Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Feb 04
115 Best Young Adult Books of All Time
However much teachers will make you read classics like Moby-Dick or Great Expectations, chances are that many of the books you’ll keep closest to your heart are the ones that you read in your teenage years. Who can forget the first time they met irresistible, fast-talking Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables? Or the years that they spent growing up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron? Or the breakneck, can’t-tear-your-eyes-away sequences that made The Hunger Games an international phenomenon?
Luckily for us, it truly is the golden age for young adult fiction right now, as YA authors today continue to take the genre in new and incredibly exciting directions. Indeed, young adult books have stepped up onto the literary stage as a powerful genre in its own right, creating role models for all of us and leading important conversations about personhood, gender, sexuality, and race.
So whether you’re seeking new favorites or simply want to revisit old gems, we’ve got it all for you in this masterpost. Without ado, here are the 115 best young adult books of all time.
1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
From the author of Throne of Glass comes this equally intense and thrilling YA series, devised as a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In the eponymous first installment, a young human huntress named Feyre is captured and forced to become the ward of a part-faerie, part-beast High Lord called Tamlin. Though cold to one another at first, Feyre’s irrepressible human spirit and curiosity soon endear her to Tamlin, and their lives intertwine as she learns the ways of the fae. But this contentment is shattered when Feyre realizes the curse that hangs over Tamlin and his people… and finally understands that only she has the power to save them.
2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
One of the most quietly impactful novels you’ll find on an AP English reading list, A Separate Peace centers on a complicated friendship between two adolescent boys. Gene and Finny are roommates at the quintessentially northeastern Devon School, where they become thick as thieves despite their very different personalities. But as the shy, unathletic Gene grows jealous of Finny’s easy confidence, he’s driven to do something unforgivable — after which their lives will ever be the same. Set against the sobering backdrop of WWII, A Separate Peace makes universal themes of loyalty and loss of innocence seem incredibly personal, and ensures this story is one the reader will never forget.
3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
No one can balance absurdity and tragedy quite like Lemony Snicket. His talents are on full display in A Series of Unfortunate Events, thirteen unrelentingly dark yet deliciously readable books about the luckless Baudelaire children. Their troubles begin with their parents’ deaths and their adoption by Count Olaf, the notorious (albeit ridiculous) villain of the series who assumes a new identity in each book — all in pursuit of the Baudelaires’ vast fortune, which always seems just out of reach.
This is the one shred of luck the children do have, as they’re repeatedly forced into miserable situations with various odd caretakers, and have little success uncovering the secrets behind their parents’ deaths (and the mysterious organization, V.F.D., to which they belonged). It can certainly be frustrating, especially for young readers, to see them thwarted at every turn. Still, this series is more than worth it for the intrigue, excitement, and thought-provoking ideas about morality and “good vs. evil,” especially as the books progress into more sophisticated territory.
4. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
We wouldn’t leave this landmark novel from one of SFF’s best authors off the list. A Wizard of Earthsea presents the origin story of Ged, a boy with magical powers who must attend wizard school on an island (henceforth establishing this classic YA fantasy premise). Though Ged’s gifts impress his teachers and fellow students, he struggles to control them, and one day a spell gone awry releases a vicious “shadow creature” that attacks him. Ged recovers and graduates with his wizard’s staff, but the shadow pursues him, a looming threat over everything he does. Our hero eventually recognizes that he has seriously disrupted the equilibrium of the universe — and that he must do everything he can to make it right.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This mind-bending, genre-defying YA novel recounts the fantastical adventures of young Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their neighbor Calvin on their mission to save the Murry siblings’ father. With the help of a supernatural trio of women, they “tesser” through space and time to strange settings on many different planets, each of which teaches them something new. But when they encounter the dark forces of the universe, will the children be able to overpower them and bring Dr. Murry back to Earth? Utterly unpredictable yet with perfectly calibrated characterization, A Wrinkle in Time absolutely lives up to its Newbery-winning legacy.
6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore Finch is a teenage outcast: an academic slacker and self-labeled freak, he suffers from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and constantly obsesses over death. He believes he has nothing in common with Violet Markey, a popular cheerleader and classmate — that is, until the two are jostling for space at the top of the school bell tower, both planning to jump. Finch quickly realizes there’s more to Violet than meets the eye, and Violet finds her first true confidante since the death of her sister. But even as their relationship blooms, they can’t outpace their demons, and are forced to grapple with them over the course of this quippy yet moving YA novel.
7. All the Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson ⭐ Indie Spotlight
More star-crossed lovers take the stage in All the Walls of Belfast, an unlikely romance between two teens who must overcome the weight of their families’ pasts. Fiona and Danny may have been born in the same hospital, but their paths diverged completely from there: she was raised in the U.S. and has never returned to her father’s Catholic home, while he’s a born-and-bred Protestant who plans to escape his abusive father by joining the Royal Irish Regiment. Sparks fly when they meet and figure out how much they have in common, right down to the same favorite band… yet old conflicts still threaten to tear them apart, especially when shocking truths about their families begin to emerge.
8. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Fabiola Toussaint might have been born in America, but she’s lived in Port-au-Prince almost all her life. Now, she and her Manman are returning to the States at last. Armed with an invitation from her aunt in Detroit, she’s determined to build une belle vie — a good life, richer in possibilities than the one she left behind in Haiti.
But Immigration detains Manman as soon as they land in JFK, and Fabiola is forced to fly on to Detroit alone, unable even to cry as the vastness of America passes beneath her. Her aunt Marjorie, she knows, lives on the intersection of American Street and Joy Road. What she doesn’t know is how to fit in with her three American cousins— and when she’ll see her mother again.
Shortlisted for the National Book Award, American Street is an elegant, deeply moving debut that mines Pushcart nominee Ibi Zoboi’s own experiences growing up as a Haitian-American immigrant. With subtle characterization and a vivid sense of place, it’s already emerged as a contemporary classic.
9. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The first installment in an acclaimed fantasy series, An Ember in the Ashes offers some of the best worldbuilding in YA fantasy. In its painstakingly rendered, Rome-inspired Martial Empire, members of the deposed former ruling class, the Scholars, live in bondage and poverty under the thumbs of the Martial overlords who displaced them.
Laia, a young Scholar girl, witnesses Martial brutality firsthand when her brother is arrested under suspicion of treason. Desperate to save him from a cruel death, she throws her lot in with a shadowy rebel faction with links to her late parents. Now working as their spy, she infiltrates an elite military academy where she meets Elias, a trainee being groomed for the highest echelons of Martial power. But Elias has no desire for a crown on his head — or for blood on his hands. Together, these two unlikely allies strike at the very root of the empire’s corruption.
10. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
This timely book is no less real for the fact that it's fiction. Anger is a Gift centers on Moss Jeffries, a teenager whose father was murdered by an Oakland police officer several years ago — leaving Moss with not only intense grief, but also panic attacks. Now, in his sophomore year of high school, things haven’t gotten any easier. In fact, the Oakland police officers have been stationed in the halls of his school, where they treat Moss and his classmates like criminals. As the students push back against the administration oppressing them, Moss begins to realize that his anger can be used to fuel the fight to make things right.
11. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Louise Rennison’s series has been called the YA version of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, for good reason: it’s narrated in first-person by a witty Brit who can’t stop fixating on her appearance and often finds herself at the center of frequent mishaps. Check out the first installment, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, for the relatable female friendships and stay for the new catchphrases, like “Fabbity fab fab!”
12. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montrgomery’s timeless story about an outspoken and imaginative orphan is one of the bestselling books worldwide. And it’s no wonder: Anne of Green Gables is the epitome of an underdog story, tackling themes of friendship, belonging, the human relationship with the natural world, coming-of-age, gender roles, and more.
At the center of the Canadian novel is, of course, Anne (with an E!), who is adopted by the Cuthberts of Green Gables. The only thing is, when the Cuthberts wrote to Anne’s orphanage requesting they send a child, they actually asked for a boy. Still, Anne quickly grows on the Cuthberts and they agree to keep her, so long as she doesn’t get up to any trouble. Which, for someone as spirited as Anne, proves much easier said than done...
13. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The titular character of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey. She’s found herself with a new group of friends who have a secret club that meets to talk about personal things, like periods, bras, and boys — nothing is off the table. However, one subject proves not to be without shock value: Margaret reveals that her family doesn’t follow a specific religion. What she hasn’t yet mentioned to her new friends is that she’s actually part of another secret club, where the only other member is God. Treating the deity like a diary, Margaret reveals things to God that she tells to no one else — not even her new friends.
14. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When Aristotle and Dante meet at the swimming pool one day, they don’t expect a friendship to flourish. The two have nothing in common: Dante is a self-styled intellectual with a unique way of looking at the world, while Aristotle is an angry teen with an incarcerated brother. But the title Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is nothing if not direct: the two teens do end up forming an unexpected bond, and enable one another to learn more about themselves, and, of course, the universe.
15. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Tanner Scott wants to keep his head down and just get through the last semester of high school with good grades. His family has just moved from California to Provo, Utah, and he’s found himself somewhere he never wanted to be: back in the closet, hiding his bisexuality from his new peers.
To the protagonist of Autoboyography, laying low seems like a good plan while he waits to graduate and leave Utah. Still, when a friend challenges Tanner to join a prestigious Seminar that has students write their own books in one semester, he finds himself unable to resist. But this doesn’t have to derail Tanner’s plans, he tells himself. The only tiny complication might be the presence of Sebastier Brother, a Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and is now mentoring the class. Oh, there’s also the fact that Tanner is falling head over heels in love for him.
16. Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Growing up is turbulent. It’s not a coincidence that so many bildungsroman novels have become bestselling classics. For Anita de la Torre, adolescence has been anything but carefree. Before We Were Free follows the story of twelve year-old Anita living in the Dominican Republic of the 1960s. There, she faces plenty of struggles: most of her family now lives in the US, her uncle has disappeared, her dad has been receiving mysterious phone calls, and her family is suspected of opposing the country’s dictator — a dangerous accusation to live under. Through all this, Anita struggles to come into her own and to find moments when she can truly be carefree.
17. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Blood Water Paint is based on the true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, an iconic artist who painted some of Rome’s most famous works in the early 17th century. Despite her artistic accomplishments, she’s remained totally unknown — until she is unspeakably violated and has to make a decision: stay silent or speak up. Both choices carry pain and consequences, and Joy McCullough illustrates this impossible choice with eloquence and care.
18. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Summer vacation was not everything Jess Aarons hoped it would be, but there’s a treat waiting for him with the return of the school year: the opportunity to race his classmates and leave them all in his dust. He’s been practicing all summer and is pretty confident in his ability to pick up speed. And he would have won, if not for Leslie Burke, a new girl in school, who easily outruns everyone, including Jess.
Post-race, it doesn’t seem like the two are on the verge of becoming BFFs. But they eventually discover they share more in common than the need for speed: imagination and love of fantasy. Together, Jess and Leslie create a magical kingdom in the woods called Terabithia — a place they can run and play, and where anything feels possible.
(We can’t let you go without a quick warning, however: Bridge to Terabithia is an absolute tearjerker.)
19. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Based on Jacqueline Woodson’s own life, Brown Girl Dreaming is a heartfelt poetry collection detailing what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and ‘70s: post-Jim Crow, and during the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. The poetry is accessible to all ages. It feels particularly powerful when Woodson shares her struggles with reading as a child — which, as is made clear through her mesmerizing verse — never extinguished her love for storytelling.
20. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
This book splashed onto the scene long before it was even printed, making headlines when both the novel and preemptive film rights sold in a deal so large it was basically unheard of for a debut author. What made this deal even more remarkable? Adeyemi was only 23 at a time.
With all that hype behind it, you’d hope the book lives up to expectations; thankfully, in this case, it does. Children of Blood and Bone follows a young woman named Zélie Adebola, who still remembers a time of magic, before the maji — including Zélie’s mother — were killed under the king’s orders. Now Zélie finds herself with the opportunity to strike back against the king and return magic to the land. This thrilling fantasy adventure has all the best elements of the genre: a rogue princess, a cunning crown prince on their tail, magical creatures and spirits, and of course, the looming danger as Zélie struggles to control her own ever-growing powers. With all that and more, it’s no wonder that CBB became such an instant success!
21. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
There’s just something delightful about a book that isn’t afraid to ask, What if Cinderella were a cyborg?
With this first installment in her series of quirky, sci-fi takes on classic fairy tales, Marissa Meyer invites readers into the world of Cinder: a cyborg living in the future city of New Beijing and repairing broken machines to support herself. She lives (of course) with her stepmother and stepsisters — until one day when her world is upended by one sister falling ill to a plague. In a quick sequence of events, Cinder finds herself being studied by the royal doctors, and swept up in a world of imperial politics and a looming war with the Lunar colonies. Add in a charming robot sidekick and the requisite swoony prince, and you’ve got a futuristic fairytale sure to entertain all the way to the moon and back.
22. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Like many books targeted at teen girls, this novel has two things about it that are undeniably true: it’s wildly popular, and people either love it or hate it. So make no mistake, you’re going to have strong feelings about this book.
For anyone who doesn’t know, City of Bones is part of the Shadowhunters universe, a multi-series fantasy saga that encompasses (to date) fifteen novels across four series, three volumes of related short stories, four graphic novels, as well as the requisite movie and TV show adaptations — with plenty more still to come.
This first book follows Clary: a seemingly ordinary girl in New York City whose life is turned upside-down when she stumbles upon the world of the Shadowhunters, humans with angel blood who are tasked with keeping the world safe from demons and other magical beings. It’s an exciting introduction to an enormous urban fantasy world, full of action, adventure, and romance, and has become an important part of many teenagers’ reading histories since its release in 2007.
23. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Abid Khorram
Sometimes books are great because they’re beautifully written, or touching, or important — and some books are great because they manage to be all three at once.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is one of those books. Darius is instantly relatable to teen audiences: somewhat awkward, dealing with depression, not really sure where he “fits” in the world. One of the few things he definitely understands is Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he watches with his dad every night. But then Darius’s grandfather falls ill, and his family must take an unexpected trip to Iran — Darius’s first time in the land where his mother was raised. It’s a chance to explore a whole new facet of his family and his identity.
Unfortunately, Darius is not entirely sure how to navigate the waters of his new experience, and isn’t convinced anyone here will accept him. That is, until he meets a neighbor boy named Sohrab, and the two form a friendship that runs deeper than any cultural differences they were raised with. It’s a groundbreaking novel about mental illness, racial identity, and above all, the importance of connecting with others.
24. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Some books aren’t just great stories, well-told: they’re essential. This is one such novel.
In a story both timely and sadly timeless, Dear Martin follows the life of prep school star Justyce. Justyce has just begun writing a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a means of processing the things he experiences, and how race factors into these experiences. What he cannot know is how quickly racial issues will become larger-than-life in his own life. In the wake of being hassled by a cop for helping his staggeringly drunk (and white-passing) ex-girlfriend into a car, Justyce’s eyes are opened to the ugly reality he’s largely managed to avoid until now.
Dear Martin truly runs the full spectrum of emotions, so be prepared for them all. Joy and rage, sorrow and love, pain and compassion. It never pulls its punches, and thank goodness for that, because this story wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful — or as honest — if it did. It’s a book that will sit in your heart forever, and may just inspire you to take a page from “Martin” himself.
25. Divergent by Veronica Roth
In the post-Hunger Games world, many young adult novels tried to fill the dystopian void left behind by the beloved trilogy. However, few managed to deliver the same levels of thrills and utterly engrossing storytelling.
Divergent is one of those few. Set in an alternate-future Chicago, society is divided into five factions: Abnegation, valuing selflessness; Amity, valuing peace; Erudite, valuing knowledge; Candor, valuing honesty; and Dauntless, valuing bravery. You might think of them like Hogwarts Houses, only the stakes are a lot higher, and the divisions a lot sharper.
But what happens when someone fails to fit neatly in one box? That’s the question at the beating heart of this series, and as you’ll see, the consequences of being different are fraught with danger and drama. It’s a story that will quickly sweep you up in the adventure, while also reminding us all of the importance of standing up and being true to ourselves. What more can you ask of a novel for teens?
26. Dreadnought by April Daniels — Indie Spotlight
Superheroes are all the rage in the movies, but they don’t often make a splash in novels. Which is a shame, because as Dreadnought demonstrates, superhero books can have just as much action, tension, thrills, and powerful messaging as their visual counterparts.
The story centers around Danny Tozer: a closeted trans-girl who witnesses the death of the most powerful superhero of her city, the famous Dreadnought. At the moment of his death, his powers transfer to her, granting her not only flight, super-strength, and more, but transforming her body into the one she’s always wanted. Which is an amazing gift, but unfortunately, one that also forces Danny to admit her true identity to her parents.
We’ll be honest: this is an emotionally difficult book. Throughout the story, Danny faces transphobia from both family and new associates alike, and her abilities and identity are often questioned and underestimated by those around her. But in spite of all that, Danny consistently shows a resilience of spirit that’s an inspiration to those of any gender identity. And, of course, we also get all the thrills that a superhero story is capable of delivering, complete with action sequences, entertaining science, and the joy of flight. Round it off with a sweet budding romance, and this debut truly has it all.
27. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
A love letter to the world of fandom, Eliza and Her Monsters tells the story of Eliza Mirk. Though shy and withdrawn in real life, online she’s the anonymous creator of the wildly-popular webcomic Monstrous Sea.
Eliza’s perfectly comfortable with this duality, until one day her world is turned upside-down by the introduction of a boy named Wallace. A huge fan of Monstrous Sea, Wallace is immediately drawn to Eliza, and Eliza to him. There’s just one problem — she hasn’t actually admitted she’s the creator of the comic they both love.
Equal parts funny and heartbreaking, this novel is a timely examination of what it means to exist in the nebulous space of the internet, as well as what it means to create in our digital age. It’s a powerful story about the ways in which we both isolate and open ourselves up, and the importance of sharing our true selves with those we’re close to.
28. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Cinderella is easily one of the most recognizable fairy tales in the western world, and has been adapted countless times, in infinite variations — but perhaps none more charming than Ella Enchanted.
Like any good fairy tale retelling, the story is one you’ll immediately recognize, but with an imaginative twist: when she was a baby, Ella of Frell was granted the “gift” of obedience. In other words, if anyone tells her to do something — whether it’s easy or difficult to do, whether the order is minor or life-changing — Ella must obey. But where other girls may simply have accepted their fate, Ella is determined to find a way out of her situation.
In a wild adventure involving ogres, giants, elves, and of course a charming prince, this delightful tale not only entertains, but empowers young women everywhere to take charge of their own fate.
29. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
A beloved sci-fi classic, Ender’s Game is the story of a future on the defensive. After barely defeating hostile alien attackers, the government sets up a “Battle School” to train child geniuses who will protect the planet during the next war. Among them is Ender, a rare third-child who grew up with an abusive older brother and a beloved older sister. His skills position him well within his training; however, Ender faces difficulties fitting in among his classmates.
