Read-alikes: library jargon for “If you like this, you’ll probably also like this other thing!” Those of us who work at libraries are constantly on the hunt for read-alikes both as a professional courtesy to our patrons and as a way to satisfy our own voracious reading appetites.
(We have a variety of resources to find great read-alikes; the easiest way to find them is to click on the “Reading Suggestions” tab of our website).
One read-alike game I like to play is to find similar books across audiences. Can I find the writing qualities and characteristics of adult fiction authors I love in a middle-grade book? What about a book for teens? It’s a little bit like watching fiction grow up. So today I have for you three books that I feel like share some striking similarities even though they’re written for vastly different audiences. Three books; three audiences; three magical settings rich with detail and complex characters. Magical realism for all ages.
By Cassie Beasley
Micah Tuttle has grown up hearing stories of a magical circus his grandpa visited as a boy. Now that his grandpa is dying, he sets off to find the mysterious circus in order to save his grandpa’s life. The narrative jumps back and forth between present day Micah and his new friend/school project partner Jenny on their quest to save his grandpa and his grandpa’s experiences as a boy at the circus. Kids with vivid imaginations will love the lush description of Circus Mirandus.
By Stephanie Garber
Okay, this one isn’t exactly a circus, but it is a magical, carnival-like setting. With an arranged marriage on the horizon, Scarlett figures this is her only chance to realize her dream of seeing Caraval, a legendary audience-participation event. When she and her sister arrive, things get much more complicated than they imagined, and the consequences turn dire fairly quickly.
As is the case for most young adult books, we trade the innocent guy/girl helpful friendship of the middle-grade years for a fast-paced, “I hate you/I love you” storyline.There is banter; there is kissing; there is action, and adventure, and magic, and a carousel that my imagination loves to ride again and again.
THE NIGHT CIRCUS
By Erin Morgenstern
I could go on and on about THE NIGHT CIRCUS; I read it about a year after its release, and I’ve honestly been looking for adequate read-alikes ever since. It wasn’t until this year that I’ve actually felt like I found them (hence this post!). Reading THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a sensory experience; not many novels can hold up to occasional second-person narration, but it’s perfect here. When I read it, I crave caramel popcorn and hot chocolate. The descriptions of the circus are rich and vivid and I’m always sad it doesn’t exist for real.
THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a long, magical game, pitting two champions, Celia and Marco, against one another in a magical battle to the death (though it takes years of competing to realize this). In THE NIGHT CIRCUS, we trade that fierce, instant love of teenage years (CARAVAL takes place over just three days!) for a nuanced relationship born in intrigue and cultivated through hearty and beautiful and, ultimately, deadly competition.
I should also mention that I’ve listened to all three of these as audiobooks, and I actually recommend that if you’ve got the time and resources (which you do, thanks to the library!). This is especially the case with THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which is read by Jim Dale and is just delightful.