Like most of the podcast-listening world, I’ve been obsessed with Serial for the past couple of months. The case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee is tragic and upsetting and confusing, and a real look into the unfairness of the criminal justice system. For me, it was never about finding out if Adnan really committed murder or not–it was about taking a hard look at one, particular case and the very real people involved.
One of the first things that struck me–this was a case about teenagers. As a YA writer, this raised the stakes for me. Hae was killed when she was in high school, and even though Adnan, Jay, and others involved in the case are now older, they were still teens when the events surrounding Hae’s death occurred.
So often when Serial would go into interviews or stories about Adnan and Hae and others, I would think “These are teenagers.” Teens can walk the line between being good, respectful kids in their religious homes and still have a secret boyfriend or girlfriend and smoke up with their friends. They hear all sorts of rumors and invest very deeply in their relationships and friendships and their social circles are very complicated. They can be friends with people and still find them sketchy. They make mistakes and don’t always think through their decisions. These years are already fraught with drama. Add in something like murder, and the intensity skyrockets.
I don’t pretend to know if Adnan is innocent or guilty, or what calls were made when, or who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. But I do know that a tragedy occurred for all of these people when they were teenagers, something that permanently changed the course of their lives.
I don’t know what percentage of Serial’s listeners are teens, but I feel like teens would be particularly interested in cases like Adnan’s. This, of course, got me thinking about YA novels I’d recommend for Serial fans. Some wonderful librarians shared the following links to lists of book recs for Serial fans:
Part of Serial that interested me in particular was teenage Adnan’s relationship to his conservative Muslim family, the social structure of his Islamic community in the Maryland area, and potential implicit/explicit racism in the case. These books aren’t necessarily related to crime or mystery, but I’d recommend these YA book lists featuring Muslim teens:
A few other YA books that I’d also recommend for Serial fans:
- Fault Line by Christa Desir
- Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
- And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
- Monster by Walter Dean Myers
- Far From You by Tess Sharpe
- Pointe by Brandy Colbert
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Even though only a couple of these (Monster and Pointe) deal explicitly with the criminal justice system, they all involve a terrible crime, the uncertainties surrounding that crime, and the complexities of both victims and perpetrators. All of these authors do a fantastic job creating very realistic situations of crime and mystery and tragedy and injustice and strength and hope, all surrounding the teen experience. These aren’t easy books to read, but they’re necessary reading.
Any other YA books you’d recommend to fans of Serial?