This is a book that uses the trappings of science fiction to delve deep into the human condition. Questions of morality and the haunting realities and impact of war make up the core of this book. The characters are relatable, the action fast-paced and breathless, and the writing perfectly tuned. Ender’s strategizing mind will keep the reader fascinated, while the plot compels us with its many surprising twists and turns. It’s no wonder this book has drawn so many young readers into the world of sci-fi — as it will no doubt continue to do for years to come.
30. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
One of the earliest self-publishing success stories, Eragon swept readers into a world of adventure as surely as if we were all riding the dragon’s back for ourselves.
Like many of the best classic fantasy novels, the story of its titular hero starts with very humble beginnings: on a farm. Specifically, Eragon’s uncle’s farm, where Eragon was left by his mother just after his birth. While hunting in the woods nearby, Eragon stumbles upon a mysterious “stone” — only to later discover that his prize is not a stone at all, but a dragon egg!
This discovery leads to the revelation that Eragon is a Dragon Rider, and soon kicks off a whole new chapter in Eragon’s life — one full of adventure, magic, power, and choices that will have lasting consequences for the whole kingdom. It’s a wildly entertaining novel that will surely capture the imagination of any child who wishes to become something more than they are.
31. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
In this poignant historical fiction novel, Muñoz Ryan tells us the story of Esperanza, a girl who was raised on her father’s ranch in Mexico. Spoiled by the wealth of her childhood, Esperanza’s circumstances take a turn for the disastrous when her father dies and her mother takes her and flees. Together, the two of them travel north, until they wind up in a Mexican labor camp in the United States during the Great Depression.
Based on the real-life experiences of the author’s grandmother, Esperanza Rising brings us a timeless story of one girl’s journey to adapt to her new world and improve her life. Even when faced with grueling physical labor, a worker’s strike, and an illness that threatens her mother, Esperanza’s perseverance and courage stand as inspiration to all of us.
32. Every Day by David Levithan
In this deeply imaginative novel, Levithan poses the question: who would we be if we were someone different Every Day? That’s the situation that our protagonist, A, has been facing for as long as they can remember. Every day, they wake up in a different body, with a different life: sometimes as a boy, sometimes as a girl, and always with access to the host body’s memory of facts — but not feelings.
It’s a situation that would drive anybody else crazy and miserable, but A has learned to live with it. They’ve developed a set of rules, and it works. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. That is, until A meets Rhiannon, a girl who changes their life forever.
But while this premise might quickly become stilted or gimmicky in another author’s hands, Levithan manages to hold true to A’s essence no matter how many bodies they pass through. Every Day is a novel, above all else, about people — the impressions they make, the lives they live, and the deep drives of their hearts. It’s a book that will make you laugh and think and ache, as you follow A through the unique and yet universal process of falling in love.
33. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
In Five Feet Apart we meet two teens, Stella and Will: both chronically ill with cystic fibrosis, and both dealing with it in very different ways. For Stella, doing what her doctors prescribe and staying at least six feet away from anyone who may pose the threat of infection is paramount. For Will, it’s a question of biding his time until he turns eighteen, and can finally rid himself of the machines and drugs and treatments being pushed on him.
Their worlds change, however, when the two of them encounter one another — as closely as they can, at any rate — and, despite the distance, sparks fly. It’s a heartbreaking story of what it means to be alive, and what we’ll risk in order to live our lives to the fullest, even if it means cutting our time down drastically.
34. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Let’s be honest, no list of YA books would be complete without the Harry Potter series. This worldwide phenomenon not only kick-started many people’s love of reading, it reshaped the face of YA literature forever.
From the very first novel, Harry entrances us with his sympathetic tale: abused orphan to budding wizard, known throughout the magical community for causing the downfall of He Who Must Not Be Named. It’s a big legacy for anyone to live up, much less an eleven-year-old boy — but Harry wins over the wizarding world with his big heart and exceptional courage, and watching him grow over the course of seven novels is a true delight.
These books are truly a magic trick, full of instantly memorable characters both good and evil, clever mysteries that take multiple installments to unravel, and the irresistible idea that love can save us all. Despite some of the author’s problematic statements in recent years, the story of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest will remain a beloved piece of so many of our childhoods. It’s no wonder it made the list of the New York Public Library’s 10 most-circulated books of all time.
35. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
This 1986 Newbery Honor-winning classic is the perfect YA gateway to the works of those like Jack London, Thoreau, or even Hemingway.
Hatchet tells the story of Brian Robeson, a thirteen-year-old boy traveling from New York to Canada on a Cessna 406 bush plane. When the pilot dies from a heart attack mid-flight, Brian attempts to land and ends up crashing in a lake in the middle of a forest. Alone with nothing but his hatchet, a gift from his mother, Brian must quickly learn to survive and defend himself in the vast open wilderness.
As Brian grapples with not only the physical threats but the emotional impact his experience puts him through, readers will be rapt with the need to find out what happens next. Told in rich details — many of which were drawn for the author’s real-life experiences! — it’s a story that will make readers both young and old pause to appreciate the things that truly matter in this life.
36. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
A story of parallel universes, magic, daemons, and armored polar bears — what’s not to love?
His Dark Materials follows the adventures of Lyra Belacqua, a twelve-year-old girl with a talent for lying. After learning of a plan to poison her rebellious uncle, Lyra is swept into a desperate mission to rescue not only him, but her best friends, and a host of other children she learns have gone missing. Lyra travels to the frozen north, where she finds witch clans, armored bears, and a race of child-thieves called the Gobblers.
But things are not always what they seem, and soon Lyra will learn the truth — about her life, about her family, and about the Gobblers. This epic beginning grows into one of the richest, most complicated fantasy worlds seen in recent years, enchanting readers everywhere with its wildly inventive worldbuilding, numerous twists and turns, and spirited protagonist.
37. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
In this heartbreaking novel of love and loss, teenage boy Griffin is grieving in more ways than one. His ex-boyfriend Theo has just died in a tragic accident — but not before breaking Griffin’s heart by moving to California and starting to date another guy. That’d be more than enough to wreck anyone, but what makes it worse is that until Theo’s death, Griffin had maintained the firm belief that Theo would realize his “mistake” and come back to him eventually.
Ironically, the only person who can even begin to understand what Griffin is going through is none other than his would-be romantic rival, Jackson. But even as the two boys begin talking, Griffin continues to spiral downward. And the only way Griffin might be able to escape his own obsessive behavior is to actually unpack his painful history.
Basically, this book will tear you apart and heal you back up again. A pitch-perfect examination of first love, grief, depression, and the importance of learning from your past in order to face the future, History Is All You Left Me is an unmissable YA sensation.
38. Holes by Louis Sachar
Sometimes a book needs to be grounded in realism if it wants to tackle serious issues — and sometimes, it needs a level of absurdity and general zaniness to help us make sense of them. If the latter is the case, there’s no one better than Louis Sachar to tackle the job.
In Holes, we’re introduced to Stanley Yelnats, a boy whose family has been cursed ever since the days of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. For Stanley, the curse takes the form of being arrested and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit. As punishment, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, a detention center that has neither greenery nor a lake — or hasn’t in a long time, at any rate. The whole area has dried up, and in the bottom of the former lakebed, boys “build character” by digging holes, all day, every day.
But of course, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Three distinct timelines and narratives weave through this book, each revealing a piece of the puzzle, until the whole thing ties together in the book’s stunning conclusion. Holes has become a beloved piece of young adult literature not only for its handling of racial issues and the criminal justice system, but for the deft, sure-handed way it balances both the absurd and the tragic.
39. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
Homecoming centers on Dicey Tillerman, who barely remembers her father — he walked out on their family before Dicey’s youngest brother was even born. Since then, she and her three younger siblings have relied on each other, and on their Momma. Sure, she might be a little “drifty and moony,” with a tendency to brush off their questions with teary I don’t knows. But Dicey knows she loves them all.
Then one day, Momma drives them to a mall parking lot and walks away, seemingly for good. Now Dicey, at thirteen years old, finds herself tasked with keeping herself and her siblings alive. With scraped-together funds and only the barest hint of a plan, can the Tillerman kids find their way to someplace they can call home?
40. How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
This searing portrait of loss will haunt you long after you turn the final page. But don’t let your fear of sudden tears or a lingering ache in your chest keep you from picking it up: How to Make Friends with the Dark is one of the best contemporary novels of the last decade, YA and otherwise.
As long as sixteen-year-old Tiger Tolliver can remember, it’s just been her and her mom. Like all teens, she occasionally wants her space — especially when spending time with her cute new boyfriend. But for the most part, the two Tolliver women make up a “well-oiled, good-looking, and good-smelling machine,” and Tiger wouldn’t have it any other way. Then, Tiger’s mom dies unexpectedly. All of a sudden she’s a ward of the state, planning a funeral with only her grief for company. Needless to say, this isn’t the breeziest of reads, but the heartache it leaves you with is rich, rewarding, and real.
41. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
This charming fantasy classic spawned an Academy Award-winning Studio Ghibli film. Rest assured: the 1986 novel delights as readily as its animated adaptation. Howl’s Moving Castle introduces us to the titular wizard, Howl, who shares his black-turreted, physics-defying home with prickly fire demon, Calcifer. But despite this charismatic pair, the real hero of the story is Sophie Hatter, who looks far older than her eighteen years thanks to a witch’s curse.
