Reading is all about challenging yourself. As a reader you want your abilities to improve and your taste to expand. There are a lot of books out there, and not a lot of time, so sometimes it feels like a mad scramble to read all the best stuff. When you’re a kid, this pressure is exacerbated, as your peers seem to be in a competition to see who can tackle the “adult books”. Granted, you should always move at your own pace, but I found these 5 books helped me transtition out of the young adult genre.
Now a critically acclaimed broadway play, this 2003 mystery novel by British author Mark Haddon was an absolute sensation when it came out. My parents and all their friends could not stop talking about it, which made a lot of curious ten year olds eager to know what the fuss was about. The more ambitious amongst my friends took on the challenge. I vividly remember my best friend and I hiding in a remote corner of the library, trying to locate all the swear words. The thrill of that was enough to draw me in. I read the book on Christmas morning in a matter of hours. I remember having to be coaxed from my room to continue opening presents. It’s fair to say that I came for the curse words, and stayed for the story.
This was another must read for the ten year olds of 2003 looking for serious reader cred. For a good while, this was all anybody was reading. You could walk through just about any subway, park, beach, or doctor’s waiting room and have a good chance of correctly guessing what book was in someone’s bag. Say what you will about the historical accuracy of the novel, it got people talking. And if you’re a ten year old eavesdropping on your parents’ dinner party convo, it’s difficult to resist diving into such a taboo world of murder, adventure, and Christian cults. I tore through this thing in about 3 days, during a beach vacation, and I can’t say I remember looking at the sparkling ocean much.
If you want to make the leap from young adult to adult reader, you can’t go wrong with Stephen King. My first encounter with the horror master was through Cell, a book about a signal broadcast that turns people into zombies when they answer their phones. It’s an apocalyptic gore fest, with scares and drama a plenty. Those graduating from the Scary Stories and Goosebumps variety will find their bravery tested by King’s tense and terrifying writing. King is an especially good introduction to adult books because he is known for blurring the lines between commercial and literary fiction. The man has proven himself to be equal parts style and substance, with such dramatic works like The Green Mile displaying his confidence with serious themes.
If Stephen King eases you into serious themes through adventure and thrills, then Alice Sebold drops you on your head unprotected. Interest in this 2002 novel spiked when news dropped of the Peter Jackson adaptation. The book is told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is murdered by her neighbor. She watches her friends and family deal with her murder and continue with life’s ups and downs from a fantastical kind of personal heaven. While Stephen King and Dan Brown can be appreciated for their shock and awe tactics, Sebold asks that you take a more earnest approach to the heavy themes she addresses. The Lovely Bones was my first emotionally weighty book. I had to leave my craving for the taboo at the front page, and actually try to empathize with the characters. It’s a big leap for a middle-schooler, but I’m glad I took it.
This series was an absolute breakthrough for me. It was a huge hit amongst my fourth grade friends, so I had to check it out for myself. Before this I was content with the innocent fantasy of Harry Potter, and the addicting espionnage of the Alex Rider series. In these books, hardly more than a few drops of blood was ever spilt. Darren Shan was a different ballgame. By the time I finished the first book, I felt a new personal era had begun. I was plunged into a world of freaks that lurk on the fringes of society and vampires who hide in the shadows. The gratuitous gore of this series makes Stephen King look like Dr Seuss. Looking back, this was pure guilty pleasure, but I have no regrets.
Featured Image courtesy of Getty Images and WordPress