Adult SFF books to try if you mainly read YA

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!

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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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. 

my review | indiebound | goodreads

The Martian by Andy Weir

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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.

indiebound | goodreads

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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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!

my review | indiebound | goodreads

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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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. 

my review | indiebound | goodreads

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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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. 

indiebound | goodreads

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

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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.

indiebound | goodreads

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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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.

my review | indiebound | goodreads

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Have you read any of these books? What adult SFF books do you recommend to me?

x Margaret

goodreads | twitter | indiebound

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17 thoughts on “Adult SFF books to try if you mainly read YA

  1. Ninth House is sooo good! Me and my husband both just finished reading it and we’re in awe. Neither of us had read any Leigh Bardugo before, but we heard about the book through Daniel Green’s booktube channel. Oh man, it was a ride. I can’t wait for the second one to come out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A Darker Shade of Magic is such a good series. And I have been meaning to start Mistborn for foreverrr… I still haven’t read Ninth House yet (oops) but its mainly because I keep hearing such mixed thoughts!! Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been loving adult fantasy books lately and I definitely want to explore more.
    I didn’t really love Ninth House and I thought the setting was so cool !!
    I definitely need to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Brandon Sanderson books because they sound amazing 😍😍
    I didn’t know Hank Green’s book was adult actually 🙈 so that was great to find out !! 😂
    I recently read ADSOM and I think it definitely would appeal to YA readers !!
    The Starless Sea was so wonderul as well.
    I love The Lies of Locke Lamora if you haven’t read that one !! 💛
    Great list !!! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay for exploring more adult fantasy! I feel the same way, and I’m so excited to discover more 😀
      Yesss I hope you love The Ten Thousand Doors and Brandon Sanderson’s books! And yep, Hank Green’s is definitely adult, though I can understand why it would be easy to mix up considering who his brother is 😂
      Ooh thanks for the recommendation of The Lies of Locke Lamora – that’s on my TBR and now I’m even more excited about it. Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, this is such a great post! 💕 I want to try out more Adult Fantasy books, so I’m always looking for those books that aren’t too intimidating 😅 Ninth House is on my TBR for sure, but I haven’t picked it up as it can get pretty dark I heard, so I’ll save it for when I feel up for that! I also recommend ADSOM, as V.E. Schwab’s adult books are great for YA readers! My favorite by hers is Vicious 🥰 I also think that The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova is a great crossover book, as it’s written in a super engaging way 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay I’m glad this post could help you find some more adult fantasy! Yep, Ninth House gets pretty dark, so I can understand waiting until the right time. And yes, VE Schwab’s books are fantastic – I love Vicious too!! Ooh thanks so much for the recommendation, I’m definitely going to be checking that one out!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This list is such a great idea! I totally agree with you about Mistborn, it’s huge but the characters have such entertaining personalities and the magic system is so thoroughly explained (though I was very glad to have the Allomancy index in the back telling me which metal did what) that it’s really easy to get into.
    It doesn’t necessarily have YA appeal, but The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of my favourite adult SFF books. I love how even though it’s super far-fetched space Sci-Fi it keeps grounded by focusing on the cast of characters (who make up one of my favourite found families).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Abi! 😀 Yep, I don’t think Mistborn is exactly the simplest fantasy world, but it’s so engaging that I think it’s great for YA readers. And thank goodness for that Allomancy index haha!
      Ooh, Small Angry Planet is on my TBR! I’ve heard so many amazing things, so I feel like I’ll love it 😀 Can’t wait for that found family!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Mistborn was the second adult fantasy book I ever read, and it made a pretty good transitional one for me! (The first one I read was A Game of Thrones which I would not recommend as the next step from YA 😅)

        I hope you do like it when you get to read it! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah I adore this list so, so much! I loved An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and so agree that this book could appeal to a lot of people usually reading YA books 🙂 I have The Ten Thousand Doors of January on my TBR, I AM SO EXCITED to read that one, I heard amazing things about it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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