books for Teens

In the latest Adult Books for Teens roundup, find 10 titles published for adults with strong crossover appeal to teens. 


Acevedo, Elizabeth. Family Lore. 384p. HarperCollins/Ecco. Aug. 2023. Tr $30. ISBN 9780063207264.
With the intricate family dynamics of Julia Alvarez’s works and the magical realism of Isabel Allende’s oeuvre, Acevedo’s first foray into adult literature is both classic Acevedo and something entirely new. Flor Marte, who has the gift of knowing when someone will die, is inspired to organize a living wake for herself. The novel chronicles the days leading up to the event as her Dominican American family—including her sisters, daughter, and niece—tries to decipher what Flor’s request really means. Flor isn’t the only Marte woman with a special ability: Pastora can read people’s truths; Camila has an affinity for herbs. Each of the Marte women is struggling with a secret, and they all come to a head in the days surrounding Flor’s wake. The alternating viewpoints reveal hidden family history and trauma and how they have echoed their way into the present generation. The setting alternates between the Dominican Republic and New York City and takes place across multiple time lines. The novel’s language is magnetic, and the masterly character development will make readers want to be part of this complicated family, issues, and all. Covering the topics of sisterhood, immigration, female sexuality, and gender, this timely and nuanced work will resonate with young adults. There are several scenes of sexual intercourse that make this more appropriate for older teens. VERDICT Purchase where Acevedo’s novels are popular and where magical realism and family dramas are in demand. –Shelley M. Diaz

Barnard, Megan. Jezebel. 304p. Penguin. Jul. 2023. pap. $17. ISBN 9780143137672.
Instantly enchanting, this is a bold retelling that uncovers the person behind the biblical archetype. Starting from Bel’s unusual birthmark and remarkable power even as an infant, her story centers on her unwavering perspective. In childhood, she is a willful, tenacious, and intelligent young princess, qualities she expands and builds upon after her marriage to a foreign prince and during her reign as queen. Living by her own rules, Bel is steadfast and unwavering in her beliefs, which propel the action of the narrative. From the onset, she is determined to be remembered. The text is immersive, while giving just enough political and religious plot for readers to feel grounded without being too bogged down. Teens will be rooting for this often-maligned character as she learns to wield influence and gain power, despite her marginalized status as a woman in ancient times. For fans of Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint, even those unfamiliar with Jezebel’s original story will find her powerful voice refreshing and unique. VERDICT An illuminating addition to the canon of feminist retellings.–Hayley Morgenstern

Boey, Brandon Ying Kit. Karma of the Sun. 352p. CamCat. Jan. 2023. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780744307603.
Karma has spent most of his life living under the shadow of his father’s disappearance. But the weight of shame may soon be lifted. He was raised with the prophecy of the Seventh Sun, and there are signs that the prophecy will soon be fulfilled—and their world destroyed. When Karma is sent on a quest to save his village, he knows it might also be an opportunity to find his father. The journey proves to be unimaginably perilous as people and events are not what they seem, but Karma isn’t giving up. This story is full of adventure, triumph, heartache, unexpected twists and betrayals, and fast-paced action. Boey flawlessly wields words, delivers a roller-coaster of emotions, and has crafted a novel that is impossible to put down. Karma’s character exudes innocence without naivete and determination but not perfection. The story is set against the backdrop of nuclear war through the cultural lens of people living in the Himalayas. The scenery and sacred stories are refreshing even in light of the tragic consequences of human violence, such as an attempted sexual assault. VERDICT Highly recommended for older teens.–Amira Walker

Kraus, Daniel. Whalefall. 336p. MTV Bks. Aug. 2023. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781665918169.
Jay’s strained relationship with his demanding diver father caused him to leave home at age 15. Two years later, his father dies by suicide, plunging his weighted body into the depths of the deadly water off Monastery Beach. In one final act to seek approval, Jay dives into the dangerous bay looking for his father’s remains. Tension slowly builds as Jay wrestles with unpredictable currents, a giant squid, and the approach of a hungry whale. In between hallucinations and flashbacks of their tempestuous relationship, Jay’s air supply dwindles with each turn of the page, and readers sink into the belly of the whale right along with him. Teens who enjoy philosophical musings will gladly enter the abyss with Jay, though those who get frustrated with existential books such as Moby Dick may feel lost in the murkiness of this underwater survival story. However, the pacing is much brisker here, aided by short chapters and the balance of back story and impending doom. Science-minded teens will appreciate the problem-solving required of Jay, which is written convincingly as a product of Kraus’s research with marine biologists and professional divers. VERDICT Recommended for young adults who enjoy reading about complex parental relationships, science fiction, and survival stories.–Carrie Shaurette

