All of You, Andra Brynn, BE MY DOWNFALL, BEAUTIFUL BROKEN, Christina Lee, Diana Peterfreund, HEART BREATHS, KK Hendin, Leah Raeder, Lyla Payne, Mila Ferrera, Nazarea Andrews, One & Only, Sara Alva, Secret Society Girl, SOCIAL SKILLS, SPIRAL, Top Ten Tuesday, UNTEACHABLE, Viv Daniels, WHERE I END AND YOU BEGIN
Time for yet another post on my favorite bookish meme, Top Ten Tuesday, as brought to the Internet by the Broke and the Bookish! This week, the question asked for “Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to X Person,” and the topic I selected came to me almost immediately. The number of New Adult books out there is incredibly overwhelming, and because they’re almost always so cheap, and reviews always seem to be super gushy, I find it impossible to tell what’s actually good from what’s a retread of the same poorly edited tattooed-bad-boy-meets-good-girl-who’s-been-hurt stuff.
To be clear, I don’t auto-hate the bad-boy/good-girl dynamic, though I am growing weary of it. What I auto-hate are jealous asshole love interests who punch everyone who looks at the girl. I auto-hate girls with no personality or sense of humor. I auto-hate the only bond between a couple being that they’ve both been hurt. And I am just done with “girl with a history of being sexually abused and guy who’s been emotionally scarred in some way meet and fall in love but neither one knows how to be with someone else and THAT IS THE PLOT and also maybe he has another girlfriend-type person in his life that he treats like crap because she’s not The Girl.”
But let’s not focus on the bad; let’s focus on the good! Here are the top 10 NA books I recommend to anyone looking for something a little different that also isn’t riddled with typos!
1. UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder – I’m not subtle about my love for this book (or its author), and I am not ashamed. This teacher-student romance stands at the top of my list for being both beautifully written and different from the pack, with a compelling story, secondary characters that pop, and leads I couldn’t spend enough time with. Also, hot.
2. The Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund – I bought the first one on a Friday, read it on Saturday, and ordered the other three on Saturday night. This series about a not-really-disguised stand-in for a secret society at Yale and its first women-inclusive class has been one of my favorites and most constant re-reads over the past five years. (Sold as Adult; predates the existence of NA.)
3. ONE & ONLY by Viv Daniels – OK, yes, a little bit of a theme here since Viv Daniels is Diana Peterfreund, but here’s the thing – much as I do like the tattooed bad boys of NA, I like the hot, smart boys even more, and this is one author who caters to my taste oh so well. It also features a protagonist with a far more interesting backstory than the usual and is a great choice for anyone looking for books with math/science-inclined female characters. (*Full disclosure: I copyedited this book. It is not why I love it.)
4. SOCIAL SKILLS by Sara Alva – M/M romance is a particular favorite of mine (I copyedited it for almost two years at Dreamspinner Press and still do occasionally for Ellora’s Cave) but alas, it’s pretty lacking on the NA front, as all LGBTQ is. So when this book was recommended to me, I pretty much jumped on it, and am glad I did. Watching shy, socially awkward Connor struggle to gain his footing in college while navigating his first relationship is exactly the kind of story people are talking about when they state Why NA Needs to Be a Thing; though it’s about coming out, it feels like it’s as much about his coming out as a strong, independent adult as it is his coming out as gay. In particular, the gradual role reversal between him and closeted love interest Jared was a wonderful thing to read.
5. SPIRAL by Mila Ferrera – I had no idea what to expect going in to this one, but whatever I thought I was getting definitely got turned on its head. This one was unputdownable for me, in small part because I used to live exactly amidst its setting but in much larger part because it was a compelling story of characters I actually liked, flaws and all.
6. WHERE I END AND YOU BEGIN by Andra Brynn – It’s hard to be objective about this one because the couple in it reminds me so much of the one in my WIP, but I can objectively say it’s very different from the bad-boy/good-girl standard, the writing’s lovely, and it’s neither a typical story nor a typical presentation.
7. BE MY DOWNFALL by Lyla Payne – This is the third book in the Whitman University series, and it’s by far my favorite. While I liked the first two, something about the pairing of the dangerously off-kilter Kennedy and her determined-but-by-no-means-a-choirboy Toby just got to me. In a category where the girls who claim they just can’t get close to a guy because of a prior incident always seem to crumble within five pages, Kennedy was a girl who meant it, and that alone was a refreshing enough change to earn my devotion. But Toby too has his good and bad parts, and I hadn’t realized just how black and white male NA characters seemed to be until I enjoyed his shades of gray.
8. HEART BREATHS by KK Hendin – If you’re looking for a NA book that actually has no sex, this is literally the only one I’ve got to recommend. Of course, you also have to be okay with having your heart broken, just a little bit, and also okay with the tiniest bit of a paranormal bent. (If you’re not okay with the latter, do want sex, and still want a book that’s largely about grief and the mourning process, try COME SEE ABOUT ME by CK Kelly Martin. The pacing wasn’t my style but the grief is done beautifully.)
9. ALL OF YOU by Christina Lee – Full confession here: this book wasn’t as different as I thought it would be. The love interest, Bennett, is a virgin, which is the hugely compelling thing about this premise, but other than literally never having engaged in intercourse, he’s pretty much your typical NA hero. In theory. In practice, for whatever reason – probably because he was successfully conveyed to be both smoking hot and a genuinely nice guy – Bennett just worked better for me than 99% of NA boys.
10. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN by Nazarea Andrews – Honestly, BB only edged out Andrews’ NA debut, THIS LOVE, by a hair, and it’s mostly because the couple in THIS LOVE actually comes off as kind of unappealing as secondary characters in the follow-up. (It’s also got one of my favorite NA covers – love the combination of the autumnal scene, an outfit I would totally wear, and no (almost-)kissing.) There’s something about the way Andrews writes chemistry between couples that make her books the ones I return to over and over.