TIME magazine recently ran a big package on “young adult” novels, in an attempt to define the nascent genre, giving us both “The 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time” and “17 Famous Writers on Their Favorite Young Adult Books.” Unfortunately, the canonical list failed to reflect the range of stories covered in young adult literature, ignoring current YA literature and calling any work with a teen protagonist “young adult.”
The “17 Famous Writers” list also suffered from a disconnect between the content and the buzzword; despite the headline, it seemed clear that authors were asked about “the books they loved as a child.” As a result, current young adult literature was roundly ignored. With that in mind, Flavorwire wanted to flip the script on TIME‘s “Famous Writers” list by asking some of our favorite contemporary young adult authors about their favorite books for grown-ups. The results, which feature responses that are both sly and serious, range from coming-of-age stories to science fiction adventures.
Gayle Forman: The Unspeakable and Other Acts of Discussion, Meghan Daum
I read, and love, too many books, adult to YA, to pick a favorite. So how about the latest favorite, which is Meghan Daum’s essay collection, The Unspeakable. Some essay collections can be hit or miss, compendiums of previously published pieces under a not-always-fitting umbrella. Daum wrote all the essays in this collection for this collection and it shows. They are smart, trenchant, unflinchingly honest — a phrase you realize is overused once you see actual unflinching honesty — and funny as hell.
From the opening piece, about her mother’s death and her own near-death experience to an essay about her musings on parenthood while volunteering in the foster-care system to one about her unabashed love for her dog, the essays all pick apart the disconnect between normative behaviors — how we’re supposed to feel/act — and how we really do, with Daum offering herself up as guinea pig and lab experiment. I whipped through The Unspeakable like it was a page-turnery thriller and weeks later, I can’t stop thinking about it, and nothing I seem to read after quite measures up. In YA, we have a word for that syndrome. It’s called TEABS [The End of an Awesome Book Syndrome].
Gayle Forman‘s books include If I Stay and the upcoming I Was Here, out on January 27.