Parry, H.G. The Magician’s Daughter. 400p. Orbit/Redhook. Feb. 2023. pap. $18.99. ISBN 9780316383707.
Parry builds an enchanting and richly imagined world that will draw in readers. Biddy has spent most of her life on the magical land of Hy-Brasil, an island off the coast of Ireland that is only visible to the outside world once every seven years. There are three rules to living on Hy-Brasil: don’t go into the woods after dark; always watch out for the trickster spirit that calls the island home and never accept a ride from it; and never hurt the black rabbits that make their way across the island. These rules are second nature to Biddy, as is the magic of her guardian, Rowan. When Rowan fails to return home one night, Biddy must step into the mundane world for the first time to save him. But doing so leaves her tangled up with his enemies and her own past. Parry’s evocative writing brings the characters and settings in this Gothic fantasy to life in vivid detail. Rowan is mysterious and mercurial, his reasons for doing what he does opaque. Readers follow along with Biddy, who must untangle a web of conspiracy, half-truths, and ill-considered lies from friend and foe. Biddy is a relatable character; she is sharp, clever, and very lonely. Despite having little experience in dealing with people, she must figure out whom to trust—and making the wrong choice may have disastrous consequences for the magical and mundane worlds. VERDICT This is a must-buy for collections where fantasy is popular.–Ness Shortley

Schuler, Isabelle. Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Lady Macbeth. 352p. Harper Perennial. Oct. 2023. pap. $18.99. ISBN 9780063317277.
How did Lady Macbeth become Lady Macbeth? This novel tells the story of Gruoch, granddaughter of both kings and druids. Gruoch’s father is a mormaer, but as the son of the former king, he is a threat to King Malcolm, and when Gruoch’s brother is born, his position and the family’s safety are in danger. After her mother takes her own life, Gruoch and her family flee north to Burghead, where the mormaer of Moray takes them in. It is here that Gruoch first meets Macbethad, whom she is promised to as a teen. But when given the opportunity to break her betrothal to Macbethad in favor of Duncan, the heir elect, Gruoch must accept and leave everything she has grown to love behind, for her grandmother prophesied that she would be queen, and Gruoch will do anything to make it true. A captivating tale about the real-life queen who inspired Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and the trials she faced on her way to the throne. Gruoch narrates her own story, which begins at the age of five, laying bare her complicated emotions and motivations. Hers is an inspiring tale of women finding ways to maneuver their positions to find their power in a man’s world. Scenes of violence and intimacy make this more appropriate for older teens. VERDICT Fans of the classics, especially Shakespeare, will enjoy this origin story of an iconic character.–Mariah Smitala

Yarros, Rebecca. Fourth Wing528p. (Empyrean: Bk. 1). Entangled/Red Tower. May 2023. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781649374042.
Full of familiar tropes—plucky heroine with a crush on her childhood friend, a love triangle, and an enemies-to-lovers plot—this slow-burn romance also mixes in dragons and magic. Violet planned to be a scribe. Her mother, a top general in their kingdom, sends her to be a Dragon Rider, like her brother and sister. Without much physical prowess, Violet is considered a liability by her cohort. She uses her scribe skills to survive the treacherous training and multiple attempts on her life by classmates. Dian, her childhood friend and crush, is a second-year rider and does his best to protect her. Her biggest threat is Xander, a third-year rider and son of an executed rebellion leader. A dragon chooses Violet, and it is also the bonded mate of Xander’s dragon. They are now thrown together by their dragons. The action moves quickly with bullies, betrayals, and battle training. Worldbuilding, a crucial part of any fantasy, is tenuous. Violet repeats the history of the kingdom to calm herself in stressful situations, and those recitations slow down the pacing. The descriptions of the dragons are strong, and their interactions with their riders is both interesting and amusing. The use of modern profanity and sexual scenes can sometimes be jarring and makes this more appropriate for older teens VERDICT Even though the worldbuilding is not as strong as in similar series and some scenes are racy, this is an enjoyable, plot-driven, and accessible read that will attract “romantasy” fans.–Tamara Saarinen


