Armchair BEA – Day 5, Middle Grade/Young Adult

Posted May 30, 2014 by Jessica in Miscellaneous / 70 Comments

Armchair BEA 2014


You know, it’s kind of a strange thing to be 30(ish) and still loving (some) Middle Grade and (a LOT) Young Adult books:

but seriously . . .


But seriously . . .

I do try to avoid teenage angst-filled, melodramatic, and overly high school YA books, but sometimes you just can’t tell until you crack the spine. Which is unfortunate, b/c I’m sure that there are several of you out there who feel you have given YA a more than fair shot, but it’s just not for you b/c the teenage angst-filled, melodramatic, and overly high school YA books are the only kind that you’ve happened to stumble across.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is more to YA than that. LOTS more. In fact, most of my favorite YA books are (IMO) only categorized that way b/c of 1. the numerical age of the MC(s), and 2. lack of hanky-panky.

How do IΒ find these mythical light on angst, heavy on action and entertainment YA books?

A couple of different ways:

  1. I internet stalk other bloggers who are my age and share my penchant for YA literature.
  2. I avoid contemporary YA.

It’s much easier for a YA novel to avoid the standard pitfalls if the story takes place in a fantasy or a futuristic and/or post-apocalyptic world. In fantasy worlds, it’s not unusual for a teenager to be considered an adult, and to have adult responsibilities at age 16, or sometimes even younger, if a tragedy befalls a family, and the oldest child must act as head of household. In futuristic or post-apocalyptic, the author has more freedom to chose how mature the characters should be, and often chose more rather than less.

It’s not a foolproof plan, but then again, I don’t think there is one. For ANY genre. Even sticking exclusively to your preferred genresΒ won’t keep you from occasionally falling head-long into a stinker. So you do what you can to minimize the risk. And I think I’ve done that.

Some of my current favorite YA series are:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. MaasThrone of Glass by Sarah J. MaasCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. MaasHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Mass

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoSiege and Storm by Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDays of Blood and Starlight by Laini TaylorNight of Cake and Puppets by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles:

Cinder by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marrissa MeyerCress by Marissa Meyer


And some of my older favorite YAs from already completed series (or standalones):

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly KeatonThe Dark Light by Sara WalshWicked Lovely by Melissa MarrThe Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-MooreSA_REVISED.inddFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundIf I Stay by Gayle FormanRaised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn BarnesDragonswood by Janet Lee CareyThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonSkin HungerImmortal Beloved by Cate TiernanWildwood Dancing by Juliet MarillierGraceling by Kristin CashoreThe Demon King


How about you? What are some of your YA favorites? Are any of my favorites your favorites also?

Jessica Signature


My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



70 responses to “Armchair BEA – Day 5, Middle Grade/Young Adult

  1. OMG I adore all those books …and there have been some amazing YA. Yeah the only thing I don’t always like are the trilogies , but I am loving the stand alones.

    • The only things that bother me about trilogies are the wait between books if it’s an unfinished series, or when the author doesn’t know where the trilogy is going when the series gets signed, and after a slammin’ first book, the next two fizzle. Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often (at least not in the series I’ve read). And yeah, I think those books are pretty great too πŸ˜‰

  2. I agree, it is usually but not always, the contemporary (in any genre) that has the most angst and drama. You named some of my favs in your list! I love this genre and I probably always will and yes I fit the in her 30’s and still loving YA books category and I don’t even care that I love it.
    There are way too many great books out there to not give them a chance because some of the main characters are 15 plus years younger than me.

  3. For Darkness Shows us Stars <3

    Ooooo and The Demon King (I bought the first two books in that series but haven't picked them up yet .-.).

    I've actually had Dragonswood on my TBR list for 2 years now and the fact that you liked it makes me really want to pick it up! πŸ™‚

    Also… do not avoid contemporary YA. I used to because … eh. I was a snobby middle schooler… I hardly read any contemporary and if it had romance, I'd be like. NO. Except for that one time I read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (and loved) but I think around 10th-11th grade, I started getting into more contemporary and while I still don't consider it my favorite genre, I have many favs from it… and I totally understand wanting to avoid it because… it's a lot harder to find gems buttttt if you ever decide to give contemporary YA a shot, start with Marchetta, there is a lesser chance of you being disappointed.


