Nothing better than reading for language learning
Young adult literature is a good way start reading in a foreign language. At its best, it is as interesting as adult literature but easier to read, with less complicated plot lines. It’s also a way to interact with culture, since young adult novels often become major cultural icons (think Harry Potter), and many best-sellers are in fact books written for young people. Maybe they read more then adults do? I don’t know, but I also enjoy young adult novels, both in foreign languages and in English. Here’s a couple suggestions for those looking for light reading in Spanish.
La Sombra del Viento
Technically, this book is not considered a young adult novel, but the protagonist is a teenager and it’s a sort of coming of age story, so I would certainly put it into the young adult category. It’s one of the best-selling Spanish-language books of all time – although I found it a little slow at first, by the second half of the book, I couldn’t put it down. Carlos Ruiz Zafón has written several other books, all which could be considered young adult books. I wrote a full blog post about La Sombra del Viento last year if you’d like to know more!
Canciones Para Paula
Written originally as a blog, Canciones Para Paula became a best-seller in Spain, catapulting the author, who goes by the name Blue Jeans, to literary fame. It’s a thick book, but the good news is that if you’re broke, you can find it on-line for free.
Como agua para chocolate
This extremely popular novel written by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel uses magical realism and culinary descriptions to tell the story of a cursed Mexican family. It’s often considered a young adult book because it starts when the main character is 15 years old, but the themes dealt with in Como Agua para Chocolate are serious and dark – as, in fact, Caniones para Paula and La Sombra del Viento both are as well.
La Casa de los Espíritus
Another massively famous Spanish-language books that is sometimes considered a young adult novel (and was also made into a movie), La Casa de los Espíritus was the book that brought fame to Chilean author Isabel Allende. If you want something that is more “pure” young adult by Isable Allende, try Cuidad de las Bestias, an adventure story that takes place deep in the Amazon.
Laura Gallego García was only 21 when she published her award-winning first novel, Finis Mundi, an apocalyptic adventure novel that follows the adventures of a young, 14-year-old French monk who survives the destruction of his monastery and subsequently undertakes several long voyages, all under the shadow of the impending end of the world.
Photo from Kate Ter Haar