Some of the best YA readers are the ones who grew up in the renaissance of YA lit, the post-Potter and post-Twilight period that made our favorite segment of literature boom.
Amrutha of We Live and Breathe Books is one of those readers. Now a freshman at Rutgers, Amrutha has been reading for as long as she can remember and is a complete and utter fangirl at heart. She’s passionate about YA lit and has carried her love of reading from childhood to now, right now, probably this very second if you follow her on Twitter.
Hello peeps! My name is Amrutha, and I’m a blogger over at We Live and Breathe Books – I love all things books and more importantly, all things YA. Today, I’m going to highlight some YA books that I want to shamelessly push on all of you.
Now I know: picking only 5 favorites is hard, so I gave myself a challenge to pick books that don’t come up when googling “Young Adult Novels” – I want to showcase books that might not get the spotlight that often and really, truly deserve it. Of course, my favorites include The Fault in Our Stars (which I pre-ordered and everything) and the Harry Potter series (seriously, don’t even read this list if you haven’t Harry Potter’d yet) and anything Rainbow Rowell had ever written, along with Stargirl and The Outsiders. The books on this list, while somewhat well known, don’t have nearly as much publicity or love as they deserve, so here goes
5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
One of the main reasons I don’t like leaving the house is because I might find myself face to face with a Canadian.
Literally the least predictable book I’ve read in my life and one of the most entertaining. This book is written in the point of view of 15-year-old Bee who is searching for her mother, Bernadette, who went missing. Our protagonist is a beautifully crafted female character, along with all the other characters in this novel. They are all so nuanced and flawed but lovable all the same – the construction of characters alone makes this book 5/5 stars. Add in a kickass plot and the awesome idea of being written with letters and emails and memos and faxes included, and you have yourself a winner.
4. Shug by Jenny Han
I read this book in 2006 or 2007, back when Jenny Han was still an unknown writer, and I would’ve never been able to see her speak at a panel at BookCon. Jenny Han is incredibly talented, and all of her books are phenomenal, but her debut novel Shug is often overlooked in the same way that Attachments is overlooked for Rainbow Rowell. Shug is about 12-year-old Annemarie – or as her mom calls her, Shug. Annemarie is an awesome character, and truly reminiscent of what it is like to be twelve. Mind you, I’ve read this book multiple times, before I was 12, when I was 12, and well after, and each time, the dialogue and the thought processes of our main character were just so on key to what a 12-year-old might be thinking about. This book really reminds you of what kind of things one worried about when they were that age, and that is a voice that I’ve had difficulty finding.
3. Sway by Kat Spears
!!!!!! I reviewed this book on my blog, and all I have to say is: YES. This book has one of the best voices of a teenage boy I’ve ever read. The book literally defines what it means to write solid character development for a main character. The book promotes growth and proves that people can really change for the better while still staying true to their character, which is always a plus – shout-out to our main character Jesse who is one of my favorite teen male characters of all time figuring his stuff out throughout the course of the novel.
2. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
I read this book around the time it came out in 2005 – my local librarian was really excited about it and shared it with me because I was that kid that all of the librarians knew. This book is definitely not as well known as Two Boys Kissing (also phenomenal) by the same author, but I believe deserves as much praise, if not more. The book takes place in a kind of fantasy-but-should-be-REALITY realm in which the stereotypes of our “normal” society are broken – the homecoming queen is a trans woman, cheerleaders don’t conform to gender specific stereotypes, you get the picture. In this world, Paul, our main character, is trying to get his love interest, Noah, back into his life. I’m recommending this book as one of my favorites because in 2005, I was 10, and this book really impacted me so that I was asking “where are more books with main characters like this?”
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Oh my god, I cannot rave enough about this book. It came out in 1999, so a lot of millennial young adults might not have read it, but I can guarantee it was one of the most honest books I have ever read. Speak is the story of Melinda, a high school student. I’m not going to reveal much more about the plot here because there is nothing I could voice here that Anderson hasn’t done 400x better in the book. This book is dark, exciting, and is incredibly truthful in its representation of dialogue and of teenage girls. There’s also a movie about this novel staring Kristen Stewart, which is actually pretty good (though it doesn’t hold a candle to the book), so you can explore the story and the main character’s voice through different mediums!
I sincerely hope you check out all of the books on this list! These are all ones that I hold near and dear, so I hope you love them as much as I do, and they gain the same momentum that books I mentioned at the beginning have.
Let us know in the comments what some of your favorite YA novels are!