As I near the end of my teen years—in less than three months I’ll have entered my twenties—it’s become apparent to me that more and more people are asking why I still continue to read Young Adult novels. My response is always the same… Young Adult novels are 75% accurate to predicaments people go through on a regular basis. And I’m not referring to the teenage vampire hottie that shares your love of journalling. I’m talking about serious issues like mental illness, death, finding your own voice, coping with loss and dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Honestly, the list can go on. And it will, because this is a list (in alphabetical order) of YA novels that anyone can appreciate…
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent made the list due to its themes of family, standing up for what’s right, courage, and finding self identity. Tris made a choice that changed her life dramatically and she was forced to do so at the age of sixteen. I’m almost twenty years old and I don’t think I would’ve been able to make that kind of decision, so her courage strikes me as inspiring and the trials she was put through . . . moving away from her parents, being treating as an adult, figuring out who was a friend and who wasn’t—these are all things everyone can relate to.
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This brilliantly written story sheds light on bullying, domestic abuse, first love, and the first heartbreak. We’ve all experienced bullying at least once in our lives—I know I have—and bullying comes in the form of many different things; a boss that works you way too hard, school bullying, verbal abuse from a loved one, social media tear-downs, etc. And I know for damn sure we’ve all had a first love—not necessarily a relationship, but a hardcore crush.
Set over one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This coming of age novel shows the struggles of a girl and her family, through illness, alcoholism, abandonment, and the reality that you have to grow up. The story also brings up flashbacks from your own freshman year of college (or it can prepare you for your first year). I know I pick this novel up every August before I head off to school to get into the college spirit.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath it’s something more. Fandom is life. It’s what got her and her sister, Wren, through losing their mom. It’s what kept them close. And now that she’s starting college, introverted Cath isn’t sure what’s supposed to get her through. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
by Rick Riordan
Adventure plays a big role in this Children/YA book series, but along the way, readers experience heavy themes of friendship, loyalty, courage, and points of redemption. I rely heavily on my friends, we all do, and that’s exactly what this series promotes. In this world, friends will literally fight monsters to save you. And like most of us, the characters make some serious mistakes that they have to somehow figure out how to fix—and I’m not exactly talking about jamming the printer at work.
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Remember Me by Christopher Pike
This suspenseful read gives readers an insight to what waits beyond life (a version of it anyway) and it also shows relatable characters dealing with death—both the positives and negatives. There’s a point in our lives when we lose someone close to us, not necessarily meaning they died, but none the less, they’re gone from our lives and sometimes it’s very difficult to get over it . . . the characters in this story show the audience that no matter how it is that you cope, you’re not the only one. It’s reassuring in our time of need.
Shari Cooper hadn’t planned on dying, but four floors is a long way to fall. Her friends say she fell but Shari knew she had been murdered. Making a vow to herself to find her killer, Shari spies on her friends, and even enters their dreams. She also comes face-to-face with a nightmare from beyond the grave. The Shadow – a thing more horrible than death itself – is the key to Shari’s death, and the only thing that can stop her murderer from murdering again.
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Summoning is perhaps one of the most important on this list due to its wide range of themes, such as mental illness, broken families, verbal abuse (bullying, as mentioned above), compassion, character growth, and most importantly, forgiveness. These are things that we deal with everyday. I can’t stress enough how much this novel means to me, there are so many character flaws that I can actually draw from my life that the first time I read it, I felt relieved as the story unfolded and as the characters were redeemed. Truly a wonderfully well written YA novel.
My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again. All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost – and the ghost saw me. Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House… before its skeletons come back to haunt me.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
This fantasy YA novel plays heavily with morality, friendship, and independent strength. A quick, fascinating read for anyone who enjoys action and castles. So I hope none of you guys are assassins . . . but dealing with morality on a day to day basis can be exhausting and sometimes you chose the path you wouldn’t normally. And that’s okay, because like Celaena (the main character) we almost always are able to redeem ourselves.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
A relatable dystopian novel that focuses on the inability of choice. Unwind shows the characters’ will for survival, their triumphs and failures, and growth. Unwind gives kids a voice in an adult run world. Every teenager under eighteen can relate to this novel.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
This series (and it’s spin-off, Bloodlines) is powerful. With reoccurring themes of self sacrifice, morality, love, knowing when to stand for yourself, and mental illness. Brief moments of depression, self-harm, bullying, and coping with death. I honestly couldn’t recommend a better series. The two characters (best friends) that Mead focuses on are personality opposites with their own problems which covers a wider range of people. Lissa experiences mental instability, self-harm, bullying, and depression (to name the negatives) but she also encounters her first love, finding a balance in her lifestyle, having someone she can depend on, and expressing a role of leadership. Rose sacrifices everything for her best friend and she does it with a smile, she also is perplexed with morality in the series and is a very powerful main character that anyone, myself included, would strive to be.
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them. After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger… and the Strigoi are always close by. Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
This dystopian YA novel follows two different character, both of whom end up coming to the same conclusion on various subjects such as loss, family, loyalty, inability to trust others, humanity, and making the choices that separate you from the enemies. You fight for those you love, period. That’s how I see myself as I read this book; when something happened to Cassie or Ben, I pictured how/if I would do the same for someone I cared for. The answer was always yes. As human beings, we have a way of thinking, that if our loved one is hurting, we want to make it stop and that’s something Yancey was sure to put into this novel. (See my review over The 5th Wave.)
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
Written by Victoria Shayne (Intern at Literature Bitch)