    • Thanks, dollface! And OMG I know! Isn’t Immortal Beloved the BEST? And hardly anyone has even heard of it. SPREAD THE WORD.

      And you definitely need to read The Demon King. Dragonswood too, but The Demon King is one of my ALL TIME favorite YA fantasy series.

      And I AVOID it, I don’t SHUN it. If a YA contemporary is getting a lot of buzz, I’ll check it out, and if it actually looks like one I might enjoy (not much angst, no one dying of cancer, no one’s sister committing suicide, etc.) I’ll put it on my wishlist. I’ve actually liked quite a few contemporaries—Will Grayson, Will Grayson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lola and the Boy Next Door . . . Oh, oh! And I have Marchetta and I fully intend to read her!

  4. Those are excellent examples of wonderful YA books that are not teenyboppery! I tend to stay away from contemporary YA as well. But the dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi, etc, are awesome!

    • I’ve been trying more middle grade lately. I loved Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince, and I’ve got Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr’s Loki’s Wolves at the top of my TBR list. I’ve heard good things about The School for Good and Evil as well πŸ˜‰

  5. Some of my very favorite books have been YA and mature YA. I loved The Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor & Park, The Sea of Tranquility, The Lux Series (I think that’s moved into NA…not sure), etc…

    I do agree with you in regards to the story taking place in a “fantasy or a futuristic and/or post-apocalyptic world” to avoid those blasted and dismal pitfalls.

    Although, while I am trying to move into more adult books, sometimes YA urban fantasy is like a trusted friend and I miss those stories when I don’t read them. Not sure if that makes sense BUT that’s not to say I don’t enjoy adult books because I do and I don’t even mind the sizzle factor. *gasp* It’s rather shocking, I know. πŸ˜‰

    I typically don’t read anything under the age of 16 or anything that has a iCarly feel to it because that’s just not my speed. And PS: some of the books listed in your post, I’m totally going to find on goodreads!!!! β™₯

    • I adore The Sea of Tranquility, and JLA was writing NA before there was such a thing πŸ˜‰ I have TFIOS sitting on a shelf, staring at me, but it’s going to take a VERY particular mood to get me to read it. *backs slowly away from book and its aura of woe and misery*

      There are definitely YA UF series out there that I do like. Actually, a good third on my list up there are YA UF. But for some reason, while my favorite adult genre is UF, my favorite YA genre is fantasy . . .

      Yeah, I can’t do that either. I’m too far removed. Even with the older teenagers, if a high school setting is involved, it works best for me if it’s like the summer, or the high school-ness needs to be WAY downplayed. I can’t handle groundings and mean girls and bad report cards . . . blah.

      And click on them! They’re all hyperlinked πŸ˜‰

  6. I definitely don’t read as much YA as I want to, I think maybe only about 1 out of 5 or 6 reads are YA based on the number of YA weekends I do. Still, I think it’s pretty awesome that in general we seem to have very similar tastes in YA! I have read all four of your ongoing favorite series listed up there (except I still need to catch up with Throne of Glass #2, which I will get to, soon!) and rated them highly as well. I’m really looking forward to Ruin and Rising!

    • I can’t wait for Ruin and Rising. I was panicking about the series ending until I found out that Bardugo got signed for two more books in the same world. And with your love of horror and creepy, and I’m thinking that you would really like Skin Hunger. It’s probably the darkest, grittiest YA fantasy that I’ve ever read, but it’s absolutely enthralling.

  7. I agree, and I’m more picky about the contemp YA I read. I do love your lists and what I haven’t read, I want to read! Great taste! πŸ™‚

  8. I only read graceling and shadow and bone . Hèhé

    I do love contemp but I mostly read the gritty dark and more emotional ya contemp . No lighthearted fluffiness for me ,me lady

    *hugs Jessica*

    • Did you like them?!

      I LOVED The Sea of Tranquility. Does that count? Oh! The Perks of Being a Wallflower definitely counts. Yeah, when I do read contemporary, I swing drastically back and forth between gritty and emotional and light and fluffy. But whichever kind, if it’s too teeny-bopper, I want no part of it πŸ˜‰

      *hugs back*

  9. Awesome, awesome YA reads that you have picked, especially Throne of Glass, DOSAB and Cinder! I agree I have the same pet peeves with you when it comes to those run of the mill, overly dramatic high school YAs. But there is so much more to be discovered in the genre besides that.

