By Bianca Smith • February 01, 2018
"YA books? Young Adult? But you're a real adult."
We haven't attributed that quote because the culprits list is too long. It's a common reaction to adults reading Young Adult (YA) novels. And we think their concern is misguided. We could say wrong, but that would be judgmental.
YA books are really just that, books. They can be romances, historical fiction, everyday fiction, fantasy, sci-fi; the list goes on. It's really a master genre with all the other genres included within. They're referred to as Young Adult because the protagonist is usually a teen. And like all teens, teen protagonists come in all shapes, sizes, interests, and behaviors. Sure some are angsty, and some are romance-infatuated, but some are amazingly heroic, and some are insightful. The YA novels are the same. Interestingly, it's often easier to find challenging topics in YA than in traditional adult fiction.
So, what are great YA books to get started? We're so happy you asked. Here are a few thought-provoking books to get you started. We have some modern fiction, fantasy, wartime heroes, and real-world challenges.
Justyce McAllister and Starr Carter are both top students, popular with their friends, and staying out of trouble. Both are also black and encounter innocuous traffic stops that result in guns firing and media judging. These titles are paired for their topic, and both are important reads. For many of us, racial profiling is something that happens to others, or we don't believe it's really a thing because it doesn't happen to us.
Anything by John Green is a good start, but The Fault in Our Stars is our recommendation. Teens dealing with being teens while juggling terminal illnesses tend to up the maturity stakes. This book will have you cry-laughing and admiring the wisdom of Hazel and Augustus.
Described as complex but truly extraordinary, Where Things Come Back finds wonder in the ordinary. Cullen Witter examines life in small-town Arkansas during a summer where his cousin overdoses, the town becomes obsessed with the return of an extinct bird, and his brother inexplicably disappears. Interweaved is the concurrent story of an African missionary who has lost his faith and is searching for meaning.
David Levithan writes YA romances, but not the typical girl meets boy, drama, make up, live happily ever after. In Every Day, A (that's his name) wakes up in a different body. Every day. It's a new life, with a new body, but he's in love with the same girl. Weirdly he's fine with that most extreme form of transient life. Until he wakes up as Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. A has found someone he wants to stay with, even if it breaks the rules.
Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond survived Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge. Never Fall Down is his story, told by Patricia McCormick, but endorsed by Arn. In Arn's voice, it tells of his time as a little boy and the soldiers arriving, through to him being forced into being a boy soldier.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich in 1939 Nazi Germany. She steals what's needed to survive when she encounters books and their irresistible pull. She learns to read and shared her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, along with the Jewish man hiding in her basement.
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. Sabriel is Garth Nix's first book in the Abhorsen trilogy and what launched him as a fantasy writer.