Cross-Over Authors: Adult to Young Adult to Children’s

When asked to describe an author’s works, one of the first distinctions to make is in regard to the intended audience: adults, young adults, or children.  Most authors seem to write exclusively for one age group, but there are some exceptions, especially now that young adult (YA) books are growing in popularity.  Here is a list of 6 cross-over authors.  How many do you know?

1. James Patterson (1947- )
James Patterson is known in adult circles for his crime thrillers, most notably the Alex Cross series, but he has also written the Women’s Murder Club series, the Michael Bennett series, and the Private series.  He has also written stand-alone thrillers, nonfiction, and romance novels (Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas and Sam's Letters to Jennifer).  At least nine have been made into TV or film adaptations, including Along Came a Spider (2001) with Morgan Freeman and Alex Cross, scheduled for release this October.

In 2005, Patterson decided to write a science fiction/fantasy series for teens, and The Maximum Ride series took off, reaching eight books in all.  Two of his other popular YA series are Daniel X and Witch & Wizard, both in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

Patterson has won several awards and has had two #1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.  He continues to be a prolific author, publishing 14 new titles in 2011.  According to Forbes’ 2012 list of World’s Top-Earning Authors, Patterson tops the list, having made $94 million last year, with nearly all that revenue coming from book sales and relatively little from TV and film royalties.

2. Suzanne Collins (1962- )
Who hasn’t heard of The Hunger Games, the best-selling YA series and newly-released movie?  This dystopian fantasy is based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and follows teenage main characters Katniss and Peeta as they compete with 22 fellow tributes (two from each of twelve districts) to survive the Capitol’s annual entertainment: a fight-to-the-death competition in the Hunger Games arena.

What Hunger Games fans may not know is that Collins has also written The Underland Chronicles, a popular children’s fantasy series for ages 9-12.  In the series, Gregor and his baby sister Boots fall down an air duct into the Underland, a hidden human society living beneath New York City.  Gregor must rescue his father, become a leader in the Underland, rescue his sister, cure a plague, and prevent and/or win wars between the rats, mice, cockroaches, bats, and humans.

Collins has also written a picture book, When Charlie McButton Lost Power (2005), illustrated by Mike Lester, about a computer-game-loving boy who faces trouble when the power goes out and his little sister has all of the batteries.  Collins has won many awards for her series and is #9 on the Forbes’ 2012 list of World’s Top-Earning Authors with $20 million.

3. Carl Hiaasen  (1953- )
An award-winning investigative reporter for the Miami Herald since 1976, Carl Hiaasen (pronounced High’-uh-sen) is known for his reporting and his fictionalized novels of South Florida life – its criminals, its corruption, its scandals, its greedy businessmen, and its unspoiled wilderness.  Hiaasen’s adult environmental thriller novels are numerous and include, among others: Tourist Season (1986), Double Whammy (1987), Strip Tease (1993), Stormy Weather (1995), Basket Case (2002), and Nature Girl (2006).  His nonfiction works include two collections of his newspaper columns (Kick Ass [1999] and Paradise Screwed [2001]), a memoir (The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport [2008]), and a commentary on the environmental and local impact of the Walt Disney Company (Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World [1998]).

Hiaasen has also made a name for himself in the children’s/young adult section for his humorous novels highlighting environmental issues.  Hoot (2002) won a Newberry Honor and was made into a film in 2006, and his other titles include Flush (2005), Scat (2009), and Chomp (2012).  Both Hoot and Striptease have been made into movies.

4. John Grisham (1955- )
The author of seventeen back-to-back best sellers, many of which have been turned into blockbuster movies, John Grisham is well known for his legal thrillers – The Firm (1991), The Pelican Brief (1992), The Client (1993), The Rainmaker (1995), and The Summons (2002), to name a few.  His recent titles The Litigators (2011) and Calico Joe (2012) made the New York Times Best Seller List for 2012, and Grisham made the Forbes’ 2012 list of World’s Top-Earning Authors, coming in at #4 with $26 million.