  10. Loving The Grisha so far. Laura Lam’s series is ace as well. Westerfeld’s Leviathan made me smile. Want to try Throne of Glass one of these days. Oh, and of course, Tiffany Aching series by Pratchett. Because OMG AWESOME.

    • I have Leviathan, and I’ll be sure to check out Pantomime as well. I’m pretty sure I have Winterspell around here somewhere too, but it looks like that’s not the first book in the series. Whoops πŸ˜‰

  11. Faye M.  

    I can’t believe you’re 30! Dude, I thought you were 25 or something… way more younger than your real age. Haha! You’re like Amir .-. I thought was around my age but apparently she’s 31! AHHHHHHH you guys are screwing with my mind, aren’t you >_<

    In any case, I don't think I'll ever be able to let go of my love for Middle Grade and Young Adult. There's just something so innocent, and young, and refreshing about these genres that I can never get tired of. And seriously there are so many series to love other than Twilight! My favorite series are the ones you posted htere as well (except for the Laini Taylor one… I've yet to read it). I also LOVE the Across the Universe series! Space operas are the bestest.

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • Yeah man, I am an old married lady, LOL. But I didn’t know Amir was too! And I was still reading YA when I was your age (back in the day, har, har), and I kept waiting to grow out of it, but NOPE. Not yet. Not ever, probably. I read the first book in the Across the Universe series, and I liked it, but then I heard that it went downhill, so I haven’t finished it, but if you say they’re awesome, I’ll have to reconsider πŸ˜‰

  12. Fab post, Jessica! I used to like YA, but in latest years I only read fantasy YA, steampunk YA and my dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA dwindled to almost nothing. You are right – too much angst seem to put me off many new books completely. A lot of your faves are mine too, but I don’t see Susan Ee’s Angelfall here which is amazing. Other dystopians I adore are anything by Phil Tucker. Honestly, he is good. One book about Fae, another two are vamps in post-apocalyptic world. It’s like Julie Kagawa but with guts. Andrew Fukuda’s vamps are TERRIFYING. That Which Bites by Celis T. Rono – really dark post-apocalyptic UF. Worse than Lilith Saintcrow for blood and guts. In fantasy: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas… In sci-fi – anything by Andrea K. Host. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I think I better stop, because I’m scrolling down my read list on Goodreads and it’s way too long πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! I will definitely check those out. Especially Phil Tucker b/c Julie Kagawa with GUTS sounds amazing. And I have a lot of your picks, I just haven’t read them yet: The Burning Sky, The Bone Season, The Hunt . . . I’m pretty sure I have at least one Host book as well. Ever-expanding TBR is ever-expanding πŸ˜‰

      • I think with Tucker the main difference is that while two girls are turned into vampires, one of them keeps moaning that she is a monster now and mourning her humanity (Kagawa), and another kind of revels in it and just does what she needs to do(Tucker) πŸ™‚ I loved that! OMG, you haven’t read The Bone Season yet?!! I LOVED it.

      • Yeah, I get annoyed when supes whine about their supeness. I am a DIE-HARD X-Men fan, but when that Wolverine movie came out—the one where he wants to not be Wolverine anymore—I still haven’t seen it. So Tucker sounds like a winner! And I’ll have to move it up the list πŸ˜‰ I’ll try to get to it before the next book comes out.

  13. That’s a nice selection of books. I enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Siege and Storm. I will have to check out the rest. Agree with poster above – The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman are nicely done as well.
    And so grows Mt. TBR…..

    • Burning Sky is already sitting on my kindle waiting for me to read it, and I did enjoy Seraphina. I actually liked the prequel better than the first book though . . . not that Seraphina wasn’t good, but the that prequel was incredible. And it was one of those prequels that came out after the fact (I think), so I already knew the characters will enough to be invested in the story.