Hayes, Terrance. Watch Your Language: Visual and Literary Reflections on a Century of American Poetry. 240p. Penguin. Jul. 2023. pap. $20. ISBN 9780143137733.
In a remarkable literary endeavor, Hayes has woven an enthralling journey encapsulating poetry, essays, reviews, and sketches, skillfully crafting a tapestry that displays aspects of his own life. With an astute curator’s eye, he navigates diverse themes, including race, language, freedom, and history, presenting entries ranging from concise one-page musings to more elaborate 10-page explorations. This meticulous compilation not only showcases the author’s creative prowess but also beckons readers into a realm of critical thinking. Additionally, Hayes draws upon the works of renowned poets such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Gwendolyn Brooks. These literary giants act as guideposts, framing the discussion and facilitating an introduction to the works of other authors. This is a nuanced guidebook to the intricate landscape of poetry. What sets this collection apart is the author’s engagement with readers through evocative sketches and creative elements, enriching the textual experience. Each entry is a thoughtful exploration that invites readers into a world of introspection and contemplation. VERDICT This book serves as a beacon for teenagers seeking an introduction to the art of poetry and is also a profound insight into the complexities of life.–Jessica Calaway

Nuttall, Jenni. Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words. 304p. Viking. Aug. 2023. Tr $29. ISBN 9780593299579.
Linguistics may sound boring. But it’s far from it—just ask Nuttall, a University of Oxford teacher of the history of the English language and medieval literature. Like an explorer uncovering long-lost treasure, Nuttall trekked back into the first thousand years of the English language to understand how words relating to women have evolved, morphed, and grown (and sometimes disappeared) over time. The phrase lingua materna, which dates to the early 12th century, translates to “mother tongue,” and Nuttall’s deep dives explore many themes of women’s lives—from lust and motherhood, menstruation and puberty, nursing and care, female anatomy, and even the roots of naming male violence. Women’s words have long been affected by outdated ideas and back stories—heightened by traces of the sexism and patriarchy of the past. Body-based words such as “hysteria”—once considered a female ailment—morphed into “hysterical,” a word often used to justify women’s subordination in society. Even some highly taboo words had a place in Chaucer’s England, for example. The so-called women’s words of the past, alternately seen as quaint, quirky, or just plain incorrect, have impacted the way we speak today. The surprising etymologies will be both fascinating and eye-opening for today’s readers. While Nuttall’s discourse, at times, veers into the scholarly, the text is strewn with glorious moments of humor and thoughtful asides. VERDICT Those with a love of language and women’s studies will devour this book. –Sharon Verbeten

Tobar, Héctor. Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino.” 256p. MCD. May 2023. Tr $27. ISBN 9780374609900.
Tobar’s (The Last Great Road Bum)meditation on what it means to be Latinx—a term the author deems as imprecise as it is transitory—in America is a rousing, brilliantly written book that defies genre. It is at times a memoir, at others a plea for mainstream America to recognize the essential roles that immigrants and the families of immigrants play in the infrastructure of American life, and at others a deeply researched and erudite exploration of American history through the lens of what it means to be an immigrant in this country. This book is a must-read for anyone who calls themselves an American, regardless of their “legal status.” Tobar expertly paints a picture of the complexity of Latinx identity as well as intersecting identities (such as Blaxican, Nuyorican, or “Cuban and Canadian Irish, from Vancouver”) that make up the diaspora of migrants and their families. It is an exploration of an oft-ignored or infantilized “race” of people who are treated as an undercaste of American society. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who champions human rights. VERDICT Purchase for all American history, biography, and ethnic studies collections.–Amy Shaw

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