Good morrow, friends!
Back in the ancient days of Last Year, I wrote a post about Exceptional Middle Grade Novels, in which I shoved my favorite MG books at you. You’re welcome.
In the process of writing that post however, I came across books in the Teen/Young Adult category that I love very much. (This came as something of a shock, since I usually avoid YA books, as I am rarely satisfied by them.) Regretting that I had to leave them off my MG list, I decided to write a post about my favorite YA books as well. It seemed logical.
Hence, this post exists.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
If you are looking for an excuse to sprawl out on the floor and weep, this might be it.
Conor is a lonely boy struggling with the fact that his Mum is terribly sick. He is doing his best to take care of things and keep their lives together. It’s right around this time that the monster comes to call. The monster wants the truth, but Conor isn’t going to let him have it so easily.
This powerful book is beautifully and effectively illustrated by Jim Kay. The illustrations don’t just accent the story, they are a huge part of it. It feels like you are really seeing inside of Conor’s troubled heart.
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
Nonlinear storytelling? I’m in.
Estéban is a cartographer, a mapmaker. He joins a band of explorers, Spanish conquistadors on a quest to find the lost city of gold. The journey will change him, and not necessarily for the better.
This historical adventure novel is told in two parallel timelines, one of the journey Estéban goes on and one of the aftermath. This format adds wonderfully to the story.
Momo by Michael Ende
This book is kind of hard to describe. It’s fantasy, and there is a turtle.
Momo just showed up one day in this town, and I guess everyone just went with it. She is a quiet, attentive girl who listens better than anybody. She is also the one who notices that something very strange is going on with people’s time. It just seems to be…disappearing.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
This novel, set during the Vietnam War, is about a boy from a dysfunctional family who moves to a new town. He thinks the new town stupid, and tells us so multiple times. He gets a job as a delivery boy and meets all sorts of people from this stupid, new town. He also spends quite a bit of time at the library- but not because he’s a chump.
Doug is the sweetest kid. His voice is so real, and his story is both funny and sad. This book manages to contain bird illustrations by John James Audubon, baseball, a rocking horse, sherbet, and Jane Eyre. I’m not lying.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Jack’s family is taking in a foster kid. The kid’s name is Joseph. He is fourteen, and he has a daughter. So you already know this book is going to be unfairly sad.
It is very short but also likely to punch a hole through your heart on its way through.
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Ah, a lovely little story about ritualistic burning of humans.
Okay, so actually this medieval fantasy book is wonderful (if a wee bit dark in places) and very imaginative. (Not to mention underrated. NO ONE knows about it.)
Kate is a brilliant protagonist, and the plot is extremely satisfying, with just the right amount of adventure and mystery and creepiness and emotional turmoil. I don’t even mind the romance in this one- which, if you know how harsh I am about romance, means A LOT.
The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Again, who has actually read this? Like, three people. It’s sad.
This book is about ghosts, but not really. Peggy goes to live with her uncle in a big historical house and meets these ghosts that lived during the American Revolutionary War period. They all share their stories (which are all terribly entertaining in a Robin Hood/Princess Bride-esque way) and meanwhile Peggy is having an adventure of her own.
I don’t mind the romance in this one either. It’s hilarious.
This book contains: American soldiers, British spies, secret codes, poison, fancy parties, and baked beans.
(Also, no, this book has nothing at all to do with Robin Hood. The name is misleading in that regard. But one of the characters is similar to Robin Hood’s character.)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Let’s build an army of children to fight against the aliens. That’ll work.
This science fiction novel is about a messed up kid in a messed up society going to a messed up school in outer space. Ender (the aforementioned messed up kid) has been targeted as a potential military leader. He has a brilliant tactical mind and he can be horrifyingly ruthless. But part of him is just a kid who loves his sister and hates himself for hurting people.
Someone, help this child.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This contemporary novel has a lot of content in it that I would generally avoid at all costs, such as teen sex/drinking/drug use/pregnancy, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
I know, it sounds like a nightmare. And it is.
The only reason I put up with any of that is because I love Charlie so much.
Charlie is just starting high school, which tells you just how depressing this story is going to be. He is a quiet, thoughtful kid who struggles with mental health, and he ends up making friends with a group of people who all have brokenness of their own.
Let’s just say that one of the main impressions this book made on me was that we are all so desperate to be loved and to belong that we often put up with the most horrible things. There are dysfunctional relationships galore.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This historical novel, set in Germany during WWII, gives a unique perspective on the war. It is narrated by Death, and focuses on the story of a little German girl named Liesel. The writing is imaginative and poignant, painting a memorable picture of the little street where Liesel lives with her foster parents. It’s both beautiful and haunting.
Honorable Mention: Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas, A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews, The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews, What Hearts by Bruce Brooks, Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
I often find YA to be a somewhat narrow genre (when I browse that section at the library everything seems to be about vampires/witches/zombies/ghosts, forbidden love, teenagers being stupid, etc.), but there are some really stunning books written for a YA audience. I have found that in general there is more variety in Middle Grade, and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it is only my imagination.
But hey, I managed to make a pretty decent list of good YA books, so I am proud of myself.
Have you read any of these books? Do you read a lot of YA? Do you agree or disagree that the YA selection is narrow compared to Middle Grade? What are some of your favorite YA books and why? I would love to hear all of your thoughts on this matter in the comments!