There’s lots of literary esteem to be held for classic coming-of-age stories like Little Women or Jane Eyre. And while The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High may not qualify for a place in the cannon of American literature, there’s no denying the iconic impact of the YA series you grew up with. If you feel like you’ve outgrown those paperbacks of yesteryear, consider these picks, some old, some new, that are surprisingly grown up.
- Francesca Lia Block is visionary when it comes to teen fiction. Her Weetzie Bat series explores love and family through an edgy lens with the backdrop of a dark but beautiful Los Angeles, emo boys and kooky girls for characters, and prose that’s ripe with run-on sentences. Conservatives in Wisconsin may be burning books from that series, but some of Block’s other works are far darker, like The Hanged Man, the story of Laurel, who goes on a spiritual and erotic journey after the death of her father. [$8.99, Bn.com]
- Okay, so you probably already know a lot of the story already, but that doesn’t mean Cecily von Ziegesar‘s Gossip Girl series won’t entertain you again, considering she writes a guaranteed recipe for success with Manhattan teens, drama, private school, fashion, and alcohol. You can start off with S and B in the first book, but also check out the second part of the series, Gossip Girl: The Carlyles, which features the new girls on the block: the Carlyle triplets, recently relocated to the city from Nantucket where they begin a ruthless takeover of the school. [$10.99, Bn.com]
- R.L. Stein‘s Fear Street series is one of the most successful in the genre, probably because a) the stories are delightfully scary, and b) there was a guaranteed steamy scene in each book. There have been plenty more published since you last left off, like Stepsister, a 2005 gem where Emily suspects her new and obnoxious stepsister is a murderer after reading suspicious passages in her diary. [$5.99, Bn.com]
- Meg Cabot was the brain behind the Princess Diaries books that Anne Hathaway later brought to life. Cabot’s books are girly in a good way. In her latest story, Airhead, 16-year-old Emerson Watts is a normal girl who undergoes a fantastical change after an accident that switches her into the body of a teen supermodel. [$9.99, Bn.com]