Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gateway Books

You know what happens: the good girl goes off to grad school. She's living the straight and narrow, reading literary fiction and thumbing through The New Yorker. 

Then someone slips her Looking For Alaska.

From there, it's a free fall.


I met Flo in my second year of grad school. Flo's the sort of girl everyone wants to be friends with -- intelligent and hilarious with killer book recommendations. She told me she had an idea for a YA novel, and I felt a flicker in my memory. I'd loved Sarah Dessen's books as a teen. Madeleine L'Engle's Troubling A Star came with me to college.

But it'd been so long since I'd ventured into the teen section of a library or bookstore. My grad school reading time was spent on class assignments: the Important Modern Classics for Adults. And while I continue to enjoy a wide array of adult fiction, those particular books didn't leave a mark on me. I felt nothing.

Flo knew what was what. She loaded me up with Looking For Alaska and The Hunger Games trilogy, which I'd only heard of peripherally ("you'll need all of these," she'd said simply).

I finished Looking For Alaska and felt devastated. It was miles away from the indifference or "oh, that was a nice sentence" I'd felt in my reading assignments. I brought Mockingjay to work and glared at people when, God forbid, I actually had to work. Soon I was back in the teen section of the public library, checking out everything that Sarah Dessen had published since I'd last read her. Flo and I dusted off our old Sweet Valley High: Senior Year books and read out loud entertaining excerpts.

I haven't turned back.

What book(s) brought you to your genre/category? Let us know in the comments!


Diana Gallagher's contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, is forthcoming from Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Twitter!


  1. I love this post - the concept of the gateway book that got us into YA! For me it was Ann Brashare's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. And from there, I started to gobble up YA. In fact, I haven't read an adult book in years! My second gateway book (if you will) - the one that inspired me to be a little braver and write The Fix (my debut this fall) was Sara Zarr and her amazing quiet Story of a Girl. I think Sara Zarr just gets it right all the time.

  2. Great post, Diana! For me it was Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi, and then everything she has written since then.