Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

At the risk of stating the obvious, Young Adult fiction is hot right now. And I mean really hot. Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games Trilogy has captured the imaginations of readers of all ages, male and female, and has been turned into a series of films that has ‘tweens and teens (and their parents) lining up for hours, just as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga before it and just as Veronica Roth’s Divergent series after.

And we can’t talk about blockbuster YA series without mentioning the masterpiece that started the current trend – Harry Potter. While the first book of J.K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, appealed to younger readers, as the series progressed, the characters and their audience grew up together. Part of Rowling’s genius was in having Harry’s, Hermione’s, and Ron’s experiences through puberty and adolescence mirror those of readers who were around the same age when it all began.

Young Adult is fiction written for and⁄or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The American Library Association defines YA as literature intended for audiences between the ages of 12 and 18 but in 2012, a US study revealed that 55% of YA books were purchased by people older than 18 – sometimes by a considerable margin. Many authors also say they didn’t write their book specifically for a YA audience – either it was a marketing strategy decided upon by the publisher or the YA audience found the book on its own.

But regardless of who a book is intended for, when those of us who aren’t familiar with Harry, Katniss, Bella, and Edward think of Young Adult, we often have less–than–pleasant flash–backs to those dusty, difficult, and sometimes dated tomes we were forced to read in high school. Books like Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. While each is a classic in its own right – and for good reason – few of us can honestly say we loved them as teens. (Personally, I distrust anyone who waxes poetic over Animal Farm at any age. And To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was intentionally left out – it’s a must-read for everyone, whether you’re 12 or 112.)

Modern YA fiction can inspire devotion to rival that of the biggest pop stars. Spanning genres from fantasy to sci-fi, historical fiction, crime fiction, and romantic comedy, and covering topics as far ranging as World War II adventure, fallen angels, young love, adolescent alienation, sibling rivalry, drug abuse, sexuality, and even mad cow disease, this selection of novels both old and new will challenge and delight avid and reluctant readers alike, regardless of age.

50 Essential Young Adult Novels

Kit's Wilderness by David Almond
Kit's Wilderness
by David Almond
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Feed
by M.T. Anderson
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Tiger Lily
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Last Unicorn
by Peter S. Beagle
Forever by Judy Blume
Forever
by Judy Blume
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Going Bovine
by Libba Bray
Junk by Melvin Burgess
Junk
by Melvin Burgess
Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
Postcards from No Man's Land
by Aidan Chambers
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War
by Robert Cormier
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Catherine, Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman
Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan
Stranger With My Face
by Lois Duncan
The Road of Bones by Anne Fine
The Road of Bones
by Anne Fine
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay
by Gayle Forman
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
13 Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
On the Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta
Hero by Perry Moore
Hero
by Perry Moore
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Jacob Have I Loved
by Katherine Paterson
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Dodger
by Terry Pratchett
33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp
33 Snowfish
by Adam Rapp
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes
by Louis Sachar
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
The Beginning of Everything
by Robyn Schneider
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Living Dead Girl
by Elizabeth Scott
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Midwinterblood
by Marcus Sedgwick
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli
Freak Show by James St. James
Freak Show
by James St. James
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek
by Michelle Tea
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
American Born Chinese
by Gene Luen Yang
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Which YA novels would you add to the list?


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