YA Goes Adulting: 14 Crossover Titles with Older Teen Characters

With protagonists who are 18 and older, more and more young adult books are examining early adulthood. These realistic, historical, fantasy, and thriller novels will appeal to teens, with characters navigating the messiness of life after adolescence.

With protagonists who are 18 and older, more and more young adult books are examining early adulthood, including college and jobs, while still exploring the coming-of-age themes that define YA fiction. Whether they’re referred to as New Adult or “crossover”—YA titles with adult appeal—these realistic, historical, fantasy, and thriller novels will appeal to teens, with characters navigating the messiness of life after adolescence.

Firekeeper's Daughter, Forest of Stolen Girls, Please Send Help, Permanent Record covers

[Read: YA Grows Up: Teen Protagonists Step into Adulthood]

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Holt. ISBN 9781250766564.

Gr 9 Up–Eighteen-year-old Daunis should be focused on a fresh start at college after her uncle’s untimely death. She is sucked back into the world of ice hockey and starts slowly falling for Jamie, one of her brother’s new teammates. Soon she finds herself living two disparate lives: one as a loving daughter, niece, and granddaughter in her family and Ojibwe community, and one as a confidential informant to the FBI as it investigates a deadly new drug.

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi. S. & S. ISBN 9781534445970.

Gr 10 Up–Pablo Rind has dropped out of NYU and is working at a bodega. When pop star Leanna Smart stops in, he’s pulled into the complicated whirlwind of her life. This is a compelling and quirky tale about falling in love and negotiating early adulthood in New York City.

Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin. St. Martin’s/Wednesday. ISBN 9781250216533.

Gr 10 Up–After graduation, best friends Ava and Gen jump headfirst into the real world, Ava working as an intern at a late-night talk show in New York City, and Gen as a journalist at a tiny newspaper in Florida. An excellent look at the emotional aspects of maintaining a friendship, a job, and a life, with a side of humor.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250229588.

Gr 6 Up–In 1400s Korea, Min Hwani’s father, the venerable Detective Min, has been missing for a year and is presumed dead. Desperate for answers and betrothed to be married soon, 18-year-old Hwani flees the peninsula and secretly returns to her hometown. She reconnects with her sister, Maewol, and the pair work to mend their relationship as they search for their father and 13 missing girls—the case he was investigating when he vanished.

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur. HarperCollins/Harper. ISBN 9780062912640.

Gr 9 Up–After being assaulted and getting pregnant, Kiran leaves India to begin college in Canada. Eighteen years later, her daughter struggles to follow her dreams while ensuring her mother gains Canadian citizenship. Weaving between prose, poetry, and illustration, Kaur conveys her characters' strength, resilience, and compassion; readers will connect with both women.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour. Dutton. ISBN 9780593108970.

Gr 9 Up–Mila has just aged out of the foster care system and will live and work as a teacher at a farm in Northern California, but she’s warned that it is “a special place.” LaCour presents a ghost story that is moving, unsettling, and full of atmospheric beauty with foggy, coastal air that hangs heavy in the pages.

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma. Abrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419749964.

Gr 9 Up–Gemma Huang is taking a gap year after high school to pursue her dream of acting in Los Angeles. When she lands a major role in a new movie adaptation of M. Butterfly, Gemma travels to Beijing and meets unknown relatives from her mother’s family. The secrets her parents had hidden from her all of her life start to unravel, and Gemma is forced to confront her family’s roots while struggling to remain loyal to her parents.

By Any Means Necessary by Cam Montgomery. Page Street. ISBN 9781624147999.

Gr 9 Up–When college freshman Torrey finds out that the bank is foreclosing on his late uncle’s bee farm, he must protect his uncle’s legacy while balancing school and the possibility of a new boyfriend. Montgomery covers topics such as homophobia in the Black community, gentrification, community organizing, and self-care.

[Read: 10 YA Graphic Novels About the LGBTQIA+ Experience | Stellar Panels]

By Any Means Necessary, He Must Like You, The Awakening of Malcolm X, and The Project covers

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780062683250.

Gr 9 Up–Newly turned 18, aspiring artist Susan Arkshaw leaves home to attend college in London and to research her father’s identity. However, while visiting a family friend in London, Susan witnesses his death and joins a mysterious young man in flight from supernatural Old World creatures. Soon realizing that some power is determined to stop her from solving the puzzle of her heritage, Susan gives in to the weirdness and teams up with her escape partner Merlin and his sister Vivien to find some answers.

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal. Quirk. ISBN 9781683692348.

Gr 7 Up–A college student with Lyme disease and a werewolf become friends through an online support group. O'Neal perfectly captures the experience of chronic illness: how good days and flare-ups feel like they’ll last forever, how needing familial help can extend some people's childhood, and even the deep depression many feel when they realize that things may never get better.

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick & Julian Sedgwick (text) & illus. by Alexis Deacon. Walker. ISBN 9781536204377.

Gr 9 Up–Harry Black, a young firefighter in World War II–era Britain, is gravely injured in the blastback from a V2 rocket that hits a pub he recently left—a pub where his beloved brother, Ellis, was lingering after the siblings argued. Harry, an artist and sensitive soul, had been journaling about his family, and this journal becomes a record of his laborious search for his brother, whom he believes has somehow survived the rocket’s devastating blow.

The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz with Tiffany D. Jackson. Farrar. ISBN 9780374313296.

Gr 7 Up–When Malcolm is 20, he is caught up in the robbery of an empty house. During his incarceration, he reads, learns, and discovers his gift for public speaking and debate. Shabazz and Jackson's novel reveals how Malcolm X was motivated to learn and use his knowledge to influence others.

The Project by Courtney Summers. St. Martin’s/Wednesday. ISBN 9781250105738.

Gr 9 Up–Years after being abandoned by her sister to a cult, Lo, an assistant at an investigative magazine, follows in her path, desperate to uncover the truth behind the Project and to save her sister. With promises of atonement, redemption, and salvation, the group's message begins to penetrate Lo’s skepticism—how far will she go to get the real story? And once she discovers it, can she bear what it may reveal?

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman. Viking. ISBN 9781984835710.

Gr 9 Up–When the decisions of Libby’s “shit disturber” dad leave her needing money for rent and tuition, she gets a server job. But the sandy-haired teen’s time gets cut short after a colleague sexually assaults her, prompting her to act rashly against an inappropriate customer who is extremely influential in her small town. Younge-Ullman’s genuine, informed, and engaging narrative safely guides readers through many facets of consent, relationships, and the treatment of women.

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