Book List, Genre Feature, Staff Post

Books Perfect for that “In-Between” Stage of Life

Young Adult books have been my go-to reads for awhile; it’s the section of the store that I constantly walk through to browse (and most likely buy a book or two). However, something I have realized is how rare it is to find a book where the character is somewhere in their 20s, either in college or a recent college graduate. It seems as if book characters go from being 16-17 years old in YA novels to being in their 30s married with a family in adult fiction. As a college student myself, I feel like some of the most influential and impactful moments happen at college and in your 20s when you’re beginning to navigate the real world.  

One of the reasons why I love to read so much is the real lessons I can learn from the characters and stories. Because this time of  life can be confusing, exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time,  I wish there were more books that reflect these unique experiences we all go through in this stage. They can be hard to find, but I’ve found 10 wonderful books that represent this “in between” period of life that seems to be overlooked. Here are the books that I hope you’re excited to read too!

College Reads

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.
Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?
Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!
Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.
Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

A Little Something Different

14 viewpoints, one love story. Sandy Hall’s debut novel is an irresistibly sweet romance between two college students told from multiple perspectives.
Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is a little aloof, Gabe is shy, and it looks like they are never going to work things out.
But something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The barista at the local Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV series. The bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes Lea and Gabe were meant to be together.
You’ll be rooting for Gabe and Lea too, in Sandy Hall’s quirky, completely original novel A Little Something Different, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. 
An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punchWe Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Four starred reviews for this incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how, unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

Post-Grad Reads

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job working front of house at a celebrated downtown restaurant. What follows is her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen. The story of a young woman’s coming-of-age, set against the glitzy, grimy backdrop of New York’s most elite restaurants, in Sweetbitter Stephanie Danler deftly conjures the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the food industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young and adrift.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, comes a witty, charming, and hilariously relatable debut novel about a struggling young actress trying to get ahead―and keep it together―in New York City.
It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.
Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.
Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.
Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

A favorite of Sarah & Jennifer

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at TheNew Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.
Marina left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. Her short story “Cold Pastoral” was published on NewYorker.com. Her essay “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” was excerpted in the Financial Times, and her book was the focus of a Nicholas Kristof column in The New York Times. Millions of her contemporaries have responded to her work on social media.
As Marina wrote: “We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” The Opposite of Loneliness is an unforgettable collection of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to impact the world. “How do you mourn the loss of a fiery talent that was barely a tendril before it was snuffed out? Answer: Read this book. A clear-eyed observer of human nature, Keegan could take a clever idea…and make it something beautiful” 

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton

Alex Sinclair couldn’t jump on a plane fast enough. Broken from an unexpected betrayal, she flees sunny Florida for the Britannia cool of London–home of her favourite TV shows, plays, and fangirl heroes. Alex believes London is where she belongs, where she’ll heal old wounds, and chase her dream of writing for the theatre. Staying with her British friend Harry with barely a year’s rent money in her pocket, the clock is ticking.
But when a wealthy rival fueled by ambition and jealousy threatens her career and a fledgling romance, Alex once again questions her self-worth–and is left wondering if London is where she truly belongs.

Stay tuned for Christopher’s favorite lesser known genres tomorrow!

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