Em’s Top 5 Favorites: Books That Take Me Back

Before I got into reading, I didn’t really have anything that was truly mine. I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t in dance, I didn’t have many friends, I wasn't incredibly smart and I felt kind of lost in terms of who I was. 


In seventh grade, I found a book on a crammed school shelf called, I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. I’m not going to lie... I think the only reason I picked it up was because of the hot guy on the front. But I ended up loving the book for more than just the cover. 


I honestly don’t know what I would be doing now, seven years later, if I had not stuck my nose in that book. 


Would I have found another one along the way that gripped me in the same way?


I don’t know. 


Would I have even tried to really read a book that wasn’t required on a syllabus? 


Who knows? 


But from that moment on, I immersed myself in as many books as possible; I read any genre and any story. Through my readings I began to see a clear pattern—most, if not all, my books were YA novels. Yeah, the genre gets made fun of for being “cliché” and “childish,” simply because the term “young adult” remains tagged in the title. I think it is safe to say though that YA novels hold up a big space for readers today. For myself and for many others, YA offered an introduction into literature that would one day grow into a love for all genres, and yes, even the classics.


Below is a list of some of my favorite YA novels and where they rank in my heart:


1. Pure by Julianna Baggott  

This one is actually a trilogy, and I’ll be honest, several of the other books on this list are also trilogies. What can I say? Good things come in threes! 


I read this book my senior year of high school and it completely broke me––which happens quite often, honestly. This book has everything one might want—a broken world, a corruptive society, terrifying creatures, a strong female lead and a dreamy love interest. Baggott’s writing is incredibly beautiful and layered with poetics unique to novel authors. The contrasting pieces of such a dark story paired with tragically beautiful prose create fiction that feels utterly real. Baggott seems to write more in poetry than prose, and her writing style alone is one reason to read it. Another reason is solely based on Baggott’s beautifully-crafted plot. I guarantee that you will find yourself completely immersed in Baggott’s universe; you will laugh and cry with the characters as if their feelings were your own. You will forget your body’s basic needs like food and water and instead opt to read one more chapter. Seriously, just go on Amazon and click order. You’ll thank me later!


2. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I’ll be honest with you, the reason I love this book so much is mostly because of the ending of the last book. If it had ended any other way, I might not have made it through. I mention world-building in some of the following novels but this one truly ranks high on my list. Under the Never Sky includes concepts and ideas I still wonder about today, and I often find myself wishing they were real. Another reason why this ranks so high on my list is the actual characters. All of the characters remain flawed in some way, mirroring real people instead of creating outlines of flat roles. The characters are relatable and make mistakes that are all understandable, which makes this book almost too easy to fall into. 


3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Do you recognize the author's name but find yourself not being able to place it? Stephanie Meyer is also the author of the Twilight series! Although the setting and storytelling of this novel are nothing like that in Twilight, I still find it addicting. I think I have read this book four times, and each time, I love it a little more. It stands at a whopping 830 pages which is a lot, even for me. Every time I read this book, I find myself flying through the pages and staying until the sun peeks past the horizon. It is truly addictive, and the novel is fast-paced which allows for little relief. I am a sucker for love triangles, and this one includes more of a love square in some ways; if you read it, it will make more sense! The main characters shape each other well and the dynamic between them is beautiful. There is also a movie adaptation and I approve of it. I am biased and would have to say the book is better, but the movie does a great job depicting the storyline and the themes. Betrayal, trust, community and forgiveness are just a few of the themes covered in this novel.


4. Atlantia by Ally Condie

Ally Condie is also the author of the series Matched, which is how I came across this book. Although I loved the Matched series, I figured I should throw in a book that stands alone, aka  one that is not within a series. 


I read this book in seventh and eighth grade and loved the setting of it. Like the first book on my list, this one also involves a dome that covers a city, but this time it’s underwater. This book follows the main character Rio and her missing twin sister. One of the most captivating pieces within this novel is the mythological creatures involved. This book kind of made me obsessed with folklore surrounding sirens and other ocean creatures. The environment within the novel is incredibly beautiful and captivating with bright colors and futuristic concepts. I mean come on... a city underwater? Sign me up!


5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This book is the first of six books in the Lunar Chronicle Series. Picture this: modern fairy tales, robotics, space travel, beasts and a pandemic—although we don’t really have to imagine that. Each novel centers itself on a separate fairytale. In total the series goes through, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. 


I first read this series in eighth grade, but I think nineteen-year-old me would love it just the same. It makes it possible to daydream of white horses and shining armor while paired with the modern features of the future. The story building alone creates an entrancing world that seems too difficult to jump out of. If you’re looking for a modern-day fairytale, take a look at this series!


Although I haven’t been able to read many books of my choice since college began, I still value these stories and am aware of their impact on me as a person. I know each time I pick up these books, I will be able to fall into them the same way I did the first time. 


So, if you can, pick up a book that you read a while ago and see if you can rediscover it the way you did years ago!