After it was announced that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code would be adapted for teens, YA readers and writers hit back at the assumption that young adults would be intimidated or outdone by the 500-plus-page novel. After all, we're talking about a demographic that has read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages), The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (609 pages), and Six of Crows (469 pages), without breaking a sweat.
Page count aside, there's no reason to believe that teen readers aren't capable of understanding or appreciating literature written for adults. The books taught in most high school English classes — such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm — weren't written with children or adolescents in mind. Like The Da Vinci Code, these canonical teen reads deal with dark subject matter and near-hopeless situations.
The School Library Journal devotes a section of its collection development blog to "Adult Books 4 Teens." Suggested reads include The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, Mr. Splitfoot, and Find Me — none of which were published for or marketed to teens.
Even the good parents and children over at Common Sense Media don't agree with the assertion that The Da Vinci Code is too heavy for teens in its original incarnation. Average ratings on the site suggest that parents believe Brown's book is appropriate for ages 14 and up. Children, on the other hand, approve The Da Vinci Code for kids 12 and older. Both groups rate the novel as less extreme than Common Sense Media's official review, which gives the green light to readers ages 15 and up.
This is all to say that teens don't need a special version of The Da Vinci Code; they're perfectly capable of enjoying Brown's 2003 novel on their own. What's more, there are plenty of YA books that tackle the same kind of conspiracy-laden narratives that made Brown and his hero, Robert Langdon, famous.
I've listed 12 YA books like The Da Vinci Code here, but, as always, this is merely a sampling. Once you've read through this list, please be sure to share your book recommendations and thoughts on the Da Vinci Code YA controversy with me on Twitter.
1. The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
After a night she cannot remember, Nora wakes to find her best friends dead, her boyfriend accused of murder and disappeared. Desperate to prove his innocence, her search leads her to Prague, where she begins to unravel an ancient religious mystery.
2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl is a criminal prodigy with a plan to rob the leprechauns of their legendary fortune. After kidnapping a member of the LEPrecon Unit, however, the child mastermind might be in over his head.
3. The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
The Circle — a powerful, secret society — have embraced Avery West as the missing piece of an ancient puzzle. But some want to remove her from the equation, and she'll have to solve the mystery surrounding her if she wants to survive.
4. The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
When the youngest member of the Flock — a group of six wingèd children — is recaptured by laboratory scientists, the rest of the kids are forced to jeopardize their safety in order to conduct a rescue operation.
5. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Prevented from studying science, Faith begins to read her father's journals, which inspire her to seek out a mythical tree that will tell a truth in exchange for a lie.
6. Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton
One of the two narratives in Endymion Spring follows two children who, after discovering a book that will lead them to it, set out on a journey to find the forbidden knowledge of Adam and Eve. The other centers on a printer's devil who travels from Mainz to Oxford in the 15th century.
7. Fearless by Francine Pascal
After her mother is assassinated and her counter-terrorism-expert father goes into hiding, Gaia is sent to live with a CIA agent and his family. She's still a target, but she has a leg up on the guys who want her dead: she can't experience fear.
8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set during World War II, The Book Thief centers on Liesel, a young girl who saves and hoards books the Nazis want to destroy.
9. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Following the death of her younger brother, Andi goes to live with her father in Paris, where she discovers the Revolution-era diary of a girl named Alexandrine.
10. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
In an alternate version of Oxford, a young girl named Lyra uncovers a deadly political plot when children from her community begin to disappear.
11. Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani
Claire's father and stepfather never met. So how can her late father have written a letter to the man who raised her? And what is she to do, now that she knows he was a member of the yakuza?
12. The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
This steampunk novel follows two children, pursued by commanding forces, as they explore a fantastic pastiche of our history and our world.