It's a common misconception that young adult lovers only read YA. Sure, there are some people who would rather read within the genre and nothing else, but there are just as many who have broad reading interests; from genre to age to topic. As someone who reads a lot of YA myself, though, I'm not going to lie and say that when a book is compared favorably to a young adult counterpart that I loved, it doesn't make me want to pick it up even more than I did before...and I don't think I'm alone in this.
But it's a rarity to see YA being compared to other books outside the genre, especially when it comes to nonfiction. But you young adult lovers out there don't need me to tell you that books written within the classification cover so many broad themes and topics, with diverse characters and as much food for thought as any literary fiction or much-talked-about essay collection. With that said, there are so many great memoirs out there that would more than appeal to YA readers, whether because the memoirist is very similar to a character within a favorite fictional read, or they explore similar topics and themes. Read on for seven beloved YA titles and the matching memoirs you need in your life.
Like 'Tash Hearts Tolstoy' by Kathyrn Ormsbee? Read 'You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)' by Felicia Day
Tash Hearts Tolstoy is all about internet culture, fandom and how loving both can change our lives. It's also about creativity, finding your voice, and, most especially, about learning to ignore the outside voices (i.e haters) that want break you down.
If you loved those aspects of the book, Felicia Day's memoir, You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) is definitely for you. Day shares the story of how she who overcame her isolated childhood, moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star. Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media.
Like 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas? Read 'The Men We Reaped' by Jesmyn Ward
The Hate U Give is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and it tells the story of Starr, who was the sole witness to her unarmed best friend Khalil's shooting death by police. It isn't long before his death becomes a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
If you were moved by The Hate U Give, Jesmyn Ward's The Men We Reaped needs to be on your TBR. In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life to drugs, accidents, suicide, and poverty. As she began to write about her experience, she realized that her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because of a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of relationships. It nagged at her until she knew she had to write their stories and her own.
Like 'Exit, Pursued By A Bear' by E.K. Johnston? Read 'Lucky' by Alice Sebold
Exit, Pursued by a Bear tells the story of Hermione Winters, the captain of her cheerleading team and the pride and joy of her tiny town. During a camp party the summer before senior year, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had over her life, and she faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
Alice Sebold's Lucky is the memoir for you after you've finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear. In a memoir hailed for its searing candor and wit, Alice Sebold reveals how her life was utterly transformed when, as an 18-year-old college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near campus. What propels this chronicle of her recovery is Sebold's indomitable spirit — as she struggles for understanding; as her dazed family and friends sometimes bungle their efforts to provide comfort and support; and as, ultimately, she helps secure her attacker's arrest and conviction.
Like 'Gem & Dixie' by Sara Zarr? Read The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls
In Gem & Dixie, Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and not their father, who is frequently absent. When their dad returns home for the first time in years, Gem and Dixie head out on their own. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.
If dysfunctional families and the close bonds of siblings have you hooked, The Glass Castle is definitely your kind of read. When sober, Jeannette's father captured his children's imagination, teaching them how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he could be downright destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who didn't necessarily embrace the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. But their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.
Like '10 Things I Can See From Here' by Carrie Mac? Read 'Hi, Anxiety: Life With A Bad Case Of Nerves' by Kat Kinsman
In 10 Things I Can See From Here, readers follow Maeve, who has been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time. As much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver. Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm, as well as even more worries. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?
If delving into the harsh realities of living life with chronic anxiety interests you, you need to check out Kat Kinsman's memoir, Hi, Anxiety. Taking us back to her adolescence, when she was diagnosed with depression at 14, Kat speaks eloquently with pathos and humor about her skin picking, hand flapping, “nervousness” that made everyday life a challenge. With her mother also gripped by depression and health issues throughout her life, Kat came to live in a constant state of unease. Now, as a successful media personality, Kat still battles anxiety every day, but she's learned to face it head-on with humor and bravery.
Like 'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy? Read 'My Mad Fat Diary' by Rae Earl
Dumplin' tells the story of self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson, who has always been at home in her own skin. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked out… until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant.
In Rae Earl's My Mad Fat Diary, she deals with similar themes of coming of age in a body that society deems unacceptable. It's 1989, and Rae is a fat, boy-mad 17-year-old girl, living in Stamford, Lincolnshire with her mum and their deaf white cat in a council house. This is the hilarious and touching real-life diary she kept during that fateful year — with characters like her evil friend Bethany, Bethany's besotted boyfriend, and the boys from the grammar school up the road. It will also strike a chord with anyone who's ever been a confused, lonely teenager who clashes with their mother.
Like 'If I Was Your Girl' by Meredith Russo? Read 'Redefining Realness' by Janet Mock
If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda Hardy, the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But there’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. And then she meets Grant Everett. Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself… including her full truth. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.
Janet Mock is one of the most prominent trans rights activists in the world and her first memoir shares stories about coming of age and coming out as a trans woman. Her powerful memoir, Redefining Realness, follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth.