As someone who has been reading YA science fiction/fantasy for more than half of her life, I know how hard it can be to venture from YA into adult SFF. YA often just seems simpler – the worldbuilding usually isn’t as complex, there aren’t gigantic casts of characters that you need an entire index to keep track of, there usually aren’t 10+ books in a series that have 700+ pages per book.
But there is a lot of amazing adult SFF out there that it would be a shame to miss out on! So today I’m recommending seven adult science fiction/fantasy books that appeal to people who normally only read YA SFF. Hopefully this can help you find something new and wonderful to read!
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Ninth House, which follows Alex Stern’s freshman year at Yale among its secret occult societies, is Leigh Bardugo’s first adult fantasy after writing exclusively YA. If you’re already a fan of Six of Crows or Shadow and Bone, this could be a good stepping stone into adult fantasy. It’s set in our world, and even though the various secret societies can get a bit confusing, it’s not hard to enjoy the book even without fully understanding them.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This science fiction book follows an astronaut named Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars after an accident leads his team to believe that he’s dead. Even though there is a lot of science-y language in this book, it’s written in such an entertaining way that it’s not confusing at all. Mark Watney is one of the most hilarious narrators I’ve ever read, so this book is easy to get sucked into even if adult sci-fi isn’t something you would usually pick up.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
A young woman named January growing up in the early 1900s discovers a book that shows her how to discover and create magical doorways. Even though this book isn’t YA, I think it has a lot of appeal for YA readers, partly because its main character is a teenager for much of the story. It’s not terribly difficult in terms of worldbuilding or language, and it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever encountered – so win-win!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This book follows a young woman who becomes famous after making a video about the mysterious statues that appeared all over the world. If you want to read science fiction that doesn’t involve zooming around space or an abundance of science lingo, this could be the perfect one to try. It’s set in our world and the sci-fi elements take a back seat to the characters. Plus, its main character is in her early twenties, and the writing is quick and entertaining in a way that I think will be appealing to YA readers.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Four parallel universes overlap in London and a smuggler named Kell – along with a thief who he picks up along the way – travels between each. V.E. Schwab writes both adult and YA fantasy, so I think all of her books have appeal to both audiences. The Shades of Magic series combines historical fiction with magic and adventure and piracy and romance and so much more, all with amazing characters who are mostly fairly young and therefore relatable to people who usually read YA.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn takes place in a world where the dark lord already won and rules over everything, following a team of rebels fighting to take him down. This is the most high fantasy book on this list, but even though it has a complex magic system, it’s explained so clearly that it makes total sense. In fact, this was one of the first adult fantasy books that I really loved. It’s not as complex as some other high fantasy out there – or even some other Brandon Sanderson books – so it feels like the perfect first step.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
When a grad student finds a strange book in his university library, he sets out to find the strange and magical Starless Sea that it describes within its pages. I consider this book the antidote for everyone who wanted to travel to a magical world as a kid but never got the chance, since it gives that narrative to an adult and shows how the world is still full of magic. Even though it takes a while to understand what’s going on, you have to trust Erin Morgenstern and let yourself enjoy the journey.
Have you read any of these books? What adult SFF books do you recommend to me?