Monday, July 9, 2012

15 Must-Read Teen Books

…that can be found in the Teen (or YA) section

You may be wondering what qualifies me to make this list. Well, I’ll tell you.
I’ve been reading teen books since I was a teenager (roughly a decade ago now). After college, I got a job at Barnes and Noble and began reading teen ferociously. Now it’s four years later, and I’ve read dozens, probably hundreds of teen books (and I have the journals of reviews to prove it!) Reading and writing teen has become a passion for me.
Here are 15 books that stand out in the realm of teen fiction:

A Wrinkle in Time: Madeleine L’Engle
This is a classic fantasy adventure where Meg and her younger brother travel to fictional worlds to save their father. It’s been a mainstay of the teen and children’s section for decades.
Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card
Another classic, however this one swings more toward science fiction. Ender is a genius and an inspiring revolutionary. Card has written many other Ender adventures as well.
Graceling: Kristin Cashore
This is Cashore’s debut novel, and it’s a gem. Katsa is a strong, Graced but flawed girl struggling to break from her uncle’s control. Her world is a medieval fantasy one, and her story is definitely worth the read. Also check out the companion novels “Fire” and “Bitterblue.”
Heist Society: Ally Carter
Carter writes light-hearted teen novels that are quick, fun reads. Heist Society is the first in her second series. Katarina Bishop, a girl from a family of thieves decides to use her skills for good. That plus her (boy)friend Hale’s involvement makes this a great read.
If I Stay: Gayle Forman
Life is about choices, and nothing better emphasizes this than Forman’s novel “If I Stay.” Mia is in a coma after a devastating car accident that involved her family. In an out-of-body experience, she relives life and watches her friends and family gather around her. Will she decide to fight to live or wither and die?
Leviathan: Scott Westerfeld           
Westerfeld writes an alternate version of World War I in his Leviathan series. This imaginative story pits the Darwinists (British, French) and their living creatures against the Clankers (Austro-Hungarians, Germans) and their war machines. Behemoth and Goliath are the second and third in this steampunk trilogy.
Matched: Ally Condie
This much-talked about debut takes place in a dystopian world where the Society matches its citizens for life. Cassia is matched with Xander, but she discovers he may not be her perfect mate. As the story deepens, Condie proves herself as an up-and-coming teen author. This book is followed by “Crossed”, and the final book in the trilogy, “Reached” is due in November.
Paper Towns: John Green
Margo is a stand-out girl who takes a seemingly normal boy, Quentin, on a late night adventure. Then, she disappears. As Quentin searches for her, he discovers her secrets. Green has many other soul-searching novels to his name, including “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska.”
The Book Thief: Markus Zusak
This historical fiction novel has become a modern classic. Narrated by Death at the time of the Holocaust, the story follows Liesel and her life in Nazi Germany. If you’re looking for a multiple award winner and a fascinating read, this novel is for you.
The Giver: Lois Lowry
A classic dystopian novel, this is a quick, intriguing tale. A precursor to today’s dystopian genre, Lowry created a classic in her telling of Jonas and his seemingly perfect world.
The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins
If you haven’t heard of the awesomeness of Hunger Games by now, then I don’t know where you’ve been hiding. This is an intriguing, dystopian book about a televised fight to the death. Unputdownable, as are the sequels “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.”
The Maze Runner: James Dashner
This dystopian fantasy opens with Thomas waking up in the Glade, knowing only his name. The mysteries compound from there. Dashner wrote a page-turning start to this series, and he continued with two equally impressive sequels and a prequel.
The Truth about Forever: Sarah Dessen
Dessen is an expert at real-life teen angst, as she writes about love and loss in today’s society. “The Truth about Forever” is about overcoming your past and taking risks for your future. Dessen has nine other stand-alone novels, with another coming in 2013.
Thirteen Reasons Why: Jay Asher
This thought-provoking novel is about the thirteen reasons why Hannah committed suicide. A heart-wrenching story and a must-read for any YA guru. Also check out Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s “The Future of Us.”
Wings: Aprilynne Pike
This fantasy book is a story of love and of self-discovery. Plus, it has fairies! A solid debut series, it is followed by 3 books, “Spells,” “Illusions,” and the finale: “Destined.”

Hopefully one or some of these awesome teen books made its way onto your reading list. Remember, every adult was a teenager at one point in their lives, so even if you think you’re too “grown-up” for the young adult section, I suggest you give it a chance. You might just be surprised at the greatness you find there.