In 2010, Grisham decided to write a legal thriller series for the younger set at the prompting of his daughter Shea, a 5th grade teacher.  The Theodore Boone series is intended for 8-13 year-olds and features 13-year-old Theodore Boone.  Theodore, the son of lawyer parents and very savvy about the law, must use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to save the day.  About his motives for writing, Grisham says, "I'm hoping primarily to entertain and interest kids, but at the same time I'm quietly hoping that the books will inform them, in a subtle way, about law” (Middleton).*

5. Meg Cabot (1967- )
Meg Cabot (a.k.a. Meggin Patricia Cabot, Meggin Cabot, Patricia Cabot, and Jenny Carroll) has written and published over fifty books.  Her most famous is The Princess Diaries, a YA novel that was later made into two feature films of the same name by Disney.  Like The Princess Diaries, most of Cabot’s YA series are light fiction in the “novel-as-diary” genre.  Her Mediator and 1-800-Where-R-You YA series are supernatural mysteries; the Abandon YA series is loosely based on the Greek myth of Persephone and involves supernatural elements; and the Airhead series explores the trials of a high school girl whose brain has been transplanted into the body of a teen supermodel.  Cabot has also written a number of stand-alone YA novels, including Avalon High (2006), Jinx (2007), and Prom Nights from Hell (2007).

For late teens/early twenties readers, Cabot has several chick-lit series featuring twenty-something heroines: the Boy and Heather Wells mysteries, the Queen of Babble series, and Insatiable (a Dracula retelling).  She has also written eight adult romance novels, including An Improper Proposal (1999), A Little Scandal (2000), and Kiss the Bride (2002).  Finally, Cabot has published a children’s series, Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls, which follows a fourth-grade girl as she gets into a wide range of entertaining scraps – moving, lying, a new girl at school, school plays, class trips, and more.

6. Rick Riordan (1964- )
Rick Riordan (pronounced rye’-or-dan), a former middle school English teacher in San Francisco, has authored several best-selling children’s series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles.   Riordan also designed the overall story arc for the popular 39 Clues series and wrote its first book, Maze of Bones.  (Each book in the series is written by a different author).   He has won several awards for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and its sequel, The Heroes of Olympus series – the Mark Twain Award in 2008 and 2009, the 2009 Rebecca Caudill Award, School Library Journal’s Best Book in 2010, the 2011 Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year and Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year, and the 2011 Milner Award.  The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson series, book 1) was adapted into a movie in 2010 and has also been made into a graphic novel.  His third children’s series, The Kane Chronicles, had its third and final book published this past May.  All three series draw upon classical mythology – Greek, Roman, and Egyptian, respectively – and feature main characters who are descendants of the various gods.

Aside from his popularity as a children’s writer, Riordan has also received awards for his earlier works: fast-paced adult mystery series featuring Texas private eye Tres Navarre.  The first book, Big Red Tequila received the Anthony Award for Best Original Paperback and the Shamus Award for Best First Private Eye Novel in 1997, and The Widower’s Two-Step received the Anthony Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Original Paperback.  When asked whether he’d continue writing adult books, Riordan’s response was: “Right now the children’s books are keeping me very busy, but who knows? I may go back to the adult books at some point. We’ll have to wait and see.” ǂ  As a side note, Riordan also made Forbes’ 2012 list of World’s Top-Earning Authors, coming in at #15 with $13 million.

While I’ve chosen to highlight these six, other cross-over authors include (in alphabetical order by last name):  Kelley Armstrong, Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, Judy Blume, Ann Brashares, Candace Bushnell, Harlan Coben, Christie Craig/C.C. Hunter, Katie Crouch, Roald Dahl, Melissa de la Cruz, Jasper Fforde, Michelle Gagnon, Neil Gaiman, Kim Harrison, S.E. Hinton, Ellen Hopkins, Sharie Kohler/Sophie Jordan, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, David Levithan, C.S. Lewis, Ari Marmell, Melissa Marr, Richelle Mead, Lyda Morehouse/Tate Hallaway, Lauren Oliver, Terry Pratchett, Kathy Reichs, Sara Shepard, Alexander McCall Smith, Kathryn Smith/Kady Cross, Trenton Lee Stewart, Harry Turtledove, Michael Vey, Scott Westerfeld, and Paul Wilson.  This list will surely continue to grow, and I welcome your comments and additions!

- Jennifer Post
  Youth Services Librarian

* Middleton, Christopher. “Exclusive: best-selling author John Grisham explains why he's courting
children with his latest legal thriller.” The Telegraph. 28 May 2010. Web. 14 Aug 2012.

ǂ Riordan, Rick. “An Interview with Rick.” Online World of Rick Riordan. Gray Digital Group, n.d. Web. 16
Aug 2012.


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