  14. YESSSSSS THRONE OF GLASS. My God, such an amazing series! The books just keep getting better and better πŸ˜€
    In fact, all of your current favourites are my current favourites too πŸ˜› Have you read the Partials series by Dan Wells? LOVE IT. So much science. So much delicious science. (Hi, I’m Nara, and I’m super weird :D)

    • Throne of Glass is my FAVORITE. And no, Nara, I haven’t read the Partials series yet, but I have the first book, and I am well aware of how similar our books tastes are, so I will definitely be moving it up the list πŸ˜‰

  15. As you know – I love YA. I hadn’t thought about the fact that fantasy/dystopian worlds change the way our characters act, bu that makes a LOT of sense. The only YA series I’ve read that falls into the teenage angst a bit but I still love is Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent. There’s enough good that I just overlook the angst. But I just caught up on the Lunar Chronicles and it was fantastic. I read Throne of Glass – great stuff – and need to catch up. The others are still on my TBR but I’ll get there!

    • SO many books, SO little time πŸ˜‰ And I haven’t read Soul Screamers. Maybe I need to check it out though b/c I wasn’t a big fan of Vincent’s adult UF series b/c I was bored, and sometimes authors don’t do well in both YA and adult for me. Like Kim Harrison. LOVE The Hollows. Madison Avery . . . not so much. And angst is the opposite of boring, so maybe Soul Screamers would work for me. I think I’ve got the first book around here somewhere . . .

  16. I’m 30ish and I also enjoy YA too Jessica! But I do agree, most of the time, I stay away from books with angsty teenage drama and high school cliques and politics. Been there, done that! No need to read more about it! Aaah I need to read all these series! They have been in my TBR since forever! But I have Cinder and Throne of Glass so I’m going to start with those! And I’m going to check those standalones too, we mostly have the sane taste in books so I might enjoy some, if not all!

    I liked If I Stay too and Where She Went is one of my fave books πŸ™‚

    • Throne of Glass! Start with Throne of Glass, LOL. Best. Book. EVER. And standalone-wise, The Splendor Falls is probably my favorite, and even though Immortal Beloved isn’t standalone, it’s only a trilogy, and it’s just amazing. It’s one of those series that I recommend to everyone.

      PS—I love both the Gayle Forman books, and I’m gearing up for a reread before the movie comes out πŸ˜‰

  17. SO with you on Laini Taylor, I didn’t get to read the others though I want to, lol.
    Other YAs I liked: Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles), the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, Julie Kagawa’s works, Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, didn’t get to the second yet, lol!), Possess by Gretchen McNeil, Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber… okay, you know what, I think we can safely say the YA I end up liking is most likely not contemporary, does not feature any kind of high-school related anything even if the character is of that age, and it generally has little to do with that we’d call a “regular teen life” – ie they’re in a fantasy/paranormal world and they could be 25 just as well as they are 16 or whatever.

    Out of the YAs I’ve read that are contemporary, I enjoy those were the teens suffer, mwahahaha. Like The Fault in Our Stars, The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding, or Saving June by Hannah Harrington, for instance. I mean some real dramatic event that affects them. And then I don’t like them cause they’re about a teen, but because the dramatic event & consequences combo was well done by the author… I generally feel good stories need their MCs to really suffer, lol, and I don’t feel comfortable with MCs being underage mostly because of that, I guess. I mean I feel more comfy with them being somewhat adult-ish, like say NA.

    I think that’s my main issue with YA, in fact. When I like it, it’s because I like the story but I would most likely feel better if the MC was a bit older. The stories I do like are good, ofc, but I’m sure I’d enjoy them more with the given comfort that the MC going through it all isn’t a kid/teen, I guess. MG is pretty much out of discussion for that reason. But I’m an evil reader, lol, fluffy bores me, no suffering bores me, all action and bravery bores me if there’s no real suffering involved… lol. I’m evil and sadistic, yes, I know :)))

    • Yeah, I loved The Girl in the Steel Corset. I will definitely finish that series sometime (HOPEFULLY) soon. Same with Infernal Devices, Anna Dressed in Blood.

      And I alternate between fluffy (Lola and the Boy next Boy) and heavy (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Sea of Tranquility), but some of the middle-of-road ones are good too (Will Grayson, Will Grayson).

      And I need to relate to the character. I don’t care what age they are, although the younger they are, the harder the author has to work to make them relatable to me. It doesn’t matter if I’m relating based on pain and suffering, the way they handle the pain and suffering, or something completely different (*snorts* I just had a Monty Python “How Not to be Seen” flashback, LOL). So I can do pain and suffering AND fluffy πŸ˜‰ BUT, I will admit to pain and suffering being more entertaining for the most part πŸ˜‰

      • Uuuuh yeah on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I’m gonna read The Sea of Tranquility sometime this year, so help me God, lol.

