YA lit is awesome, but sometimes it can be fun to stray away from teen paranormal romance and into the so-called "adult sections" of a book store. If you're just dipping your toe into more grown-up fare, a great place to start is with the books that are given the Alex Award, a distinction that means the novel will ring true with teens. The award has been given out since 1999 to 10 titles each year; here are 10 that should be at the top of your summer reading list.
1. Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger
Alexia Tarabotti, the novel's fearless protagonist, has a lot of trials to overcome. Her family is frustrating, and the werewolf she may or may not have a crush on is sending out some serious mixed signals—not to mention she was born without a soul. It's like an Oscar Wilde play if vampires and ghosts sometimes stopped by for tea.
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
What seems at first like a run of the mill coming of age story with a hint of mystery becomes an examination of science and ethics. There's a pretty good (though sob-inducing) love story worked in too.
3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
If you ever feel un-informed about what's going on in Iran, Satrapi's graphic novel depicting her childhood there will give you some background into its more recent history. It never feels like a poly-sci class though; the childhood anecdotes and vibrant narration ensure that the book is never boring.
4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In Boom-Time America By Barabara Enrenreich
Instead of writing about the working poor from a distance, Enrenreich went for a full-on social experiment and put away her credit cards, attempting to survive on a string of minimum wage jobs. Through her experience, readers come to understand just how difficult life below the poverty line can be.
5. Big Girl Small by Rachel De Woskin
For an adult read, De Woskin paints a pretty accurate picture of just how much high school can suck, especially if you're different. Judy seems to be settling into life at her new performing arts school, but when she puts her trust in the wrong people, she becomes a national news story (there is a lesson here, but it never gets preachy).
6. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevlier
Chevlier takes the solemn-looking girl from the Johannes Vermeer painting and gives her a rich back story. This is a great book to inspire creative writers to write their own take on classic art; Mona Lisa could be the next great YA protagonist!
7. Chang and Eng: A Novel by Darin Strauss
If you're a nerd fighter, you've probably heard of Siamese twins Chang and Eng; John Green mentions them a lot. This fictionalized account of their interesting lives will give you a little more background on the pair.
8. Anansi by Neil Gaiman
As if you needed a reason to pick up a Neil Gaiman book, Anansi has an African spider god, karaoke death, and all the craziness that discovering your long-lost brother inevitably leads to.
9. Stiff by Mary Roach
A book about dead bodies might not be a light beach read, but Roach's history of cadavers makes them seem interesting, not creepy. And your parents thought you wouldn't learn anything this summer.
10. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A sometimes frustrating love story, Clare meets her future husband for the first time when she's six and he's a full grown adult. But he's really only eight years older than her. But he travels through time. It might make your head hurt a little, but you'll be rewarded with plenty of swoon-worthy sentiments.
Will any of these books make it onto your summer reading list?