The Best Young Adult Books We’ve Ever Read
When many of us think back on our favorite reading memories, we come back to our preteen and teenage years: staying up late on school nights under a blanket with a reading light, ready to fake-sleep at the sound of footsteps coming down the hall. Young adult books and their adolescent characters often make for the wildest adventures, complete with budding romances and intricate fantasy worlds. But YA novels aren’t limited to just young adult readers, especially when the writing is far from juvenile. We rounded up some of the best young adult books we've read (and are still reading) that are good for anyone.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han
"I recently reread To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. Netflix has a movie coming out based on the book, and I wanted to refresh my memory. Rereading the book, I was reminded how terrifying and exhilarating love (regardless of whether it's your first or fifth) can be, and how staying in your comfort zone—even if it's the easy route—often isn't the best route."—Lauren Phillips, Assistant Editor
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
"I’ve read all of John Green’s YA novels, but my absolute favorite is his most recent, Turtles All the Way Down. It tells the story of a high school girl with OCD and anxiety investigating the mysterious disappearance of a local billionaire. While I feel like many books about mental illness miss the mark, Green, who has OCD himself, so accurately brings readers into the mind of the main character that you empathize with her instantly and truly understand the world from her eyes. With an underlying storyline about first love and another about the power of best friendships, there is so much to love about this book."—Nora Horvath, Editorial Assistant
To buy: $15; amazon.com.
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
“The best young adult book I’ve read so far is We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart. The story centers around protagonist Cadence, who is part of an elite, coastal family with a big secret. The story follows the family's summers together, spent on their private island. Unexpectedly, the book takes on a sudden suspenseful energy, when Cadence can’t remember anything after their most recent vacation. The plot twist in the end is unexpected and super heart-wrenching. The authorwrites so beautifully and poetically, it’s hard not to be sucked in.”—Hannah Norling, Associate Producer
To buy: $9; amazon.com.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
"The Hate U Give is a great book. It opens up conversation on hot button racial issues for a younger audience and provides a much needed perspective in our current day and age."—Anneke Knot, Assistant Beauty Editor
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
“I went on a big John Green binge a couple of years ago, and to my surprise, his very first novel, Looking for Alaska, was my favorite (though they're all so wonderful). It’s set at a boarding school full of precocious and complex characters, and it’s somehow a bit less sappy than some of his other books. The way Green writes about teens’ perspective on life and death, romantic lives, and rites of passage is both compelling and respectful—he’s never patronizing and truly treats his characters as fully-formed people even though they aren’t quite adults. They’ve been trying to turn this book into a film for years, and it keeps getting derailed for various reasons. I hope it works out someday!”—Anna Maltby, Deputy Editor
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Unclaimed Baggage, by Jen Doll
"I recently read an advanced copy of Jen Doll's first YA novel, Unclaimed Baggage, which will be published in September. This is the contemporary YA novel I wish I could have read during my teen years. It centers on three outcasts—a liberal in a conservative town, a new girl in town, and a star football player with a drinking problem—who take a job at a store that sells items from luggage left at airports. It explores what it means to be an outsider and the power of friendship."—Elizabeth Sile, Senior Editor, Features
To buy: $18; amazon.com.
Available September 18.
The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“This book technically falls in the middle grade category (ages 8-12), as opposed to young adult (12-18), but there's still something for adults to love. When my niece read the Little House series, she raved about it, except for one volume: The Long Winter. 'It was a loooooong winter,' the 8-year-old offered me by way of a review. It’s true, not much happens in this account of the Ingalls family snowbound from October to May, twisting hay into 'logs' when the wood runs out and subsisting on parsnips and wheat milled in a coffee grinder. And yet a few years later, when my own daughter and I read this wonderful series, this book was by far my favorite. The family and their neighbor's ingenuity, togetherness, and bravery in the face of their hardship is instructive for children but also utterly inspiring for adult readers who might be feeling overwhelmed by modern life. Thanks to the Long Winter, whenever anyone complains about anything at my house, all I have to say to turn it around is, 'Oh yeah? Well, Laura Ingalls ate parsnips for seven months straight!'"—Sara Austin, Executive Editor
To buy: $7; amazon.com.