        Exactly!! Relating to the MC is key, and I don’t relate to teenish, high-school drama centered/involved type at all.
        Mwahahaha, yes, yes, the pain & suffering is more entertaining. I mean, extreme situations bring out the best in peeps, right? It’s spectacular to see when it happens πŸ˜€

      • The Sea of Tranquility is amazing, you’ll love it.

        I don’t either. I didn’t even when I WAS in high school.

        Exactly. Plus I always have more respect for characters who work well under pressure πŸ˜‰

  18. When I started blogging almost all I read are YA. Back then I didn’t know NG & EW existed and I don’t have an ereader yet so i rely on the library for my fix and they have a great collection of YA. Then it’s love triangle and insta-love after the other and slowly I grew wary of the genre. Right now I very rarely read YA but there’s quite a few that I’d read only because I started the series before my YA ban.

    • I get you, and I’m sure that if I fell into the insta-love/(bad) love triangle trap over and over again, I’d be more reluctant to read it myself. But man, I can’t imagine missing out on some of the YA series that have come out just in the last five or so years. Is it love triangles across the board that you don’t like, or just the nasty, cheating, wishy-washy love triangles?

  19. Hmmm I have Cinder and the Maas books but I haven’t read any I confess. But I was really mixed with Strange Angels but the Maar book was ok for me. My fave? lol that’s difficult. I finally don’t read a lot of them but I really enjoyed Mythos Academy by Jennifer Estep, The Falconer by Elizabeth may for the one I remember about but it’s true that it’s easier to say my fave UF series lol.

    • Strange Angels is the only series of that type that I’ve really liked. My closest-to-me-in-age sister is usually my gauge for that kind of thing, and she HATED it. I think that’s the only series that I’ve really liked that she’s hated (she thought it was too dark and painful). And I really didn’t like the first Wicked Lovely book. I only read the second one out of boredom, and that’s when the series took off for me. And I really love the Mythos Academy series too, and I need to finish it SOON.

  20. Oh! I loved pretty much all the books on your list, only I could not stand Throne of Glass. Something about the MC drove me nuts and the lack of danger in the actual tests. I especially love Kristin Cashore’s books. Great post and lots of pretty pictures!

  21. Yes for sure on the Lunar Chronicles and the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. I’ve been noticing many YA books feel almost more like Middle Grade, or they seem to be written for very young teens. Those are the ones I have trouble with, but your choices are definitely more on the “adult” side of “young adult.”

    • Yeah, I have read and liked a grand total of ONE MG/book that feels MG in the last . . . three years(ish). But there are a ton of the other kind, and many of those have been fantastic.

    • I do very much enjoy many of the contemporaries that I read, but that’s b/c I MUCH more selective, I think. I’ve got Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson and The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes on my YA contemporary TBR list, and I’m pretty confident about those πŸ˜‰

  22. bookwormbrandee  

    *ha* I’m 40-something Jessica, and I still find great pleasure in YA lit! πŸ™‚ I just finished Unravel Me, by the way….fan-freaking-tastic! I sooo love this series. Mafi is amazing! Okay, back to your post. πŸ™‚ I was the Childrens/Teen lead at B&N for a couple of years and found lots of series (and great reads) that way. Twilight, of course, opened to the door to YA again. There just weren’t as many great YA reads when I was a YA. I love Marr, Tiernan, Forman, and Barnes, too. There are some great middle-grade reads as well. Riordan is a fav in my house. πŸ™‚

    • Oh yeah, I love Riordan too, I just couldn’t included everyone, LOL. I liked the Percy Jackson books, but Heroes of Olympus kick their butt IMO. And I loved Shatter Me, and will finish that series any day now. I know some people don’t like her writing style, but I LOVE it. I don’t see my love of YA ending any time the indefinite future either πŸ˜‰

  23. Yeah, that’s also why I dont’t read many YA contemporaries too. I hate when books are TOO cheesy. It’s true what you said about the fact that, in fanatsy books, it feels more serious, that some YA characters are considered as adults. πŸ™‚