Eager to break the spell (and just as eager to be somewhere other than her family’s hat shop) Sophie goes to work for Howl. A wizard, after all, is the perfect person to undo a witch’s work — or so she figures. What follows is a mesmerizing tale of magic, love and… contract law.
42. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Fifteen-year-old Julia Reyes knows she isn’t her parents’ favorite daughter. That would be Olga, who helped their Amá clean houses, showed up faithfully to church each Sunday, and went to community college so she could live at home. Sweet-natured and devout, she was every bit the perfect Mexican daughter that brash, inquisitive Julia can’t seem to be. So when Olga dies in a car accident, aged twenty-two, she becomes enshrined in familial memory as something of a saint.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter offers a sharply rendered portrait of a complicated grief. As Julia mourns, she clashes with parents who seem determined to remold her in the likeness of her dead sister — a sister who, it turns out, was far more complicated than the blameless Saint Olga of memory. Can Julia unravel the truth of Olga’s life and find her own place in a family that can’t seem to let her be herself?
43. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
In I Wish You All the Best, nonbinary author Mason Deaver tells the story they wish they could have read as a teen. The result is an urgent, nuanced tale of coming out — and coming of age — that captures all the wonders and horrors of growing up.
Ben De Backer is your typical high school overachiever, with a report card full of A’s and a resume burnished by an Art Club presidency. They’re also nonbinary. When Ben comes out to their parents, they get thrown out of the house. With no one else to turn to, Ben gives their estranged sister Hannah a desperate call.
Though Ben hasn’t seen Hannah in a decade and they’ve never met her new husband, the young couple is happy to offer them a place to stay, a school to finish out the year, and even a therapist to help them work through their parents’ rejection. But despite all these gifts, Ben remains closeted at their new school--and around the cute new neighbor boy. After the trauma of what happened the last time they came out, can Ben learn how to let their guard down and truly be themselves around those they care about?
43. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
This is the rare book you’ll want to reread as soon as you turn the last page. On the first pass, I’ll Give You the Sun will mesmerize you with evocative language and an intricate structure, a narrative puzzle that begs to be figured out. On the next, you’ll relish getting to know its complex, vividly drawn characters all over again.
The narrative centers on the artsy Sweetwine twins, who give us two separate strands of the same, twisty story. Sensitive painter Noah and gregarious sculptor Jude have been inseparable since their days in the womb. But by the time they’re sixteen, they’re no longer speaking. Part of the novel’s initial pleasure lies in figuring out the root of their estrangement.
Noah recounts the early years the twins spent by each other’s side, while he’s grappling with his emergent queer sexuality in shadow of his charismatic sister. Jude, meanwhile, narrates their painful time apart as she’s alone at art school, carving sculptures that keep inexplicably falling apart. Together, the Sweetwines’ alternating chapters tell a rich, intoxicating story of blood bonds, family trauma, and artistic ambition.
44. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
When Amanda Hardy moves to a new school for her senior year, she finds herself being chatted up by the local heartthrob right away. Grant Everrett’s easy charm is interfering with all her well-laid plans: what she meant to do was keep her head down and her potential friends at arm’s length — at least until she can escape to New York for college.
After being beaten by her former classmates for being trans and rejected by a father who still called her “Andrew,” Amanda’s finally beginning to feel at home again. A cute boy with a crush on her? That’s a complication she doesn’t need — no matter how easy he is to talk to.
Still, sweet-natured Grant bats off all Amanda’s warnings about her complicated past, and he makes no secret of the fact that she makes his heart race. Can Amanda allow herself to feel the same way? If I Was Your Girl offers heartfelt romance that’s equal parts serious and sweet, written by a trans author with a flair for both nuanced characterization and swoony-worthy dialogue.
45. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This wildly imaginative work offers a sprawling, galaxy-sized space opera in a striking, comic-adjacent package. Illuminae is an epistolary novel with visual flair, pieced together from hush-hush interviews, heavily redacted emails, and sleek schematics baring the structure of giant spaceships. It’s not unusual to turn the page and find yourself staring at a gorgeous map of the heavens. Too bad those beautifully rendered stars are marking out the boundaries of a war zone, where megacorporations command bomb-flinging fleets and whole planets bear the risk of imminent destruction.
Sound complicated? Wait till you hear that it’s also a love story. Teen heroine Kady Grant might be a gifted hacker forced to deal with the sudden invasion of her planet, but she’s also a high school student, reeling from a fresh breakup with the sweet but shiftless Ezra Mason. Unfortunately Kady doesn’t exactly have the time to process her feelings: the invading warships are hot on her heels. Maybe that’s for the best, since she has no choice but to fight her way past them with her just-dumped ex.
46. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Fifteen-year-old Craig Gilner never imagined having his dreams come true would land him in the hospital. He worked so hard to get into the Executive Pre-Professional High School, which was supposed to set him on the path to success for life. Instead, the mounting pressure almost cost him his life.
After a suicidal episode, Craig checks himself into a mental health ward. Cue five life-changing days of talk therapy, grudging introspection, and encounters with his fellow patients, all of them grappling with issues from sex addition to self-harm.
Based on author Ned Vizzini’s own experiences with depression, It’s Kind of a Funny Story tackles mental illness in a way that’s sharp, sensitive, and not at all saccharine. Craig, with his acid wit and budding self-awareness, will wring shocked laughter out of you as he makes sense of anxiety with pitch-dark humor. He’s not lying: it really is kind of a funny story.
47. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Jane’s Aunt Magnolia once made her promise to accept any invitation she got to Tu Reviens, a sprawling island manor owned by the family of a glamorous acquaintance. But now Magnolia is dead, and Tu Reviens’ heiress, gala invite in hand. Jane jumps at the chance — to make good on her promise, and to maybe feel something other than grief.
Jane, Unlimited’s setup seems to promise either fairytale escapism or gothic horror: it’s heroine has a mysterious mansion to explore, after all, its hallways filled with beautiful people and hints of potent, dangerous possibility. But the story we’re actually told is far more unruly — and far more interesting.
When bells ring through Tu Reviens, Jane encounters a series of choices that will allow her to reshape her world, now emptied of Magnolia’s presence, in the image of a literary genre. Will she choose to live out a spy thriller or a space opera, a love story or a romance? Can any of these stories even save her from her grief?
48. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Milagros Palante grew up in the Bronx, chatting over arroz con maíz with her gossipy aunts and fending off her mom’s questions about her lack of boyfriends. But as much as she loves her big Puerto Rican family, she no longer feels at home in their world. There’s Grandma Petalda dismissing queerness as “crazy talk,” and Titi Wepa using a lesbian identity as a convenient lie — something you toss out laughingly to sidestep unwanted suitors. Juliet knows they love her, but how can she tell them the truth: that she has no boyfriend because she’s in love with her best friend Lainie, whom she’s actually been dating for a year?
When Juliet does come out, the evening ends in confusion — and tears. But before she can fix things with her family, she has to leave the Bronx for Portland. There, she’s due to intern for her idol, the queer feminist author Harlowe Brisbane: her magnum opus has shaped Juliet’s burgeoning queer identity as much as Lainie’s love. As Juliet Takes a Breath recounts the wild and wonderful summer that follows, we get to know one of the fiercest, most finely rendered heroines in all of YA lit.
49. Legend by Marie Lu
Cynical readers see the YA dystopian genre as nothing more than a cash cow, but no one does it like Marie Lu. Sure, her wildly popular Legend checks all the boxes that make naysayers roll their eyes, from the Hunger Games comparisons to the Lionsgate film deal. But it’s crafted with enough polish to weather the strictest scrutiny, and its rich palette of influences makes for a fascinating world. After all, how many cyberpunk adventures can claim inspiration from Les Misérables?
Lu’s audacious Victor Hugo rewrite swaps out post-revolutionary France for a police state centered in LA — and replaces Javert and Valjean with two brilliant, troubled teens. There’s June, a military-trained prodigy dealing with the murder of her brother. And there’s Day, the murder suspect, whose own brother is succumbing to a terrifying Plague.
Brought together by a crime investigation where all’s not what it seems, June and Day realize they’ve finally met their intellectual matches in one another. As unexpected sparks fly between them, it dawns on them both that the city they call home isn’t safe for either of them.
50. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This isn’t actually the first installment in pioneer girl-turned-bestselling author Laura Ingalls Wilders’ iconic, autobiographical series. But there’s no denying it’s the best known Little House book of them all: it even gave its name to the cherished, 200-episode TV adaptation. Wilder knows how to spin a satisfying yarn, and Little House on the Prairie shows off her storytelling chops at their sharpest. Urgent and emotionally varied, it combines tautly suspenseful beats — a wolfpack, a bout of malaria — with a surprisingly nuanced (though heavily romanticized) take of settler colonialism.
Since its publication, Wilder’s masterwork has kept generations of young readers on the edge of their seats, daydreaming of homesteading exploits on the rolling plains of Kansas. Eight decades later, there’s still nothing like it for immersive historical fiction.
51. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
There’s been a fair bit of recent ink spilled on Greta Gerwig’s whip-smart, Academy-approved, boldly metafictional Little Women. But this staple of girlhood bookshelves has been a big deal ever since 1868, when it sold out its initial print run. It’s even been called the original super-franchise: an igniter of 19th-century ship wars and early 20th-century cosplays — not to mention the dozen or so pre-Gerwig adaptations, from the Broadway musical to the anime.
