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Grown-Up Reads

5 Great Novels for Grown-Ups by Famous Children’s Book Authors

by Tom Burns

Photo credits: R.L. Stine (Michelle Lhooq, Vice Media LLC), J.K. Rowling (Daniel Ogren), Daniel Handler (IMDB), Judy Blume (Carl Lender), Anthony Horowitz (Des Willie)

One has to wonder if, inside every children’s book author, there’s a writer just dying to publish something filled with sex and violence and every swear word imaginable. While that kind of literary wish fulfilment sounds like fun, there is actually a long history of children’s lit authors breaking out of their usual routine and composing books targeted at — for lack of a better term — “grown-ups.” If you’re interested in seeing a more mature side of your child’s favorite author, here are five tremendous novels written by acclaimed children’s book writers.

  • The Cuckoo's Calling

    by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

    While 2013’s The Casual Vacancy was J.K. Rowling’s first work for adults released after the conclusion of her massively popular Harry Potter series, the best adult novel she’s published since Harry left Hogwarts is actually The Cuckoo's Calling, the mystery-thriller Rowling wrote under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith” (that secret didn’t last long). Her protagonist, Cormoran Strike, is one of the most engaging literary private eyes in recent memory and Cuckoo's Calling proves that Rowling can spin compelling mysteries even without a chamber of secrets at her disposal.

  • Wifey

    by Judy Blume

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    One of the undisputed masters of adolescent fiction, Blume surprised lot of readers when she released Wifey, her first adult novel, back in 1978. Shock value aside, Wifey is a very funny, very perceptive look into the unfulfilling life of Sandy Pressman, a bored housewife living in a restrictive suburb, who comes out of her shell by having an extramarital affair with an old boyfriend. Blume has occasionally gone back to writing for grown-ups since Wifey — her newest adult novel, In the Unlikely Event, comes out in June 2015.

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  • Red Rain

    by R.L. Stine

    One of the most prolific and iconic horror writers for children, R.L. Stine decided to cut loose in 2013 and finally release a horror novel that could never be sold at an elementary school book fair. The result was Red Rain, a creepy piece of domestic horror that starts in the tradition of The Bad Seed — a couple adopts a pair of sinister orphaned twins — and spirals into a bloody mess. It’s an over-the-top, gory thriller and one has to laugh at how, writing for adults for the first time, the scariest things Stine could think of were, apparently, children.

  • The Basic Eight

    by Daniel Handler

    Handler may be best known as Lemony Snicket — the mysterious narrator of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books — but he’s also written several novels for older audiences under his real name. One of the best was his first, The Basic Eight, a novel filled with teenage angst, clever social satire, and alleged Satanism. The story is told through the journals of Flannery Culp, a recent high school graduate, now jailed for murder, who takes us through her senior year, describing how she and her seven best friends (the titular “Basic Eight”) ended up accused of murder and reviled by the national media. If you enjoyed "Heathers," this novel’s for you.

  • Moriarty

    by Anthony Horowitz

    Horowitz made a name for himself with his Alex Rider series, all about a James Bond-esque teenaged secret agent, but he’s authored a number of compelling adult mysteries as well. Most recently, he released Moriarty, an exciting look at the power vacuum left after Sherlock Holmes and his famous arch-enemy tumbled to their supposed doom from Reichenbach Falls. Ironically, the creator of Alex Rider was also recently hired to write a new James Bond novel, scheduled for release in late 2015.