I don’t watch many booktube videos but I do like Francina Simone’s videos. I tend to share her viewpoints more than I identify with other YA-focused booktubers I’ve seen. I feel a little differently than her about this subject though.

Her premise is that there is a new genre of YA/New Adult/Something Else developing to fit the sensibilities of all the adults reading YA. It is focused on action packed plots but not necessarily about 15-17 year olds like traditional YA.

I was confused. It seemed like she was describing most urban fantasy/mystery/sci-fi books that are considered adult fiction. Why is that considered new?

Here’s the comment I wrote on that video.

“What I’m getting from the comments here is that most people think adult books equals literary fiction by white authors. Yeah, that bores me too but there is so much more out there if you do some research. People get so upset when others reject reading YA out of hand but they are doing the same generalization and dismissal of adult books. I recommend looking at genre novels and books by POC authors for some great reads with the same type of feel as what you are looking for. Terry Pratchett, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, etc all wrote both YA and adult books that are radically different. If you like the YA they wrote try the adult books, I find they are so much deeper and more complex.”

I have never understood why some book people are so radically opposed to reading adult fiction.  Maybe this is the issue.  If you think adult fiction is all white ladies sitting home and brooding over their sad marriages, I’m not surprised that you’d avoid it.

People also get really mad when you point out that YA tends to be simplistic.  Understand that simplistic isn’t necessarily bad.  But when you read authors who have written for a YA audience and an adult audience you can see what I mean by that.

I love both of these books but there is a world of difference in the writing style and detail between the YA Akata Witch and the adult Lagoon.

Want action, excitement, and an overall great story written for adult audiences? 

Try these books to start.

Karen MemoryKaren Memory by Elizabeth Bear

“Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.”

This book is fun.  The prostitutes are a diverse bunch who aren’t going to stand for one of their own being terrorized.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

All you need to know about this one is that there are both airships and talking cats. Talking cats, people!




Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

“Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George.”

Borderline (The Arcadia Project, #1)Borderline by Mishell Baker

“A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court.”

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.

And nothing could be further from what she’s known than the crew of the Wayfarer.

From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn’t part of the job description.

Rebel Mechanics (Rebel Mechanics, #1)Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

“A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.”

It is a love story and a spy story and it has magic!

5 Replies to “Adult Books are not All Miserable Marriages”

  1. Haha, I get that! Yes, I have also felt like that’s the definition of adult books (rather, literary books) before I was blogging (although I was never a fan of YA). Let’s say I guess that was my understanding of adult contemporaries.

    I guess adult fantasies tend to be darker though. And another quirk of YA is the constant banter (I think that’s the thing that most tires me out).

    I feel like maybe Ben Aaronovitch with his Rivers of London series should be on this list too 🙂 have you read that?

  2. Ironically, when I was young I read adult sci fi and fantasy because YA wasn’t a thing. Now that I’m an adult I tend to read YA. This is going to sound ridiculous but sometimes I get bored by the level of politics and detail in adult fantasy. Plus, I found that some of the adult paranormal/urban fantasy that I read focused too much on sex for my tastes (I don’t mind sex in my books, but I like it to be a highlight not a focus). These generalizations certainly don’t apply across the board—for instance, I LOVE Robin Hobb’s fantasies—but I’ve found that this has made me veer more toward YA. I definitely need to give more adult fantasy a try again, though. Maybe I’ll have to give some of these a try—Lagoon and Karen Memory look great. And Rebel Mechanic (but, with a 16-year-old protag, wouldn’t it be YA? Is it the content that pushes it into adult territory?).

  3. I LOVE Francina Simone and her discussions as well. I appreciate it SO MUCH that you wrote this post as a response! This is absolutely a theme that I needed to read about RN.
    (I also want to read Akata Witch, even though it’s not Adult fiction. I just wanted to throw that there).
    I haven’t read much adult in my life, but I’m incredibly interested in comparing the prose and the way both types of books for the different audiences are built. I would like to try out some of the books you recommended here because I think it’ll be a really cool experience. And honestly? I think that it IS true that one of the main reasons why I have not touched adult books ever is that I have that general idea that they’ll all talk about marriage, family, kids, failed relationships, etc. I WANT SOME ACTION NOW!

    Fabulous post!

    1. Daniel Jose Older’s books are interesting to compare because they exist side by side in the same magical Brooklyn. I think most urban fiction is a great stepping stone for YA lovers who want to move into adult fiction. It is a lot of action with some deeper themes.

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