Who else remembers the Twilight craze circa 2008? I’m not going to lie, I was definitely Team Edward (I still am, honestly). While Twilight might not have been the greatest series of our time, it is responsible for putting young adult fiction on the map in terms of popular literature. Young adult isn’t only for teens (what really is a “young adult” anyway?), it’s for everyone. There are a lot of awesome young adult books out now, and I’ve got a lot of recommendations! These are my favorite young adult must reads!
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
“Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can. She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is. She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.”
This is the first book in the Mara Dyer Series, and I honestly couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those books that seriously created a problem for my academic commitments. The narrator is gloriously unreliable, and if you’re into unreliable narrators than this book is for you. The only negative of this book, in my opinion, is that it delves a little too much into the “Bad Boy” stereotype, but I’m willing to overlook this because the plot is so interesting.
You can find The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer on Amazon for $7.99
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
“Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing.”
This is one of my favorite reads EVER. Seriously. The whole series is gripping, and the end will leave you crying for days. I read this years ago, but it’s still one of the best series I’ve read. Libba Bray creates a beautiful and fantastic world which will make your life seem boring and sad in comparison. I’m surprised this trilogy hasn’t received the attention it deserves, though it does seem to have a growing following. If you’re a fan of Victorian fiction, definitely add this to your must read list! It’s like if Pride and Prejudice took place in Hogwarts if that makes any sense?
You can find A Great and Terrible Beauty and the entire Gemma Doyle Trilogy on Amazon for $5.99
Wither by Lauren DeStephano
“By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.”
Wither paints a horrifying future of the human race in which females are reduced to childbearing machines. This story has echoes of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but with the addition of mad scientists and a love interest. I loved this story so much I searched for an ebook so I could continue the series when I was traveling abroad. Each book in this series adds another layer to a very complicated story, and the twist ending is both satisfying and horrifying.
You can find Wither on Amazon for $6.99
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
“As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret.”
Ugh, this story wrecks me in the best way. The master/slave dynamic is unexpected, and though I had reservations, Rutkoski does a great job treading this fine line. While the main character at times seems a little too perfect to me, I was impressed by the world building of this trilogy which sends a poignant message about colonialism. Bonus, there were no love triangles, not even once.
You can find The Winners Curse and the rest of the series on Amazon for $7.80
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
“A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
I was hesitant to start this novel after seeing the conflicting reviews on Goodreads. I’m glad I went ahead and read it because I still think about this book years later. This is the kind of book that makes you want to turn on the shower so nobody can hear you weeping. Though it seems rather uneventful from the outside, Lockhart delivers a heartbreaking twist which is cleverly hidden in the novel title.
You can find We Were Liars on Amazon for $9.99
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
“My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.”
I read Everything Everything before the movie came out, and I finished it in a day. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I adored the book. Yoon paints the main character very sympathetically, and I found myself rooting for her escape just as much as she was. I also appreciate how Yoon avoided falling for the cliche love-at-first-sight nonsense. This story was surprisingly believable and endearing.
You can find Everything, Everything on Amazon for $6.83
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pheffer
“Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun?”
This story was horrifying and gave me nightmares but I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s a series, though the books could stand on their own because the second one follows a different family, and the final one involves the meeting of both families. I’ve always been more than a little interested in end-of-the-world disaster stories, and this one did not disappoint. Compared to other dystopian series like The Hunger Games or Divergent, this one is very realistic and humble. The main character doesn’t become a symbol of a revolution or lead her family from disaster. It’s a grueling story of survival and struggle without the glamor.
You can find Life as We Knew it on Amazon for $6.00
The 5th Wave by Rich Yancy
“After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.”
Unlike Life as We Know It, this main character does take a lead role in fighting against the outsiders. However, it’s dark and twisty in the best way. Things are not as they appear in Yancy’s The Fifth Wave, and you’ll be constantly guessing what comes next. The story ends on a cliffhanger, but don’t worry, the series is complete. Yancy’s writing is reminiscent of The Road by Cormac Mccarthy, but a little less depressing, if that’s possible.
You can find The Fifth Wave on Amazon for $7.00
Young Adult Must Reads
Even though I read constantly for class as an English major, I still love reading in my free time. As you can see, I really love fantasy and dystopian novels. They really offer me an escape from my often mundane everyday life. If you’re new to young adult fiction, I hope you give it a try! It’s really come a long way, and I think some of the greatest works of modern fiction are in the young adult genre! Happy reading! Feel free to follow me on Goodreads for more recommendations!
Have you read any of these? What are your recommendations?
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