21 YA novels that pack a serious genre punch

Contributed by
May 28, 2021, 3:50 PM EDT (Updated)

If you've already written off young adult fiction as nothing more than dystopian angst and sparkly vampires, it's time to look again.

Today marks the release of Divergent, the first film based on Veronica Roth's mega-bestselling dystopian YA trilogy that hopes to follow the Hunger Games franchise into the ranks of blockbusterdom. Box-office pundits have been talking for months about how big the film could be, but there's another side to the story of Divergent's release, and I've been seeing it for months: the people who have already written off this film, along with all of YA literature, because they're "sick of YA."

Now, I can certainly understand if stuff like Divergent isn't your cup of tea. I understand because Divergent isn't my cup of tea either. But there's a difference between being tired of or just disliking a certain kind of story and writing off an entire swath of reading material, which is why I'm so disheartened when I see dismissals of "YA" in general, rather than lack of interest surrounding one particular story or franchise. If you're willing to take a closer look, you'll find plenty of YA stories that will satisfy your craving for good sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

To celebrate that fact, I made a list of YA novels that just might be a perfect fit for adult lovers of those genres who might be skeptical about finding the kick they're looking for in the pages of something written for a young adult audience. These tales range from alien invasions to brutal psychological thrillers to high-concept sci-fi explorations to epic fantasies of the most ambitious kind. It's far from a complete list, but it is, I think, a nice sampler of what's out there that might spark some curiosity in you. So, if you're looking for an entry into a world of books you're not sure about, or if you're just looking for something to read, check out the gallery below. And if you're an adult reader who's already a fan of a YA book or series that we didn't mention here, let us known in the comments!

Special thanks to librarians and YA experts Kimberly Francisco and Kelly Jensen, of the excellent YA blog Stacked, who were patient and enthusiastic consultants in this endeavor