Young adult novels are my number-one choice when reading for pleasure. They’re not just for kids! I swear! If you’re looking for somewhere to start, let me help you build your collection:
The Hunger Games Trilogy – This is the young adult series that has swept everyone up in the past couple of years. All three books are gripping, in a “I will stay up till 2am every night until I finish these even if it kills me” sort of way. This is a post-apocalyptic series set in a future where the U.S. has been destroyed and what remains is a totalitarian, grim society. By way of disclosure, these books are emotionally traumatizing and somewhat draining by the end. One of the aspects that I particularly enjoyed that others may find frustrating is that it is a story told in the first person, and as the main character degrades mentally, her narrative becomes less reliable. You see the other characters as she sees them, which to me was more realistic, but I did talk to some people who were frustrated by this aspect.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Another post-apocalyptic series (sequels are The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places) these books by Carrie Ryan is set after the zombie apocalypse. What sets these apart from other zombie books is that take place hundreds of years and many generations after the initial zombie outbreak. There are no more stores to loot, there are no more bullets, there are just small pockets of society struggling to get by in isolation of one another. The zombies she dreams up are of a particular chilling nature, which adds a measure of hopelessness to her tales, but they are gripping. Also, the romance is good, which is something that I very much care about.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – I hesitate to provide a synopsis for this book, because there’s no way for me to describe it without it sounding too strange to be good, and it is so very, very good. Set in modern times but with magic, and fantasy, and doors to another world. My sister tried to tell me what it was about before she gave it to me and it made me raise my eyebrow and put it aside, but when I finally read it I stayed up all night to finish it, and it may well be the best book I read all last year. So. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, you’re just going to have to trust me.
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side – This is a pretty solid piece of vampire fluff. It’s funny, light, quick, and at no point are you rolling your eyes, flipping ahead, and trying to figure out when the main characters will stop mooning over each other and just *do* something already. Ahem. A quick, entertaining read, if you like vampires. Which I do.
Sunshine – Speaking of vampire books, this is my favorite. If you’re looking for a vampires-meet-humans fluffy book that is, despite that, well-written, NOT an abstinence parable, and (bonus!) not a whole bunch of creepy lessons on how to let your boyfriend control you until you wind up barefoot and pregnant at 18 years old, let me recommend this.
His Dark Materials Trilogy – This series by Phillip Pullman is a sweeping, multidimensional view of the world. These books remind me of the Narnia series, but with a very different (somewhat anti-religious) overarching theme. The story is imaginative and well-written.
The Bartimeaus Trilogy – These books take place in a world controlled by magicians and their djinn. Set in a reimagined London, and focused on Nathaniel, a young, bright member of the ruling class of magicians. Bartimeaus is the demon with whom he works.
Graceling (Fire, Bitterblue) – Bitterblue comes out this May, but I’m including it because it seems that all things young adult come as trilogies these days. Just a note that here I’m speaking to Graceling and Fire. These fantasy books are centered around strong, brilliant female characters. The love story is good, the alternate world is well-imagined, and the villains are creepily well-imagined.
Jellicoe Road – Coming away from the world of fantasy, this is a haunting (and heart-breaking) story set at an Australian boarding school. Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother at age eleven. Now seventeen, She—and the reader—go on a journey to put together her past. For full disclosure: I have read this book twice, and at both readings I spent almost the entire time weeping ugly tears.
What about you? Do you read YA fiction? What are your favorites?
Jenny Grace has been back in school for a year, raising her son for five, and growing up for twenty nine. She’s not quite done yet. Raised amongst goats and chickens on a ranch in the California countryside, she was sent off to high school at a Hindu yoga center, and spent her youth working at her family’s nightclub and bar. No really, Jenny grew up completely normal. Well, normal for a kid raised by hippies that is. Shrugging off her patchouli steeped roots, Jenny went on to get a Bachelor’s of Arts in Linguistics and a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Now she’s working on her Master’s in Accountancy. Don’t let degrees fool you though; she wastes most of her time with wine and crosswords. Jenny is a cunning linguist, honest beyond reason, and incapable of keeping her mouth shut. You can read more from Jenny Grace on her blog, Miss Disgrace.