A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Adult Summer Book Bingo Recommendations: Young Adult

By Avery Alexander, Public Programs Intern

I hope everyone is having a ton of fun with Summer Book Bingo so far! I know I am! One category that I’ve already taken care of is “Young Adult,” with Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon. As an avid YA reader, choosing my book for this category was pretty easy, but I realize that not everybody has my exact reading taste.

Maybe you’re an adult who doesn’t really pick up young adult on the regular, or you’re just not sure where to get started or how to choose. If that resonates with you, then you have come to the right place! The key to reading YA is knowing that it isn’t really a genre on its own. There are tons of books labeled “YA,” and they all vary wildly in genre, tone, style, lexical difficulty, and general vibe. That can also make it a bit hard to navigate, but no matter! We will take this on together.

Here is my short list of some YA recommendations, and some of my personal favorites, that I think any number of adults will enjoy!

A Daughter of the Trolls by McKenzie Catron

If you want something spooky:

I mean it when I say that this dark fantasy is one of the best books I have read in a long time (so good that I read it twice). It is an Own Voices story, featuring the main character Sparrow, a wheelchair user and all-around butt-kicking heroine. If you like creepy, spooky fantasy that makes your skin crawl, this book will be perfect for you. The world is rich and whimsical, but a dark undercurrent of horror lurks beneath the magical, fairytale-like veneer. There’s also a dash of romance with a devastatingly handsome love interest, which I think is always a bonus. Catron created something so singular and special with this story, and it’s one you will find yourself sucked into for hours. Also, this is the first in a series, so make sure to pick up the second one, A Goblin of the Glade, if you like this book as much as I do!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

If you want something powerful:

This is the second YA fantasy on my list, and it won’t be the last. Young adult fantasy is just too good to overlook, so I would be remiss not to include a few here. Legendborn is truly something special, and it’s been so wildly successful, I would be surprised if you hadn’t at least heard of it by now. The book is an urban fantasy, following Bree, a 16-year-old Black girl who finds herself involved with a white-dominated magical secret society. The narrative stares themes of colonization and racism right in the face, and it centers Arthurian legend to boot. Maybe I’m just a huge nerd, but I’m always on the hunt for good Arthurian legend retellings. The story also has the only love triangle I’ve ever cared about, and that is high praise coming from a die-hard fan of romance. Legendborn is the first in a trilogy, and the second book, Bloodmarked, is somehow even better than the first. The third book, Oathbound, will be out in 2025.

Lonely Castle In the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

If you need a good cry:

I read this book after watching the anime movie adaptation of the same name. The film is fantastic, and definitely worth a watch, but the book is in a whole different league—the best of slice-of-life and magical realism. I’ve never read something quite like it. The endearing protagonist Kokoro is the victim of horrendous bullying, and her journey will wrench your heart straight from your chest. After she stops going to school, she discovers a mysterious castle on the other side of her mirror containing seven other students who are also desperately in need of escape, a magical mystery, and a strange entity who calls herself the Wolf Queen. The story left me with an indescribable longing and a sort of nostalgia that permeated deep into my bones. That might sound a bit nebulous, but the only way I can do justice to this book is by describing the way it made me feel. It’s so sad, yet so filled with hope. I swear I sobbed straight through the entire last hour.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

If you’re a fan of modern court intrigue:

When I was reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book and movie The Princess Diaries. The concept is very similar, and yet Emiko Jean manages to make something that stands out as unique and delightful in its own regard. It’s a great story of “rags” to riches, featuring the likable and spirited Izumi who discovers that her long-lost-father is none other than the Crown Prince of Japan, and that she, a girl from a small town in northern California, is a princess. Queue all of the royal exploits you would expect—run-ins with paparazzi, betrayals and backstabbing, learning to fit in, breaking the mold, and a forbidden romance with a hunky bodyguard.

