YA reads for fans of the hit TV show Yellowjackets
On Sunday, the season finale of Yellowjackets will air on Showtime. I just spent the last week binging season 1 with my 19 year old daughter and could not help but think of so many great YA books that fans of the show may like to read. Here’s my caveat: this show is rated M for Mature, and for good reason, so I am in no way recommending the show to teens. But for the new young adults in the world, like my daughter, who are watching the show, boy do I have some good YA lit recommendations for you.
Yellow jackets is a show about the dynamics of teenage girl ecosystems. It’s a show about survival. And it’s a show about adult women navigating PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and the very real atrocities that they have committed while trying to survive after spending 19 months stranded in a remote forest when their plane crashes. Cannibalism may or may not be involved. The show is compelling and profound and disturbing. Like I said, I can’t in good faith recommend the show to teens, but it’s some fantastic television. A combination of Lost meets This is Us meets Lord of the Flies. There are some very graphic scenes of violence, nudity, and sex, for those who need to know. But wow, is this a powerful exploration of teen girls and adult women.
As a former teen girl, as the mother of two teen girls, and as a now adult woman, I found this to be such an enthralling show. And it was profound for me to have a young adult daughter, 19, who I could watch this show with and talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some scenes that were a little uncomfy to watch together as we’re just figuring out what it means to have an adult child, but what a profound gift to have this show where we could talk about being both a young woman and an older woman and share stories. Yes, we squirmed and gasped, but we also bonded and talked about really important things surrounding the idea of what it means to be female in this world.
“Lord of the Flies is about how socialization falls away and how society is a facade. We thought, who is more socialized than women? As girls, you learn early on how to make people like you and what the social hierarchies are,” Lyle explained. “It’s a more interesting way of having things fall away. The mask is even thicker. It’s a more layered amount of preconceived notions of how to behave and act.” – Source: https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/tv-shows/yellowjackets-season-2/
So here are some other fabulous YA titles that touch on various themes found in Yellowjackets, including teen girl group dynamics and survival. The books I recommend below focus on the teen timeline of the show, and I don’t read a lot of adult fiction so I don’t have a lot of adult book recommendations. However, I did recently read The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix and feel that it also would be a good recommendation for Yellowjackets fans, especially as it touches on the psychological aftermath in adulthood of traumatic teen life experiences.
Here are my YA lit recommendations . . .
Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand
I love this book and as a teen that read a lot of Stephen King, I often think of this book as a cross between Stephen King and National Treasure with a feminist twist.
Publisher’s Book Description: Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep. He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
The setting for this most reminds me of the survive the forest parts of Yellowjackets. And the group dynamics are amazing.
Publisher’s Book Description: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
You want girls alone in the wilderness trying to survive? This book has that in spades with powerful commentary on the patriarchy and breaking down the stereotypes we have of how awful women are to one another. It goes to really dark places.
Publisher’s Book Description: No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.
In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.
With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
This may seem like an out there recommendation, but it does have the girl group dynamics and survival, with more science fiction elements thrown in.
Publisher’s Book Description:
The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.
As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
This is like the YA classic Hatchet; it’s a straight up wilderness survival story featuring a female main character. Because I had read this book, I found myself saying why didn’t the girls do x or y several times while watching Yellowjackets.
Publisher’s Book Description: The world is not tame.
Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.
Some other recommendations: One Was Lost and Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Playing with Fire by April Henry, and They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman
For some YA dealing with the after affects of trauma, try Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso and The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.
I know there are so many great books out there that fans of this show will like. What are your recommendations?
Filed under: #FeministAF, Feminism, Reader's Advisory, Survival, Teen Fiction, Teen Literature
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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