Recommended YA Lit

When I wrote last month’s Recommended Reads (click here), I knew I wanted to focus on Young Adult (YA) books next. For some reason I always feel a bit silly when I read YA lit as an adult even though I’ve read some really memorable ones recently. Although some aspects of these books can feel juvenile, I think as adults we feel deeply nostalgic about navigating the world during our teenage years.

Coincidentally, when I started writing this list I came across an article on Bitch Media about the history of YA lit. The article is an interview with author Gabrielle Moss who wrote a book titled Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of 80s and 90s Teen Fiction. In this interview she talks about memorable YA lit including Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club, noting that these books focus on guiding teens through real-life scenarios such as divorce, conflicts with friends, and growing up. In comparison, recent YA lit has more ‘art and artifice’ and publishers want the story to appeal to adults as well as teens.

One of the things that was most exciting for me as a reader when I was young was that these books seemed aimed totally and exclusively at my concerns, not whatever a parent thought I should be concerned about and certainly not what an adult was concerned about. School, friendship, power struggles, feeling excluded, and other very close-to-the-bone young adulthood and childhood issues. I think when you start trying to make sure that something can also appeal to a 35 year-old, a little something is lost.
— Gabrielle Moss

Although this certainly explains why new YA lit still appeals to me in my late twenties, it’s also worth noting that perhaps the target audience is being overlooked. Maybe it also says something about our society’s dwindling ability to read difficult texts…. All that aside, here are my favourite young adult books in no particular order. There is a little bit of everything: Some would be appropriate for pre-teens, some would only be appropriate for older teens, and a few would work as read alouds for younger children.


Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

This was one of my favourites as a child and I have read it several times. Bridge to Terabithia focusses on imagination, friendship, and overcoming grief.

The book is 100 times better than the movie (trust me) and would be suitable for any age.


Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

I remember being absolutely memorized by this book when I read it. The protagonist is a young female and the story is about survival, personal discovery, and natural beauty.

Again, this one would be suitable for any age and could be read aloud to younger children.


The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Okay, so this one is probably way too obvious. But I’ve been a Potterhead for most of my life so I had to mention it. I love how these books grow with the reader in both reading level and subject matter. I just finished re-reading the entire series and loved every minute of it.


Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

It makes me so sad to think that the popularity of these books has faded drastically. They were a central part of my childhood and I will definitely make sure that my children read them some day. The first few books are accessible to children, but as the protagonist (Laura) gets older, the content and the writing develops as well. For those of you who have never heard of this series, it’s about a family in the American Midwest between 1870 and 1894.


Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

This is one of the most gentle stories I’ve ever read; the romance and magic is absolutely beautiful. I think I originally read this in my early teens, but the story is appealing to any age.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

You might have seen the movie, but the book is also excellent - it’s just as mysterious and creepy in the best way. Coraline is probably better suited to younger children rather than teens.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

I loved this movie long before I knew it was a book. I read it last year, and although it’s quite different from the movie, I love both versions. It’s an amazing story if you like fantasy.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This one has had some hype in the media lately since the movie is due to come out soon. The Hate U Give is one of those books that reminds you what it’s like to be a teenager, and the overarching theme of racism is also really powerful. Due to the subject matter, this book is definitely only suitable for older teens.


The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Maybe this one is just as obvious as Harry Potter, but if you haven’t read it yet you need to. The Hunger Games has all the elements of a great story: romance, a strong female lead, and of course, death.


The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

Yes I’ll admit it: I liked this series and I also really enjoy the movies. Although the YA lit genre is full of these dystopian stories, I think this one in particular is well done.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The writing style of this book is so incredibly unique because it’s told by ‘Death’. I have an odd love for books about the Holocaust and appreciate how this one is accessible to a younger audience without feeling too juvenile.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book will have something to offer everyone, whether your a teen or an adult, popular kid or outcast. For me, this book is about finding your people and learning to love yourself. The subject matter may be triggering for some people and the content is more suitable for older teens.


Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

I read this book as a preteen and it definitely made me terrified of hard drug use; I have a feeling that’s why my Mum let me read it at the time. Go Ask Alice is the real diary of a young girl, so the story is incredibly engaging, but it can also be really dark and raw at times.

Have a favourite YA book? Share it with me in the comments below!

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