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Deya Muniz

If you like graphic novels:

I remember seeing this book at the bookstore, and the cover instantly grabbed my attention. When I picked it up, I hoped upon hope that it would be good, and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed! I am a voracious graphic novel reader, and this was exceptional. It manages to be both heartfelt and silly, and the budding romance between the two main characters—a socially conscious princess, and a young woman pretending to be a man so that she can inherit her father’s fortune—is joyous. The book not only shines with its powerful story, but also with its effervescent art style. If you want a quick book that will make you giggle while simultaneously bringing a tear to your eye, this is the graphic novel for you.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordin

If you like Percy Jackson:

It is unfortunate that this lesser-known novel from Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan hasn’t received the attention that it deserves. It’s a departure from Percy Jackson to be sure, but anyone who likes Riordan’s writing style based on that series will find beauty in Daughter of the Deep. Riordan returns to retelling beloved stories by spinning a gripping tale about Ana Dakkar, a descendant of Captain Nemo from the 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Once a promising student at her naval academy, Ana has to fight to save her classmates from a rival school that seems to want them all dead. The story is a nautical epic, with giant octopuses, submarines, twists and turns, and downright lovable characters. Admittedly, this particular recommendation toes the line between middle grade and YA, but I think it works just fine!

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens

If you like queer fantasy:

If you read my last recommendation list about the Teen Bingo Board, this author might seem a bit familiar. Before, I recommended one of their other books, Spellbound, and I am recommending them again, because for anyone who is unsure about YA, F.T. Lukens is the perfect starting point. So This Is Ever After is a bit different from their more recent work, but it stands out as one of my favorites. It is a breezy medieval fantasy romance, reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons. The story starts at the end of the main character Arek’s hero’s journey, right at the beginning of his so-called “happily ever after,” after beheading an evil king. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned, and Arek finds himself magically bound to the vacated throne by a curse—one that threatens his life and the peace that he so rightly deserves. Oh, and he has to get married before he turns 18 in just a few months, or else the curse will kill him, and then there will be no happy ending for anyone involved.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

If you want something whimsical:

A black-and-white circus that appears with no warning, filled to the brim with magic and enchanting attractions—a secret battleground for two young magicians, Celia and Marco. Pitted against each other by their mentors at a young age, the magicians are bitter rivals, although they don’t personally know each other. They duke it out with increasingly magnificent contributions to the elaborate Night Circus, never laying hands on each other, and yet never out of each other’s company. Their attraction to each other, however, changes to that of infatuation and love, and this complicates matters for the two. The book seems to beckon you forward, making it impossible to put down, or to tear yourself away from the circus inside.

Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

If you want something familiar:

I’m a firm believer that readers don’t give enough credit to media tie-in novels, and this book is one that I really enjoyed. Of course, the characters and world will only be familiar to you if you have watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, but if you have and enjoyed it, this story will be a welcome continuation of that storyline. Sally is struggling to adjust to her new life as Queen of Halloweentown, but she is trying her best to put on a brave face. However, on the day she finally decides she has to take a break from the responsibilities and expectations, she stumbles across a portal, hidden near the doors which lead to the other holidays. This door doesn’t lead to a holiday, but rather a land of perpetual bedtime. And when she opens it up, Sally unwittingly unleashes a monster called The Sandman on her beloved Halloweentown. With everyone she knows and loves locked in a perpetual sleep, Sally must work to right her wrongs, while also discovering who she really is in the process. Not only is this a good media-tie in, but it’s also just a fun book, with a compelling story and a loveable main character that you’ll find yourself rooting for at every twist and turn.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

If you want something inspiring:

I’m not intimately familiar with the K-Pop industry, and although this novel focuses heavily on that topic, it didn’t put me off at all. The book is about Skye Shin, a plus size Korean-American girl who wants nothing more than to become a K-Pop idol. She has been told over and over again that fat girls don’t dance, that they can’t stand on stage and perform, that they should do anything but bring attention to themselves. This doesn’t work for Skye, so she decides to join a K-Pop competition, with the intention of proving the world wrong and becoming the first ever plus-size K-Pop idol. This thoughtful rom-com is a celebration of self-acceptance and confidence, and it is a love letter to any fat girl who ever felt like she wasn’t worthy of love or attention.

Avery Alexander (she/her) is this year’s Seattle Arts & Lectures Public Program Intern. She is currently getting her master’s degree in library and information sciences at The University of Washington. She spends her time reading, writing, and playing video games.

Posted in Summer Book Bingo