As they come of age in the 19th century, the four March sisters deal with tribulations both personal and profound, from their faded frocks to their family’s place in a nation at war with itself. Whether they’re literary strangers to you or beloved old friends, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are sure to charm you with their imagination, adaptability, and fierce sisterly love.
52. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Written in sparse, dynamic verse, Long Way Down offers a chilling look at gun violence and grief. The novel takes place almost entirely over the course of sixty seconds. And in that single, terrifying minute, a fifteen-year-old boy has to decide whether or not to use the gun tucked into his waistband.
Will’s older brother, Shawn was just murdered, and now he’s out for revenge. It’s the only option, since The Rules that have been ingrained in him since childhood dictate no snitching and no tears. So Will grabs his brother’s gun and gets in the elevator that will bring him to the promised site of his vengeance. But he’s got seven floors to travel, and a lot can happen in the minute it takes to make his long way down.
53. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This high school English standby is as cynical, in its own way, as Westeros’s grimdark tales of carnage. Just in case you haven’t had to grind out an essay on Lord of the Flies, we’ll briefly sketch out the scene. A group of English boys crash-land on an uninhabited island and work together to survive sans schoolmastery supervision. But it turns out, choir practice is poor preparation for self-governance, and the boys’ attempts to civilize the wild quickly dissolve into chaos.
Golding’s masterwork has been called an allegory, a morality tale, and a chilling glimpse into the darkness at the heart of man (or at least, at the heart of a mid-century English schoolboy). Think of it as a dark, resolutely un-magical anti-Narnia, where dropping youthful, World War II-era Brits into a strange new country leads to bloodshed instead of a golden age.
52. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This small press hit is delectably strange, combining old-timey found photos with buttoned-up, sepia-tinged prose — fittingly enough, since it’s set in the 1940s. But this isn’t a cozy, nostalgia-driven children’s fantasy, the sort of thing you’d turn to for a snug bedtime read. Debut author Ransom Riggs has a gift for the uncanny, to put it mildly, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children abounds with hair-raising moments that read like Stephen King made PG-13, from haunted manors to tentacle-faced ghouls.
Jacob Magellan Portman knows his grandfather Abraham has lived a fascinating life: not only did he survive the Holocaust, but he’s had brushes with supernatural predators and once kept company with a sentient bird. As Jacob gets older, he starts to grow skeptical towards the more… ahistorical details in his grandfather’s stories. But one day, he finds Abraham bloodied and clearly dying, rasping out cryptic commands with his last breath.
Jacob’s attempts to escape the trauma of his grandfather’s death ultimately lead him to the ruin of a mysterious — and apparently haunted — Welsh schoolhouse. But the ghosts of the pupils who haunt the site may not be quite so dead after all. And Jacob just might need their help if he wants to avoid his grandfather’s fate.
53. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Published in 1999, Monster was a revelation in a genre — and an industry — where very few books starred protagonists of color. Cleverly structured and rich in suspense, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon’s trial for murder.
The text shifts between Steve’s diary entries and his in-progress screenplay — a way to use his passion for film to document the traumas inflicted by a broken legal system. Needless to say, this is a YA novel of tremendous complexity — both in the intricacy of its structure, and in its sensitive handling of topics from racial justice to the carceral state.
The prosecutor paints Steve as a “monster,” a callous criminal unashamed to look the other way when his coconspirators turn to murder in an armed robbery gone wrong. To his film teacher, however, he’s a young man with tremendous artistic potential and a good heart. Not even Steve knows who he really is — not anymore. No matter what the final verdict, can he hold onto his sense of his own humanity?
54. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
When Anna Fitzgerald decides to sue her parents, she knows she’ll be tearing her family apart. But in all her thirteen years, her life has never belonged to her. Conceived solely as a donor match for her older sister, she’s been supplying the blood and marrow that keeps Kate alive as she fights acute promyelocytic leukemia. But now Kate’s dying, and Anna’s expected to donate a kidney, in a major operation that puts both sisters at risk. Instead of quietly going under the knife yet again, Anna decides to call a lawyer
At once a briskly paced thriller and a nuanced treatment of bioethical dilemmas, My Sister’s Keeper is also a heartbreaker. If you want a read that’ll stimulate your mind and your tear ducts, we can think of no better book to pick up.
55. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
If you’ve seen Nancy Drew’s name making the rounds lately, it’s probably because the famous girl detective got a somewhat… questionable birthday gift. In a new comic series rolled out to celebrate the 90th anniversary of her super-franchise, Nancy was killed — and the Hardy Boys pressed into service to solve her case.
The outcry over this ill-timed homicide was nothing short of ear-splitting, and it’s easy to see why. After a near-century of sleuthing, Nancy has inspired legions of armchair detectives with her brilliance and pluck. Ghostwritten into being by three generations of writers working under the collective pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, she’s nothing short of a legend: an all-American folk hero with the charm of apple-cheeked Betty Cooper and the deductive genius of Sherlock Holmes.
59. Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato ⭐ Indie Spotlight
If you’re looking for paranormal fantasy that breaks the mold in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, we can’t overstate the merits of Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery. It’s the tale of Lacy Brink, the first new “resident” of Westminster Cemetery in over a century, who’s given the distinguished post-mortem task of entertaining all the other dead people. Fortunately, Lacy has a plan: a very spooky open mic night, which might just lead to shocking secrets and mysteries being unveiled — and if that weren’t enough to sell you on it, Amato presents the book itself as a rollicking theatrical play. (Oh, and Edgar Allan Poe is there, too. Just read it!)
60. Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan’s trailblazing YA fantasy series kicks off with one of the best premises this side of the millennium: twelve-year-old Percy Jackson discovering he is the son of Poseidon. This revelation leads him to Camp Half-Blood, where Percy adjusts to his new identity and meets fellow demigod kids. Along with his friends Luke and Annabeth, Percy soon embarks on a perilous quest to recover Zeus’ master lightning bolt, the disappearance of which has thrown Olympus into chaos. And this is only the beginning of the gripping Percy Jackson pentalogy, which is chock full of nail-biting suspense and enthralling mythological adaptation.
61. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Thoughtful, timely, and beautifully drawn — these are the pieces of Piecing Me Together, a YA novel about the nuanced intersection of race and class. Our narrator, Jade, is a black teenager who attends an upscale school on scholarship and belongs to an “at-risk” mentorship program… even though Jade wouldn’t necessarily describe herself that way. Through interactions with her classmates and mentor, a wealthy black woman whose upbringing was very different from hers, Jade breaks down complex truths about being black in America and how public perception doesn’t always match up with reality. The result is a hugely enlightening must-read for any modern cultural participant (which is to say, hopefully, all of us).
62. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Alice Oseman released her debut novel, Solitaire, at the prodigious age of 17. Two years later came Radio Silence: an emotional, semi-autobiographical novel inspired, in Oseman’s own words, “by university and how much I hated being there.” Her protagonist, Frances, gives an urgent and distinctive voice to Oseman’s own experience of collegiate pressure, impostor syndrome, and ultimately realizing there’s more to life than good grades. Bolstered by a gloriously quirky cast of characters, Frances’ quintessentially millennial story will resonate with every young person who’s ever found themselves lost and uncertain in their own ambitions, especially where academia is involved.
63. Redwall by Brian Jacques
If you haven’t read Redwall, did you even have a childhood? Just kidding — but this iconic series from Brian Jacques is pretty unmissable, from the intrepid adventures of Matthias the mouse in the eponymous first book to the fascinating expansion of Redwall Abbey in later installments. You’ll fall in love with the characters of each new book and root passionately for their victories, just as you would for any intricate medieval fantasy. And no matter how old you are, you’ll feel like a child again as you ride the highs and lows of this heartfelt series, which makes the troubles of mice in an abbey seem like the only important thing in the world.
64. Sadie by Courney Summers
What do you get when you cross a true crime podcast with a teenage girl’s desperate quest to avenge her younger sister’s murder? Remarkably riveting storytelling, as it turns out — but also some harrowing details that can be awfully hard to process. Sadie by Courtney Summers is no light and breezy read, but that’s what makes it so exceptional; it’s a novel with all the dark sophistication of a Gillian Flynn novel that still manages to remain accessible for teen readers. Sadie’s story alone would be plenty propulsive, but add the innovative framing device of a podcast and you end up with a true suspense classic in the making.
65. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
In the not-so-distant future, medical technology has advanced to the point that death is virtually eliminated; even the most severe accident victims can be resuscitated. But as overpopulation looms, a macabre solution arises: the Scythedom, a league of assassins that chooses which people should die permanently. Needless to say, the Scythedom is universally abhorred — yet when schoolmates Citra and Rowan are offered apprenticeships with an eminent Scythe, they have no choice but to accept. And as they grow closer and learn more about the laws of Scythe, their concern escalates not only for themselves, but for the fate of society as a whole.
66. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
For those who haven’t yet read this superlative modern love story, we’ll lay it out for you. Simon Spier is a regular teenager living in the Atlanta suburbs, with a solid group of friends, a pile of AP classes, and a happy (if slightly chaotic) family. But he hasn’t told anyone he’s gay… well, no one except his pseudonymous email partner, “Blue,” another gay student at Simon’s school. This arrangement suits Simon just fine — until he leaves an email open on a school computer and finds himself on the receiving end of a poorly-planned blackmail campaign. Now Simon must weigh the blackmailer’s demands against being outed to everyone in his life, all the while hoping to uncover Blue’s true identity: could it perhaps be someone he already knows?
67. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Ocean’s Eleven meets grimdark in this outstandingly original fantasy heist novel. Six of Crows follows the exploits of Kaz Brekker, Ketterdam’s most notorious thief, and his crew of talented miscreants as they attempt to breach a guarded military stronghold called the Ice Court. Their task is to bring back Bo Yul-Bayur, a scientist who’s discovered a lethal and addictive drug that would destabilize the entire world if leaked to the public. Countless lives hang in the balance as Kaz and his team work their way to the Ice Court, their mission jeopardized at every turn by unexpected threats — fortunately for the world, the Six of Crows work well under pressure.
68. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
One of the most notable YA books to tackle sexual assault and trauma, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak finds its intimate, compelling voice in Melinda Sordino: a high school freshman who is rejected by her peers after calling the cops at a party. What they don’t know is that Melinda had just been raped by a fellow student (a fact that she won’t even admit to herself). To cope with both the personal trauma and the stinging isolation, Melinda stops talking and turns to art as her primary means of self-expression. Though no one can know what she’s going through, art has a way of making things seem okay… but what will happen when the truth inevitably comes out?
69. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This award-winning YA novel incepted the “manic pixie dream girl” trope long before it came into the mainstream — though some might argue Stargirl isn’t quite an MPDG, because she clearly has her own interests and identity outside of the protagonist (they just happen to be incredibly quirky). This quirkiness, however, manifests in profoundly empathetic ways: singing happy birthday to everyone in school, cheering for both teams at football games, and leaving sweet cards for strangers. At first our narrator, Leo, is entranced by Stargirl’s kindness, and the two begin a relationship. But as the rest of the school turns against her, both Leo and Stargirl must make the painful adolescent choice between conformity and truth to themselves.
70. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel relates the struggles of a Native-American teenager, Junior, after he transfers from his reservation high school to a wealthy, almost entirely white school. (As Junior aptly puts it, he is the only Indian there, other than the team mascot.) Consequently, Junior has to grapple with a serious culture clash between his and his white classmates’ lives, not to mention the guilt of leaving his reservation friends “behind.” But through all this, Alexie keeps the reader thoroughly entertained with witty, conversational prose and even visual accompaniments — as Junior himself is a budding cartoonist.
71. The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason ⭐ Indie Spotlight
When seventeen-year-old Harley is dragged to a friend’s party against her will, she has no idea the living nightmare that’s about to unfold. Within a few hours, Harley will discover her boyfriend hooking up with her little sister, Audrey — and after she storms out, he will drive Audrey home drunk, culminating in a devastating accident. Tormented by possibilities, Harley soon seeks solace in an unexpected source: a long-estranged neighbor, Raf, himself fresh out of rehab. Over the course of the book, they wrestle with addiction, regret, and trauma, ultimately forging a path forward that makes it possible to not just live with themselves, but to thrive.
72. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
In the magical realist tradition of authors like Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel, The Astonishing Color of After is predicated on tragedy and hope springing eternal. Specifically, our heroine Leigh believes that after her mother committed suicide, she transformed into a bird — a bright red bird who convinces Leigh to visit her mother’s first home in Taiwan. Leigh, a sensitive synesthete (hence the book’s title), has no choice but to follow the call. Soon she’s enmeshed in an unpredictable and utterly transformative quest, not only to discover her mother’s homeland and history, but also to get to the core of herself.
73. The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Teenagers Autumn, Logan, and Shay have never met, but they’ve always shared something close to each of their hearts: a love of music, both listening to and creating it. Then tragedy strikes, and they have one more thing in common: the loss of someone they loved even more than music, the person with whom they always shared that particular fixation. In The Beauty that Remains, Ashley Woodfolk explores how different people respond and adjust to grief, and how one’s passions play a major role in the recovery process… despite how painful the reminders of days past can be.
74. The Book Of Three by Lloyd Alexander
The Book of Three is the first volume of one of the best fantasy series of all time — Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain — and serves as both a useful and exciting introduction to the books. We first meet Taran, assistant pig-keeper and aspiring hero, on a humble farmstead in the Welsh-inspired land of Prydain. When the pig he’s been tasked to protect flees into the nearby forbidden forest, Taran chases after her and collides headfirst with adventure. He’s soon swept up in a fast-paced battle of good and evil involving the vicious “Horned King,” the enchantress Princess Eilonwy, and an oracle in the form of his escaped porcine friend.
75. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Though it’s perhaps best remembered for the unorthodox narrator of Death itself, the accomplishments of The Book Thief are far more impressive than any one aspect. This is the extraordinary story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who grows up during the Nazi regime. Despite not being Jewish herself, Liesel is deeply affected by the harsh realities of inescapable hatred and violence. However, she never stops hoping for a brighter future, and nurtures her own education and imagination by becoming the eponymous “book thief.” Her determination sends a powerful message about chasing expression, freedom, and love, even when such things seem impossible.
76. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Right up there with Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows, we have the legendary canine tale (or should we say “tail”?) that started it all: Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Our hero is Buck, a St. Bernard-Scotch Collie mix who goes from pampered pet to steely sled dog over the course of the Klondike Gold Rush. Buck is thrust into “pack society” and must learn to get along with the dogs on his team — not to mention his human handlers, whose greed and ignorance can be just as deadly as the Yukon cold. But as Buck starts to lean into his primitive side, he’s forced to choose: will he stick by the security of the sled, or pursue the call of the wild?
77. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Often regarded as the quintessential coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye recounts two days in the life of Holden Caulfield, a disillusioned teenager who can’t seem to do anything right. From the moment he’s expelled from preparatory school, Holden goes into a downward spiral full of violent encounters, awkward interactions, and rants about the many pitfalls of modern life. Yet for all his doom and gloom, there’s still a trace of hope in Holden’s story — that he could be the “catcher in the rye” who shields children from all the world’s harsh truths, so that they might avoid the same grim fate that’s befallen him.
78. The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn ⭐ Indie Spotlight
Innumerable pieces of literature and media have been devoted to the topic of time travel, but no other time travel book is quite like this. Rather than approaching it in terms of grand scientific possibilities, The Clay Lion uses time travel to tackle a single, very human question: what if you could go back in time and save your dying brother? The result is this beautifully rendered, fantastically moving journey undertaken by Brooke Wallace, who’s willing to bend all the rules of time, space, and society to do exactly that… even as she acknowledges the possibility of her failure.
79. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
We bet that you haven’t read a book like this one. Winning both the Newberry and Coretta Scott King Awards the year it came out, The Crossover is the story of JD and Jordan Bell — twin brothers who love basketball and are playing towards the championship playoffs of their school’s division when a groundbreaking crisis strikes. What’s more? It’s written entirely in verse. If that’s hard to wrap your head around, take a quick look at the opening of its first chapter below:
At the top of the key, I'm
MOVING & GROOVING
POPPING and ROCKING--
Why you BUMPING?
Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Be careful though,
'cause now I'm CRUNKing
and my dipping will leave you
G on the floor, while I
to the finish with a fierce finger roll...
Straight in the hole:
Though its bouncing rap beat might be different from the prose you’re accustomed to reading, underneath the poetry lies the same themes that ground all of the best YA books: friendship, individuality, courage, and the power of family. Ingenious and bursting with humanity, The Crossover is simply a triumph in YA literature that will quickly win over any poetry-phobic teen.
80. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The worldwide phenomenon that’s been adapted into a blockbuster play on Broadway, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time will introduce you to an unforgettable protagonist in Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher is fifteen-years old, wildly intelligent, curious, methodical… and he’s on the autism spectrum, which means that he doesn’t understand human emotions the same way as the people around him. He goes out of his way to make sure that his world is organized and logical, until all order is disrupted when he discovers his neighbor’s dead dog. What ensues is a rousing, touching adventure as Christopher attempts to crack the case of Wellington the dog’s death — and another even greater mystery in the family — all by himself.
81. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A staple of YA fiction, The Fault in Our Stars is John Green’s beautiful, lyrical tribute to a doomed teenage romance. Hazel Grace Lancaster, our heroine, knows that her days might be numbered — she has cancer, junk lungs, and a mother who insists that she attend Cancer Kid Support Group. She doesn’t dare to let herself think about the future, until she meets a gorgeous boy named Augustus Waters at the support group. Unfairly attractive, darkly funny, and wise beyond his years, Augustus steals both her heart and her breath. Nobody told her about this plot twist — and we won’t reveal anything else about what happens in this beloved novel about first love, heartbreak, courage, and the will to not go gently into that good night.
82. The Giver by Lois Lowry
If any YA book should be required reading for people of all ages, it’s The Giver. Published in 1993, Lois Lowry’s hallowed masterpiece has stood the test of time — and it might be even more relevant to us today than ever before. Twelve-year-old Jonas’ world is one of peace, security, and order, and it’s the only life he’s ever known. But everything changes when the Ceremony of Twelve comes to pass, and Jonas is assigned to be the future Receiver of Memory — the single person upon whom all of the memories of the past are given. Becoming the Receiver of Memory will mean coming face-to-face with the “sameness” that the elders in his fragile community so fiercely protect, and confronting an unspeakable question: where exactly does the line fall between a utopia and a dystopia?
83. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is truly a memoir that can stand on its own; fairytale-like in its prose and so emotionally transparent that you won’t be able to look away. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls tells the story of her own life growing up with three siblings and a set of demanding, non-conformist parents. Her father spent her childhood either drinking himself into a stupor or sparking his children’s imaginations by teaching them about physics and geology. Her mother shrank from the mere idea of domesticity, shunning her role in the household. In this dysfunctional environment, the Walls children took care of one another and dreamt together of a way to get out. This is the tale of the guts, drive, and unconditional love that it took to actually succeed and carve out a life of their own in New York.
84. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Every once in a while, a book comes along that will make the literary world sit up, read, and even listen. This kind of book makes waves — and, more importantly, its ripples might even incite change in society. The Hate U Give was that book when it was published in 2017. At its center is sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, who has a foot in two worlds: one in her poor neighborhood, and the other in her rich prep school. But both worlds end up colliding when her best friend from childhood, Khalil, is shot and killed by a police officer.
Thus begins a national uproar that upends Starr’s already crumbling world, for she is the key to the true story behind Khalil’s death: she was the only one who witnessed the shooting that night. Searingly relevant, emotionally resonant, and bravely unapologetic in its unflinching portrayal of institutional racism and the corruption of the justice system, The Hate U Give is a must-read in our day and time.
85. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
People might steer you towards the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or tell you that The Hobbit is “only” a children’s book, but don’t listen to them. The Hobbit is actually the best of them all. The prequel to the epic trilogy, The Hobbit is the funnier, livelier, and altogether better slice of the whole story — the Elizabeth Bennet to the Lord of the Rings’ Mr. Darcy, if you will. From the start, you’ll meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who embarks on an unexpected adventure with a band of twelve dwarves (and one unreliable wizard named Gandalf). Their mission? To journey to the Misty Mountains, defeat Smaug the great dragon, and help Thorin Oakenshield reclaim the seat of the King Under The Mountain. Meanwhile, Bilbo is the designated burglar of the merry gang, which is appropriate because, suffice to say, this time-tested book might just steal your heart.
86. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, and it’s no secret why this series of vignettes remain beloved even after so many generations have passed: the key is its remarkable universality. Sandra Cisneros set out to make The House on Mango Street accessible in all ways, once saying in an interview: “You could read one or you could read the whole thing. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but if you do it’s like a necklace of stories. I wrote it so that it would be approachable for all people, whether they were educated or not, and whether they were children or adults. That’s exactly the kind of warmth and love that replenishes the pages of this bildungsroman, which consists of a series of beautifully crafted vignettes about a twelve-year-old girl named Esperanza who grows up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, on a street called (you guessed it) Mango Street.
87. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you’ve probably heard of Suzanne Collins’ generational sensation, The Hunger Games. Collins dreamt up the premise one day while watching television and thinking, “What if a reality TV show was about 24 children killing each other, and what if it was broadcasted nationwide?” Katniss Everdeen is one such unlucky child in this first installment of The Hunger Games. From a poor family in District 12, Katniss must now compete against (read: murder) 23 other teenagers in order to survive — if possibly, made even more complicated by the fact one of the other tributes is a gentle boy from her district, who she has grown to know and perhaps even like.
88. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
In a faraway land, unicorns do exist. One in particular is shy and content to keep to herself in her clearing, deep in the green forest — that is, until the day that she overhears a whispered conversation that suggests she is the last of her kind. In this classic book about a unicorn who sets out on a journey to find out what happened to her brethren, Peter Beagle has weaved a rich, spellbinding fairy tale of enchantment, hope, whimsy, and bittersweet lessons learned. You’ll encounter harpies, witches, wizards, and kings, all told in prose so lovely it’s heartbreaking. Indeed, if you’re looking for a book that will haunt you with its exquisiteness long after you’ve closed its pages, The Last Unicorn is the one for you.
89. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Heard of Percy Jackson and the Olympians? Get ready to meet The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan’s acclaimed spin-off. Though the setting and basic premise (demigods exist in our midst, and they practice their skills at a training facility called Camp Half-Blood) won’t be unfamiliar to readers of Percy Jackson, our protagonists are different this time around. The Lost Hero features Jason, who has entirely lost his memory, Piper, who has a secret that could change everything, and Leo… who somehow keeps seeing ghosts. How will they come together when the real enemy arises from the mist? Intricately plotted, fast-paced, and endlessly entertaining, The Lost Hero will be a satisfying return to Camp Half-Blood for any fan of Percy Jackson or Roman and Greek mythology.
90. The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
What would you do if you had lost the ability to dream? Would you resign yourself to the new reality? Or would you go mad and regain the capacity to dream at all costs — even murder? This is the tantalizing idea that grounds Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, which finds a dreamless population of non-natives hunting indigenous Canadians, for the latter’s bone marrow is the key to a cure. But the price is death for the unwilling donor, which is why sixteen-year-old French and his family have been on the run for the last fifteen years. To escape the dark horror that awaits them at the hands of their pursuers, they must do something even more dangerous than dream — they have to act.
91. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Cameron Post was just hanging out with her best friend Irene, eating ice cream and soaking in the rays of the summer sun, when Irene suddenly leans towards her and kisses her. It changes everything — not least because soon her conservative aunt Ruth arrives to whisk her away to live with her in Miles City, Montana. Her aunt intends to “fix” Cameron, but when the measures she takes become drastic, Cameron has to step up and figure out who exactly she is changing into — and whether or not she even wants that for herself. Bold and bracingly realistic, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a frank exploration of identity, individuality, and sexuality that many children growing up will be able to relate to.
92. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
A lonely boy named Bastian. The doomed world of Fantastica. Dragons, giants, monsters, magic, empresses, and a strange book that draws all of them deeper and deeper into its pages — to a point where even Bastian may not be able to return from his quest. Just ask its millions of readers worldwide: whoever reads Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story is never quite the same again. Whether that’s because of the dazzling imagination that bursts from its pages, the beauty of its prose, or the unforgettable nature of its universe is up to debate, but one thing is for certain: The Neverending Story has that extra something that elevates a mere story into a time-worn classic for the ages.
93. The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
Ponyboy Curtis is a legend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in the hearts of the readers who grew up with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Hinton herself was only 15 when she started writing this classic novel about two warring rival gangs: the working-class “greasers” and the privileged “Socs” (short for “socials”). Ponyboy, our protagonist, is a proud greaser who would die for his boys. But he didn’t actually think that mortality was in the cards — until the night that his friend Johnny murders a Soc. The two weeks that ensue will turn Ponyboy’s life — and maybe even his entire worldview — upside-down in this precocious book with a beating, emotional heart.
94. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Sure, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a celebrated Hollywood film with an all-star cast of Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller — but, as the saying goes, the book is always better. In his original novel, Stephen Chbosky has crafted a sensitive, deeply powerful story about a boy who knows what it’s like to be, well, a wallflower. Charlie tries to blend in with the wallpaper at parties, he hasn’t kissed anyone that he really likes yet, and he writes to himself in a diary because he feels like it’s the only place he can really be himself. All of this starts to change when he meets two seniors at school, Patrick and Sam… but the earthshaking revelations that surface as a result might only serve to remind Charlie why he had created a safety net for himself in the first place.
95. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Poet X is the debut novel of revered slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, which is how you’ll already know that it will be something special. And it starts and ends with the novel’s powerfully drawn, irresistible protagonist, Xiomara Batista: a young girl who’s just beginning to discover her fiery passion for words. As her body grows into curves, her family life worsens, and the ever-constant gossip seethes at her school, it seems that Xiomara can only find solace in her school’s slam poetry club — just another thing that her ultra-religious mami can’t find out about. If you’d like another level of immersion, we recommend also listening to the audiobook. The verses are hard-hitting, beautiful, and so visceral that you might reel, and Xiomara’s story will ricochet around in your head long after you’ve put down the book.
96. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Yes, this book is the progenitor of two of the most famous lines in cinematic history (if you don’t mind spoilers, you can watch Inigo Montoya’s iconic moment in action here). But the beloved The Princess Bride, a simple story about a young, beautiful woman who is kidnapped and forced into a marriage with the awful Prince Humperdinck, is much more than just that iconic film scene. It’s a story that has adventure, humor, determination, pain, death, heroes, cowards, fun, tragedy, and miracles — all in one humble, fairy tale-like book. William Goldman once said, "I've gotten more responses on The Princess Bride than on everything else I've done put together — all kinds of strange outpouring letters. Something in The Princess Bride affects people." Pick it up and see for yourself just how much it might change your life.
97. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
If you ever wondered who or what higher being you can thank for Julie Andrews’ pitch-perfect rendition of a rather stern Queen of Genovia, it’s this book right here. Mia Thermopolis is just trying her best to be a normal freshman. This, to Mia, includes: passing Algebra, getting her hair under control, and kissing (or trying to kiss) gorgeous Josh Richter, otherwise known as “six feet of unadulterated hotness.” This does not include: finding out that you’re the crown princess of an entire small country called Genovia and then being forced into princess lessons. Both these average-teen and royal trials and tribulations are related first-person in The Princess Diaries, written in Mia’s hilarious, warm voice as she struggles to stay true to herself in a situation she never asked for — one that’s quickly threatening to spiral out of her control.
98. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys was a bonafide sleeper hit when it was published in 2012, spawning a bestselling series of four novels and a legion of fans across the nation. A good deal of its success has to do with the Raven Boys themselves: the group of four magnetic, unforgettable boys at the heart of the novel. There’s handsome Gansey, who’s on a quest to unearth the lost Welsh King. There’s fiery Ronan, who’s struggling with inner demons. There’s intelligent Adam, who’s in school on a scholarship. And there’s quiet Noah, who listens more than he talks. But here’s the thing: Blue Sargent, our protagonist, was warned away from the Raven Boys for a good reason. But as she’s inexorably drawn into Gansey’s quest, she realizes that maybe she’s in for more trouble than even she expected.
99. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
To illustrate the ferocity with which teenage readers have loved Ann Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, allow us to share a tidbit from a Reedsy team member: when she was a teenager, she and her five best friends all bought the same pair of jeans and decorated them so that they too could be a sisterhood of the… well, pants.
For the uninitiated, the series follows four best friends in their final years of high school and early years of university. Each of the four books (well, five, but we don’t like to talk about the fifth one), documents the four girls’ lives over summer breaks, along with the life lessons and growing pains that come with growing up. Meanwhile, the constant thread in the series is each girl’s attempt to stay true to the friends who’ve been by her side — and, of course, this bond of adolescent friendship is symbolized by the pants which mysteriously happen to fit each girl perfectly.
100. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Natasha is on her way to meet with a lawyer to stop her family’s deportation from their home in New York City to Jamaica. Daniel, the son of Korean shopkeepers, is on his way to interview with a Yale alum. It’s a big day for both of them. And it becomes even bigger when the two happen to meet and spend the rest of the day learning about one another, falling in love.
Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star is YA romance at its best, and a reminder that the universe is home to a million different paths for each of our lives to follow — sometimes the course we ultimately chart boils down to a single, by-chance moment.
101. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The title of Sarah Dessen’s novel promises a lot: who wouldn’t be intrigued to find out the truth about forever?
For Macy, the teenage protagonist of The Truth About Forever, that “truth” might just reveal itself to her one fateful summer, when she’s overcome with grief. Her father has just unexpectedly passed away and her boyfriend has informed her that he thinks they need a bit of space before leaving abruptly for Brain Camp. Macy begins to shut herself off from those around her — even her mother and sister, probably the only people who really understand what Macy’s going through.
Then an unexpected encounter with a catering company lands her a new job and maybe even a new set of friends. As the summer wears on, Macy starts to come out of her shell, finding that she might just be ready to take on what lies in store for her out in the world.
102. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Sure, Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad might all be animals. But the characters in The Wind in the Willows serve as very human archetypes, and the tale in general is ultimately one that we all recognize about camaraderie. It follows the misadventures of this motley crew of friends, as they each struggle to withstand the strong personalities of one another.
While the book can be read by young readers, critics have credited its lasting power to the mature themes and sharp social satire that run throughout its story — and which are observed at different levels based on the age of the reader. As Kenneth Grahame said, the book is for “those who still keep the spirits of youth alive in them.”
103. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Set in 1687, The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows orphaned Kit Tyler, who has just been forced to move from her beloved home in Barbados to the cold shores of colonial Connecticut. Feeling alone and misunderstood, she frequently flees to the nearby meadows, the one place she feels relatively at home. It’s in these meadows that Kit meets the eponymous Witch of Blackbird Pond, an old Quaker woman whom Kit forms a friendship with… a friendship that eventually causes locals to regard Kit with suspicion, giving life to the rumor that she, too, might be a witch.
104. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a classic of Harlem Renaissance literature, and in 2005, TIME included it in its list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923.
While the novel deals with mature themes, it’s become a staple in American high school classrooms. Tackling important topics such as race and gender roles, the novel centers around Janie Crawford’s quest to be her own person — not an easy feat for a black woman living in 1930s Florida. Her journey of self-discovery takes readers back through her past, and explores the relationships and roots that made her into who she is today — as well as her lifelong clashes against the values imposed on her by others.
105. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
This Savage Song is a dark urban fantasy about a city on the brink of becoming overrun by monsters — monsters being bred by the violence within the city itself. Kate Harker and August Flynn are both heirs to the city, but they couldn’t be more different. Kate takes after her father, who believed that monsters should roam free and humans should pay for protection. Meanwhile, August also makes like his father, who was a kind-natured man that sought to better protect the city’s human citizens. The one, tiny complication? August is, in fact, a monster.
Can the two heirs work together to save their city? Do they even want to? Read on to find out.
106. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Most of us have had that nightmare where you suddenly find yourself at school with no clothes on. In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean lives a different, but still mortifying, situation: all the secret letters she’s written to her various crushes have been mailed out without her knowledge! And now each one of them is approaching her to discuss the letters… including her sister’s ex-boyfriend. Adapted into an equally charming Netflix movie, Jenny Han’s tale of teenage love and finding the courage to speak your mind is sure to be the kind of book that teens struggle to put down.
107. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This story about a sleepy Southern town rocked by a crisis of conscience also shook up the publishing world when it was first released in 1960. Meeting instant critical acclaim, To Kill a Mockingbird became an immediate bestseller. It then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, be adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962, remain a staple in high school English classes, and find its way into just about every “Best Of” list published — including this one! In other words, it’s a classic of American literature, through and through.
108. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The “love against all odds” trope is frequently at play in YA novels, so much so that you might be tired of it. But in Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, young love is up against the toughest foe of all: time.
The Tuck family live a nomadic life on the outskirts of society, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Why? They unknowingly drank from a magic spring that granted them eternal life, and for years have ceased aging. They’ve remained pretty successful at hiding their endless youth, until young Winnie Foster one day stumbles upon their secret. Winnie quickly becomes entranced by the Tuck family and bonds with them, vowing to keep their secret. What she doesn’t know is that she’s being followed by someone who wants to expose the Tucks and the magic spring in order to make a fortune… and he’ll stop at nothing to do so.
109. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Huchinson
Things have been tough for Henry Denton lately. His mom is a struggling waitress barely keeping it together. His brother is an unemployed college dropout who’s just found out he might be a father. His grandmother is slowly losing a battle with Alzheimer’s. And he’s overwhelmed with unbelievable grief after his boyfriend’s suicide a year earlier. So when he’s abducted by aliens and given the option to destroy the world with the push of a big, red button, he can’t help but admit: it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
But Henry is a scientist who’s nothing if not logical. And so We Are the Ants makes Henry weigh the pros and cons of putting a stop to the world as we know it, and ultimately ask the question: Is there still good to be found?
110. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Sinclair family looks perfect from the outside, propped by the fact that their family gathers every summer on their very own private island. However, one summer on the island ends up being not so perfect: 15 year-old Cadence experiences an accident that leaves her physically weak — and amnesiac. Now she must find out exactly what happened to her. The New York Times called We Were Liars a “ticking time bomb of a novel.” If that doesn’t convince you this is a book of suspense and intrigue that you probably want to read, what will?
111. What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Kit Lowell is popular, and David Drucker isn’t. Typically, Kit sits with her friends Annie and Violet at lunch — until the day that she decides to sit with David to both of their surprise. The thing is, Kit’s dad has passed away, and amidst all of the sympathy and awkward silences, she finds David’s blunt honesty and direct nature refreshing. More than that, she wants to enlist his help in figuring out what really happened the night of her father’s trafic car accident. David agrees to help, but neither of the teens are prepared for the answers they find in Buxbaum’s acclaimed young adult novel, What to Say Next.
112. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah couldn’t be more relieved when her parents agree to send her to a summer program for aspiring web developers, taking it as a signal that they’re going to ease up on the pressure for her to find the “Ideal Indian Husband.”
Rishi Patel, on the other hand, finds himself eagerly anticipating the same summer program for the exact opposite reasons: his parents have told him that his future wife is going to be at the program, and this is his opportunity to meet — and woo — her.
When the two protagonists of When Dimple Met Rishi finally, well, meet, their parents’ maneuvering doesn’t go exactly as planned. But the summer feels long when you’re young, and there’s lots of time to discover that first impressions aren’t always what they seem to be.
113. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
When You Reach Me is a Newbery Medal-winning science fiction and mystery novel set in late-1970s New York City. Our protagonist is Miranda Sinclair, a seemingly ordinary sixth grader, who starts receiving strange and mysterious notes from an unknown source — one who seems to know a whole lot about her, including things that haven’t even happened yet. The notes seem to be telling Miranda that a tragic death is forthcoming, and she’s the only one who can stop it… unless she’s already too late?
Stead’s novel revolves around themes of friendship, redemption, and independence — the latter being an important component to Stead, who felt that children in the latter half of the 20th century had much more independence than children of the 21st century.
114. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High follows Emoni Santiago, a high school senior with more than just a full course load to juggle — she’s also got a daughter to look after and her abuela to support.
The only place that Emoni really feels like she can forget the struggles of her day is in the kitchen, where she’s a natural at creating mouth-watering dishes. Some might even say there’s a little bit of magic in each of her culinary creations. For a long time now, Emoni has dreamed of finding work as a chef when she’s done with high school, but then she’s always forced to remind herself that she doesn’t have time to pursue her dreams. Still, her passion for cooking has been simmering away for all this time, and things look like they’re about to reach a boiling point…
115. Zen and Gone by Emily France ⭐ Indie Spotlight
In Zen and Gone, teen protagonist Essence McKree lives in Colorado with her mother and nine-year-old sister, Puck. Of course, her mom works in a pot shop and is high most of the time — leaving Essence with the job of taking care of Puck, and feeling much older than just her 17 years.
But when she meets Oliver, a new kid in town for the summer, she starts to feel a little bit lighter and freer. The two agree to go on a three-day trek in the Rocky Mountains, only to find upon setting out that they have an unexpected stowaway: Puck. As if that’s not bad enough, the next morning Puck has vanished altogether. It’s now up to Essa to rely on her own instincts and her new friend Oliver to find her sister, and save her family once again.
You may have reached the end of this list, but that doesn't mean there aren't tons of other wonderful young adult books to explore. Check out this list of the best young adult romance books or discover the newest indie YA novels hitting the shelves here!