Young Adult is its own little universe in the literature world, but it can be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. Have you had an itch to start reading more YA? Do it. Ponder no further. You are making a great decision.
Twilight. The Hunger Games. Divergent. City of Bones. Big-name movies that are actually book adaptations of popular teen novels. I’m sure many of you have heard of them or possibly even seen the films. But have you read them? And more importantly, have you read beyond them?
Young Adult is its own little universe in the literature world, a large industry that is dedicated to teen readers, but it can be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. Perhaps you have had an itch to start reading more YA. Do it. Ponder no further. You are making a great decision.
Need a starting place? Well, I have compiled a list of some well-known and other lesser-known YA books that I think would be a great starting point if you are thinking of getting into the YA bookish universe. There is a lot of fun to be had, I hope you enjoy!
1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I would actually recommend anything and everything by Bardugo. She has the ability to present so many amazing perspectives that really open your eyes. This duology specifically focuses on a heist and follows six criminals. The stakes are high, there is much to lose, and frankly, it is a wild ride that I have no doubt you will love. It really does make you question some of your morals. I’ll be honest, though, you are all in for a world of hurt, and you are gonna like it.
2. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Tahir is masterful with words. She can really pack a punch and crack a joke in a single sentence. She is known to make her characters suffer. I would know. I have suffered. This book follows a slave who has to break down an empire to save her brother, a soldier who wants to be free of said empire. It’s full of high stakes, action, and pain that will leave you begging for more. (Luckily there are two sequels available!)
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I’m sure you’ve heard of this book. This HUGELY IMPORTANT book. This book that recently had a film adaptation release. You haven’t? Well, here it is! Thomas’s debut novel took the YA world by storm. The story focuses on Starr, a black girl who witnesses the shooting of her black friend by a white cop. The novel takes on the tone of the Black Lives Matter movement while also focusing on themes of identity, family, and friendship. It’s truly an incredible novel.
4. Warcross by Marie Lu
Are you into video games? How about a sci-fi series where video games are literally a way of life? Sounds interesting? Then, you need to pick up Lu’s amazing Warcross duology. A book series starring Emika Chen, a gamer girl who hacks her way into the biggest gaming tournament of the year and is then hired by the CEO to chase down black market gamers. Yes, it’s that wild, and it’s that good.
5. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
A popular sub-genre in YA is retellings. Fairy tales, legends, and myths of all kinds are re-crafted and retold in a unique and intriguing manner. Well, how about this: a cyborg Cinderella, a fighter pilot Red Riding Hood, a computer genius Rapunzel, and a scarred yet resilient Snow White. Mix in some major Sailor Moon and Star Wars vibes, and you get a master series of epic proportions. I know, it sounds way out there, but Meyer’s writing talent and her ability to craft a suspenseful story with such interesting characters will truly capture all your attention. Is it cheating that I recommend the whole series and not just the first book? Maybe, but then again, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
This is a book on horse racing… but on a very different level. It's much riskier, and everything is at stake, including every rider’s life. This book was truly marvelous when I read it. I loved Puck’s determination to be in the race, her perseverance and strength. Sean is also a great character to follow: he has so much to lose in this race, but there can only ever be one winner. It’s very intense and quite haunting, a perfect read for chilly days!
7. The Education of Margot Sánchez by Lilliam Rivera
This contemporary book is amazing and stars a Latina living in the Bronx. It is lesser known in the YA world but should get all the hype. All Margot wants is to spend summer with her rich friends, but her life takes quite a turn when she stays home to work at her family’s grocery. Rivera packs several punches in the story that will keep you on your toes. She crafts a story on family, friendship, and first times. It’s a wonderful story for sure.
8. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Another YA book recently adapted into a movie. This book is much loved across the YA world. Simon is still not out of the closet and keeps his sexuality on the down low. Unless he’s talking with his crush over email, no one really knows he’s gay. That is until someone gets a hold of his emails and starts blackmailing him! I am only about halfway in, but I have it on good authority that this can only get better! In a story full of humor and heart, this book is fast becoming—if it isn't already—a YA classic.
9. The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
I have to recommend my most recent favorite historical fiction book. Set in post-WWII England, Weymouth’s novel follows the lives of a set of siblings after their adventures in a Narnia-like world. The book, although more realistic than fantastic, has several intricately woven themes of family, destiny, and belonging. It also covers larger topics on mental health, PTSD, and eating disorders; if you wish to know more about the content warnings, I’d advise you to head to Laura’s website. Overall, it’s a poignant tale about two sisters who lose each other, and their journey back to one another.
10. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This is another recent read that absolutely enchanted and gutted me. A story told in verse about a young man contemplating avenging his brother’s murderer and the implications that come with it. It’s a heartfelt and absolutely intense story about gang violence among youth. I listened to the audiobook, which definitely gave it a little bit of more suspense. Not only does it have amazing poetry, but it also has an ending that I am sure will leave you wanting more.
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