Young Adult Books & After High School

When I first picked when I Was Here by Gayle Forman (my review) a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the main characters had graduated from high school with one of them attending a college away from home and the other going a completely different route. I realized that I’ve always been surprised when young adult characters are in college and it’s not because it doesn’t fit into the “criteria” for young adult books but because there are so few of them.

In writing this post, I found myself googling: What is young adult literature? (This is almost laughable since it’s the primary category I read so you would think I would know, but, technically, I find it hard to explain.) I really liked this explanation from Michael Cart on the ALA website:

The term “young adult literature” is inherently amorphous, for its constituent terms “young adult” and “literature” are dynamic, changing as culture and society — which provide their context — change.

…young adults are beings in evolution, in search of self and identity; beings who are constantly growing and changing, morphing from the condition of childhood to that of adulthood. That period of passage called “young adulthood” is a unique part of life, distinguished by unique needs that are – at minimum — physical, intellectual, emotional, and societal in nature.

Frankly, I can’t think of a greater period of evolution in your life than the unknown associated with life after throwing your caps in the air and waving goodbye to high school. For me, personally, the summer after graduation and the years that followed led to some of the best, most difficult, super strange moments in my life so it’s cathartic to see them on the page, relive them again with a bit more life experience under my belt and realize, well, hey, that sucked but I’m here and I’m okay.

So today I’m applauding the books that tough upon the messy complications of college, navigating a life with high school friends and the new ones you are going to make, and, perhaps, what happens if your life moves you in a different direction — one that isn’t filled with books and beer pong and sharing a room with a stranger.

(Our options are truly endless.)

The best part in creating this list is that a good majority of these titles have been floating under the radar. Nothing makes me more excited than giving them a bit more attention in sharing them with you. PLUS a nice chunk of these are 2015 releases, making it, I think, a pretty exciting year in YA lit. I hope you find a few to add to your own reading list, and think up a few that I can add to mine.

Rather Be Reading Blog Beyond High School Young Adult Book List


I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Amplified by Tara Kelly | Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares | How to Love by Katie Cotugno
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios | Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Roomies by Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr | Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard | When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

99 Days by Katie Cotugno


Thanks so much for stopping in today! I had a blast with this one.
(It’s very rare that a list like this contains so many of my favorite books. ♥)

10 thoughts on “Young Adult Books & After High School

  1. Emma @ Miss Print says:

    I love this list! These are the types of books that I wish comprised NA instead of just romance. I always call these books “emerging adult” titles in my head lol. It’s also a murky area where sequels like The Piper’s Son or Megan McCafferty’s later novels in (maybe after Second Helpings?) follow YA characters out of high school.

  2. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s so nice to see a post with YA books that are set beyond High School, because sometimes you want a YA read, but you’re just not feeling the high school scene. It’s good to see a bunch of different books which approach life after school, because that period of time is messy and complicated and it’s not like you magically go from high school to real adult, there should be more of that awkward finding yourself middle period of life that seems to last forever.

  3. Alexa S. says:

    Love this post, E! It’s always a pretty great thing, in my opinion, to read novels that feature characters fresh out of high school about to go to college. And the suggestions in this post are really good ones too! I’ve read a good number of them, and can totally vouch for them 😉

  4. Bruna says:

    Oh, that’s nice idea! When you’re a bit older, reading about college experiences resonate more, at least that’s how it works for me. Not that I don’t enjoy the high school novels, but yeah, college is definitely more of a self-discovery period. I’ll be adding some books from this list to my tbr.

  5. Natalie @ Flowers in my Books says:

    I’ve got to be honest, when I read YA I rarely think about whether the MC is in College or High School. In fact I think I only just realised that Fangirl is YA and set in College and it’s one of my favourite books.

    I definitely like it when the characters are a bit older, since I’m turning 18 in a few months it’s nice to read about the college experience and know that that’s what I’ll be doing soon (although probably not as dramatic as some books make it out to be).

    Thanks for this post, I’ll definitely be checking out some of these books on GoodReads! 🙂

  6. Elizabeth says:

    The first book I thought of when I saw this topic was Something Like Normal… loved that one! I’m really curious about I’ll Meet You There and Breathe Annie Breathe.

  7. Vlora @ Reviews and Cake says:

    OMG THANK YOU. I didn’t even know I needed this, but I DO. I love Young Adult mucho, but I mostly find books on the “younger” end of young adult, as in teenagers who are usually 16-17. If I had never heard of the genre before, I’d assume that young adult books are about young adults as in people between 18 and their early twenties. I guess New Adult is supposed to fill that gap, but I haven’t really read any new adult books yet, and most I’ve heard of didn’t really appeal to me. Anyways, I’M in my early twenties and at university, so I’d absolutely love to read some young adult books with characters of a similar age. I read Fangirl and I LOVED it. I’ll check out all of the other books you mentioned – I’m sure I’ll find something to put on my to-read list. Thanks for putting this list together!

  8. Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide says:

    Still a bunch of these I need to read (and some that I own!) but all of the ones I’ve read, I’ve loved. I really enjoy the moments after high school. I honestly think that’s the time I did most of my growing up and where I changed the most as a person so I’m starting to latch on to more post-HS and college stories! 🙂

  9. molly @ wrapped up in books says:

    I love this list. There are a bunch more of these out there, and I love lots of the “just after high school” or “beginning of college” stories. I feel like there are so many stories to explore at this time in life. I’m with Emma — I wish “new adult” would evolve into more of this instead of the romance/erotica/fanfic-y stories that seem to dominate that category. I need to read more of these.

    I also love that you linked to that YALSA white paper. I was just discussing how dated it is, but still relevant (if that makes sense) with a group of YA librarians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *