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10 Best Gritty/Edgy YA and New Adult Books

“Gritty” or “edgy” when applied to YA and New Adult books means literature that deals with the darker side of adolescence.

The best part about these intense books is the payoff: stories you deeply feel by virtue of traveling through terrible turbulence with the main characters.

Here are 10 YA/New Adult books where the emotional ride, and resulting enlightenment, are worth the harrowing journey.

  1. Winter Light by Martha Engber: Mary Donahue, a 15-year-old on the cusp of failure during the brutal blizzard winter of 1978-79, learns the only difference between life and death is knowing when to grasp an extended hand.

  2. Serenity & Grace by Annalisa Crawford: The streets are unforgiving, the winter is closing in and 19-year-old Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival, but they’re better than what she faces if she returns home.

  3. In the Fullness of Time by Carolyn R. Russell: In a future where people joyfully arrange their own deaths, a young woman battles the consequences of a biotechnology gone horribly wrong and the cruel theocracy that enforces a sinister solution.

  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: A high school outcast becomes more and more isolated until coming to terms with what happened to her.

  5. The Giver by Lois Lowry: The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

  6. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake: Maleeka Madison is a strong student who adopts a tougher crowd to deflect criticism about her “too black” skin and handmade clothes. The last thing she expects is to get “messed up” with another “freak.”

  7. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton: Your young readers will love this coming-of-age classic featuring street-smart teenagers trying to make their way in the world without privilege, supervision, or education.

  8. Monster by Walter Dean Myers: Facing the death penalty, a young, black filmmaker copes by writing a movie script based on his trial. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred until he can no longer tell who he is or what the truth is.

  9. The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg: Over the course of one summer, Jordan and Max will have to face their biggest fears and the unlikely chemistry developing between them.

  10. The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: Two young boys encounter the best and worst of humanity during the Holocaust in this powerful read.

Happy edgy reading!

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