Ahhh, YA lit! So near and dear to my heart! There are so many books I could recommend, but let’s start with these:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This book is seriously one of the best-written young adult books I have ever read. In my life. Period. I love so many things about this book: the language, the characters, the structure, the humor. It gets a 10 out of 10 from me.
Must-read: anyone who loves YA or a clever, quirky romance that is not at all cliche
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Okay, I suppose I should just be upfront and say that everything Melina Marchetta writes is fantastic. She’s definitely my favorite YA author right now. Saving Francesca is about Frankie Spinelli the year she and a handful of other girls (none of them her friends) begin attending a previously all-boys school. She’s trying to navigate a school of boys who don’t want the girls there, girls she doesn’t want to become friends with, and her mother’s mental breakdown. The characters are incredible.
Must-read: anyone who loves character-driven stories, fans of nerdy-but-hot Italian boys (i.e. the Will Trombal Experience/Extravaganza)
Bonus: this book has a sequel– The Piper’s Son— set five years down the road!
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TIME’s 2012 book of the year! This YA book will make you laugh and cry and think. It’s a cancer book– but not one of those cancer books.
Must-read: people who love YA, philosophy, and incredible characters
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Prior to the start of this book, Lennie’s sister Bailey has died unexpectedly. Now Lennie is trying to navigate her grief all while falling in love for the first time. This book is full of Lennie’s short poems, and they– along with the rest of the novel– are startling beautiful.
Must-read: people who are aching for a literary-quality YA novel, anyone with a beloved sister
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Printz honor book narrated by Death himself, this is “just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” I love books that are about the joy of words– and it’s even better when you mix in unforgettable characters and gorgeous writing full of incredible imagery.
Must-read: YA lovers, people who love words, anyone interested in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Puck and Sean, both set to ride the bloodthirsty water horses in the Scorpio Races. I’m not sure I’ve read anything quite like this before; it is laced with an incredible raw savagery, making it an instant favorite for me.
Must-read: anyone who loves horses, readers ready for wild, tribal-drum-pounding YA
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This is the very first book that made me cry. The classic book of a boy and his two hunting dogs.
Must-read: animal lovers, anyone who loves a tear-jerker
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
A delicious tale of first love between the two titular characters, the writing in this book has an outstanding and unique voice. I love the characters of Eleanor and Park, and I love the way that Rowell can make your brain about explode when they hold each other’s hand.
Must-read: fans of the contemporary genre, readers who love great imagery, quirky characters, and a sweet romance
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Like so many others, the hype around this series intimidated me into not reading them for years. I’m so glad that I finally did! This is one of my favorite series– seven separate stories that really tell just one about a boy wizard fighting against evil.
Must-read: fans of epic fantasy, anyone who wants to have their mind blown by creativity
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
A story about a homeschooler joining public school for the first time, this book is full of quirkiness and whimsy. A brilliant novel about being different.
Must-read: misfits, anyone who loves a misfit
Bonus: This book also has a sequel!
Also, here a couple middle grade (MG) suggestions!
Bridge to Terabithia by Kathleen Patterson
The story of two young friends who create their own make-believe world. This book is a classic, and unless you have a heart made of cement and broken glass, you will cry.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I can’t say too much about this story because I don’t want to give anything away, but it is brilliant, one of those books that ties up all loose ends so perfectly in such a satsifying way. I highly recommend this book– I read it when I was 30 and loved it! Great voice.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis|
These are classics! I seriously cannot get enough of them– I read them over and over and over and love them every single time. I am just finishing up the series for the first time this year, and– no joke– after book 7 is over, I will start again on book 1.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Classic tale of a pet pig and his spider friend who is trying to save him from slaughter. Lovely.