10 Young Adult Books Everyone Should Read

1.    The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer



    What it’s about: This series is a mecha-sci-fi-fantasy retelling of all your favorite fairytales. (It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but I swear it does.) The first book, Cinder, is about a cyborg girl of the same name who is struggling to survive in Eastern Asia with her cruel stepmother. Since it is a fairytale retelling, of course a dashing young prince comes in sooner or later, and things go from there. The series gets more and more addictive as it progresses, and the final book, Winter, is a whopping 827 pages of action, girls kicking butt, and, of course, some really fantastic kissing.

    What makes it special: The amount of diversity in these books is incredible and doesn’t feel forced. There are disabled characters, mentally ill characters, nonwhite characters, etc., and they’re all shown as heroes.


2.    The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider


    What it’s about: Ezra Faulkner has his future career as a tennis player completely laid out—until he’s in a car accident that shatters the bones in his legs. The story picks up with him in recovery, understandably angry with the world, and then new girl Cassidy tumbles into his life. She’s funny, mysterious, and seems to like him back. Things are finally looking up for Ezra, and for Cassidy—until they realize just how connected their lives really are.

    What makes it special: This story goes from a quirky love story to a devastating story of loss and moving on. It’s the kind of story that stays in your head long after you’ve finished it.


3.    Hate List by Jennifer Brown



    What it’s about: Hate List is told from Valerie’s point of view as she grapples with the aftermath of a school shooting—one that her boyfriend executed. The entire school is against her, and nobody knows if they can trust her. After all, she was the closest person to Nick, and her name is on the notebook that contained the names of the students Nick planned to kill. Valerie knows she didn’t pull the trigger, but she also knows she’s not innocent in this. Nonetheless, she has to learn how to move on and how to be okay with being the one left behind.

    What makes it special: Besides dealing with the obviously tough subject, Hate List discusses how to handle guilt and how to determine what guilt is rightfully yours. It’s relatable for anyone who’s messed up royally.


4.    The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes



    What it’s about: The Naturals program is an elite handful of teenagers selected by the FBI for their natural abilities, such as profiling, detecting lies, and reading emotions. Main character Cassie’s mother was murdered several years before, and Cassie joins the program to catch killers and help save people like her mom. She’s making real progress as a Natural, at least until a new round of killings start, one that has her and her mother’s names all over it. As the killer gets closer and closer to Cassie, she and the other Naturals have to race against the clock to identify the killer before it kills one of their own.

    What makes it special: The chapters alternate between Cassie’s point of view and the killer’s second-person point of view. The killer’s chapters put you in their head, seeing what they see, doing what they do. It’s harrowing and heart-racing and makes you want to get to the end as quickly as you can.


5.    Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter



    What it’s about: The Gallagher Girls series is iconic, and rightly so. It’s all about young girls who are training to be world-class spies, going to classes for espionage, hand-to-hand-combat, and covert operations. Cammie, the daughter of the headmistress, is known as the Chameleon because of her excellent spy skills. In fact, her skills are what help her learn that Gallagher Academy is not exactly as it appears, and that it, like any spy, has many hidden secrets of its own.

    What makes it special: Everyone used to want to be a spy (or still does) and this series makes that fantasy a little bit more of a reality. The operations and schemes Cammie and her friends have to pull off are detailed and meticulous, and they brush against danger often enough to put you on the edge of your seat.


6.     If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo



    What it’s about: Amanda has a secret: once upon a time, she was called Andrew, and she was a boy who knew she had been born in the wrong body. Now, she’s moved in with her father after an altercation with a man in her hometown. Here, she doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It’s her perfect chance to start over, and everything’s going smoothly until she meets Grant. The closer they get, the harder it gets for her to tell him the truth about her and her past.

    What makes it special: LGBTQ+ characters are only recently becoming more populous in the YA genre, and a trans main character is exceptionally rare. If I Was Your Girl is a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a trans woman, written by a trans woman. It’s heart-wrenching and eye-opening and exactly what the genre needs more of.


7.     Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson



    What it’s about: Lia and her best friend Cassie bonded over their need to always be skinnier. Their addiction is what caused Cassie’s death, and now Lia is left behind to cope and manage her body all on her own. This book is about Lia bringing herself to the brink and then letting herself be dragged back, learning how to forgive herself and give herself the chance to heal.

    What makes it special: Anderson’s prose is like no other, and it adds to how haunting and breathtaking the story is. This book is blunt and doesn’t try to hide how ugly the reality of eating disorders is. Lia’s journey is a beautiful one all about her learning to love and forgive herself.


8.     Just Listen by Sarah Dessen



    What it’s about: Sarah Dessen is a household name, and for good reason. Her stories are swoon-worthy and romantic, and Just Listen is no exception. However, Just Listen stands slightly apart from Dessen’s other books. It follows Annabel as she tries to move on from the night she was raped, tries to cope with her sister’s growing eating disorder, and generally tries to just be okay. She’s very much alone until she meets Owen, a delinquent-turned-big-softie who’s just as alone as she is. He reminds her that it’s okay to let people in, and that not everyone is out to get her.

    What makes it special: Yes, this is a love story, but it is first and foremost the story of Annabel healing and taking back her agency. Yes, a boy helps her heal, but ultimately she’s the only one who can fix her own broken heart and get herself back on her feet.


9.     Every Day by David Levithan



    What it’s about: Every Day is remarkably unique in that its protagonist, A, wakes up in a different body every morning. They carry out their days as quietly as possible, trying to avoid raising any suspicion. They never wind up in the same body twice, so they don’t bother getting attached to anybody-- until they wake up in a body one morning and fall in love with the owner’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. After that, they go out of their way to stay close to Rhiannon, regardless of the fact that they know any relationship with her is doomed.

    What makes it special: There is no other story like this one. Readers don’t know much about A, because there’s not much to know. Readers know logically that there’s no way for A and Rhiannon to be together and stay together, but they find themselves hoping anyway. The fact that A exists in a new body every day is original and intriguing, but it also makes for a frustrating and heartbreaking love story.


10.     The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen



    What it’s about: Four girls from separate social circles come together over the ultimate scheme: to hijack the football team’s scavenger hunt and get revenge on the school that treats the team like kings and the girls like trash. Each girl has her own specific reason for wanting to teach the school and the boys a lesson, and those reasons are recounted as the book goes on, some more heartbreaking than others. Throughout the story, the girls race against the clock and their own football team, and eventually, their whole school.

    What makes it special: There’s no girl hate here, and while some of the girls have romantic subplots, the story is rooted in female friendship and female empowerment. It’s not about what the boys think of them or what the school tells them they can’t do; it’s about leveling the playing field and calling the boys and the school to task for their casual misogyny.