With the booming popularity of books like “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” “Harry Potter,” and “The Fault in Our Stars” in the past decade, young adult fiction is enjoying a literary renaissance. But with that increased popularity and attention has come an equally enthusiastic flurry of naysayers, insisting on both the lack of intelligence of these books’ (primarily female) teenage readership, and the immaturity of adult readers who deign to enjoy young adult fiction. “What can adults gain from stories about teenagers?” is the question at the heart of so many of these think pieces. “What do teenagers know about hardship? How can their stories be worth telling?”
There is a notion, I think, that stories are to some extent not worth telling unless they showcase the potential for pain, suffering and trauma inherent in the world. But personally, I have always loved young adult literature because it focuses on the world’s beauty. Which is not to say that all YA is sunshine and roses. In my experience, these books (if they’re well written) show a view of the world that’s complex and multifaceted. They have stories about war, oppression, injustice and hardship, but show the possibility of love and friendship and justice through it all.
So, for my fellow readers of YA and for those of you who are considering giving it a shot for the first time since childhood (please do!), here are some recommendations for some of the best YA currently on the market!
“Sabriel” by Garth Nix
A story about an eighteen year old necromancer on a quest to save her father and stop forces of the dead from consuming the world of the living. One of the most beautifully built fantasy worlds I’ve read in a long time, with a complex and well-written female lead to boot!
“Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke
One of my childhood favorites, about a girl whose father has the ability to read from books and make the stories come to life. It does not go well for anyone. Great story full of great characters and a really interesting take on an old idea!
“Sound” by Alexandra Duncan
A teenage girl lies her way into a position as a scientist onboard an interstellar research ship, and finds love, family and terrifying space pirates along the way.
“This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
A quick but really great read about a pre-teen girl, her family and the residents of the lake town they visit every summer. Great if you want to commit very little time and feel a lot of feelings.
“Annie on My Mind” by Nancy Garden
A story about two teenage girls falling in love that will melt your heart right out of your body. An incredibly sweet story about love, identity and firsts.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
A disarmingly intense story about a young boy’s relationship with his Native American heritage and his life on and off the reservation where he lives.
“The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” by Matthew Tobinson Andderson
Historical fiction with a twist! “Octavian Nothing” is about a boy and his mother who have spent their whole lives imprisoned in a house full of scientists who study their every move. A surreal adventure about race, justice and the fallibility of objectivity.