Over the years, young adult fiction has become my favorite literary genre, and I’m not ashamed to admit that [despite the fact that I’m now technically older than the typical YA demographic]! YA Lit has the opportunity to teach valuable lessons to impressionable teenagers through the use of complex characters, riveting plots and detailed themes. This past semester, I took a YA lit class, and was introduced to a variety of new titles that had me hooked! So, I’ve decided to compile five of my favorite YA novels that I’ve read over the years.
*Disclaimer: I previously wrote some of these blurbs for a CHAARG blog post. Read the full collaborative compilation here!
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
[Alright, technically this is a film on Netflix, but as any avid reader will tell you, the book is still worth the read.] Theodore Finch is strange [at least, that’s what everyone at school thinks]. Violet Markey is a beautiful tragedy [so says her friends who so desperately want her to go back to being the bubbly “it girl” again]. In All the Bright Places, each character is working to accept their own struggles with mental illness and the feeling of not belonging. When Finch and Violet are paired together for a class project, the two help each other learn that it’s okay to be different and to try to embrace the simple joys in life, no matter what the world throws at you.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Although The Grace Year is a dystopian novel, it is filled with coming of age themes of sexualization that continue to be relevant to today’s society. In Garner County, no one speaks of the grace year [i.e. the year that 16-year-old girls are sent into the woods to get rid of their magic]. The community members are afraid of the magic the young girls possess, so they send them away. But, not before holding a veiling ceremony where each of the boys in the girls’ class [or men who happen to be conveniently widowed prior to the ceremony] can pick a girl of his choosing to marry upon her return. After the grace year, only some of the girls return and those that do are disheveled and look as if they’ve just narrowly escaped death. The girls who haven’t yet entered the grace year are left wondering, what happens out there when they’re all alone? Tierney James is entering her grace year and she is determined for the outcome to be different than those prior.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
In all honesty, I’ve read this book at least four times and I promise, it gets better each time. From the outside looking in, Samantha McAllister has it all: friends, popularity and a happy family. But, behind closed doors, Sam deals with Purely-Obsessional OCD and struggles to cope around her seemingly perfect best friends. When Sam meets Caroline, the quirky girl hiding in the shadow of Poet’s Corner, she finally feels like she has a friend she can be the truest version of herself around. Every Last Word offers a raw and vulnerable perspective on the struggles of fitting in and learning how to accept the parts of you that you want nothing more than to be kept hidden.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
In 1957, twenty years after the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco ruled Spain under his fascist dictatorship. Wait, don’t scroll past this recommendation at the mention of history, The Fountains of Silence is unlike anything you’ll find in a typical textbook. As a work of historical fiction, the novel follows the true story of life in Madrid during this time through the lens of a family of young children who were orphaned after their parents fell victim to Franco. Spain is hiding a secret and Ana, Rafa and Julia Torres Moreno are involved, and it will take the help of Texas photographer Daniel Matheson to uncover the truth.
Paper Hearts by Ali Novak
Okay, I had to throw in at least one lighthearted romance novel! In the second book of The Heartbreak Chronicles, boyband heartthrob Alec Williams meets the oh-so-charming girl-next-door, Felicity Jole. As expected, the two fall head-over-heels for each other. Add in a jealous best friend, an overbearing father and worldwide fame, Paper Hearts is the perfect recipe for a juicy teenage drama. [Though it’s a sequel, this novel can be read as a stand-alone].
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