Young adult (or YA) books aren’t just good books for teens — a lot of us adults read and enjoy these books as well. Ever since the beginning of Imagination Soup, I’ve reviewed all kinds of books, mostly picture books and middle-grade books. BUT, I’m a HUGE fan of YA so I had to include good books for teens — and those of us who just love young adult books and aren’t teens.
And be aware that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the hundreds of amazing YA books in the world. Just some that I’ve reviewed on this blog. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!
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Good Books for Teens
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
SCI-FI / ADVENTURE / ROMANCE
This is a great series for teens who are transitioning from middle grade to YA books. When Prince Kai asks Cinder, a human with cyborg parts, to fix something for him, she becomes entangled in a plot that puts her life at risk and puts the entire country’s fate is hanging in the balance. This is an AMAZING can’t-put-it-down series based on fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Red Riding Hood! And, every book is just as good as the previous book.
The Maze Runner by James Dasher
What a wild ride! Kids can’t put these books down. In this dystopian world, kids are either killed or must kill to survive. There are tons of plot twists that kept me surprised and entertained. Boxed Set HERE.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Set on Mars in a color-coded caste society, Darrow, a low-caste Red, infiltrates the ruling Gold caste’s special training school. His training is to kill or be killed, lead an army or be enslaved. It’s better than The Hunger Games — especially for teens who don’t want to read about romance and who really get enthralled with battle strategy. Every book in this unique sci-fi series is addicting — I dare you to put it down, it’s one of my favorite books EVER.
Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini
REALISTIC / #OWNVOICES / MENTAL ILLNESS / LGBTQ+
Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Lockdown (Escape from Furnace) by Alexander Smith
THRILLER / SCI-FI
Action and intrigue from the get-go, this is an amazing book because you, like our main character, have no idea what’s going on. Alex is framed and sent to the underground Furnace jail where the other prisoners are also under 18 and randomly killed or tortured by beast-like creatures. But Alex won’t listen to his cellmate and survive, he wants to escape.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
What a page-turner! Indigenous peoples are being hunted for their bone marrow because it gives them — and whoever steals it– the ability to dream. But when the worst happens, Frenchie isn’t even sure he can trust other indigenous people. He eventually finds a small group of people that help him survive and maybe even thrive –only if they can stay one step ahead of the government’s Recruiters and avoid the traitors among the People…It’s a harrowing quest for survival with echos of genocide that is, unfortunately, all too familiar.
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Well-written and very popular, this book series for teens is about a selection process for the prince to find and marry a princess. Many girls like this love triangle story filled with drama and political intrigue. I didn’t make it through all the books — only the first three — because this type of book isn’t my cup of tea but they’re a great choice for kids who like romance.
Steelheart (The Reckoners Series) by Brandon Sanderson
I love this unique world with its plot twists and turns. Epics are super-powerful, evil god-like creatures who control the world’s cities. Because David’s father was killed by Chicago’s Epic named Steelheart, David wants revenge. He joins the rebel group, the Reckoners, to learn how to assassinate Steelheart– a next to impossible feat for a regular human like him. This is a page-turning, mesmerizing series. BOX SET (I couldn’t put this book series down!)
The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans
If you like fast-paced, not too hard science fiction, you’ll love this fantastic read about a boy with electrical powers and an evil group who wants to control him and others like him. It’s an addictive series for teens who enjoy action, suspense, and adventure. BOX SET
Legend by Marie Lu
DYSTOPIAN / ACTION / ROMANCE
This mesmerizing story pits a wealthy elite girl prodigy, June, against a slum-kid criminal named Day. June’s brother is supposedly murdered by Day so she decides to hunt him down. But, the truth is that the country is manipulating them both.
Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
A fascinating historical fiction book about the Revolutionary War time period and a female spy. Frannie escapes from her cruel stepfather in the Bahamas and in a shipwreck opportunity, assumes the identity of a high society lady named Emmeline Coates. It takes careful observation to learn how to be a true lady but she’s successful, living safely in New York where she decides to use her wealth and position to help spy for the Patriots against the Loyalists. Action, suspense, and history — this is a wonderfully imagined adventure based on the life of a real rebel spy.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Orphan, Alina, lives in a country where much of the land and people have been a darkness called the Shadow Fold. When Alina’s powers reveal themselves, surprising even her, she’s taken to the magical leader, the Darkling, to train and serve him in his fight against the Shadow Fold. Alina feels out of place without her best friend and doesn’t fit in with the other Grisha. Plus, strange things begin to happen and she must discover the secret behind the source of the Shadow Fold’s power. Excellent series! BOXED SET
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr’s life is sharply contrasted between her two worlds– her family’s urban neighborhood and her fancy suburban school. Then when riding in a friend’s car in her neighborhood, her (unarmed) friend is shot by a policeman. Now people are rioting, the policeman, who works with Starr’s uncle, isn’t punished, and Starr needs to decide if she’ll speak out about what really happened. What plays out is a gut-wrenching drama that will make you think, question, and connect. This book should be required reading with memorable three-dimensional characters and the realistic events. It’s absolutely brilliant.
*Language and some mature content.
The Loop by Ben Oliver
The world is one government under the control of an AI called Happy. Luka’s a prisoner in The Loop, a barbaric prison for death row inmates who escape death if they’ll allow experimental surgeries. After Group A’s experiments turn the prisoners into smiley killers, Luka escapes when his prison warden tries to kill him. It’s a crazy, fast-paced adventure of life and death that is impossible to put down.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
REALISTIC / ROMANCE
Mia’s trying to remember what happened after her entire family was killed in a car accident. She’s trapped in a broken body and wondering if she has a life worth living anymore. It’s grief, it’s hope, it’s despair, it’s everything. . . it’s un-unputdownable. SO, so powerful!
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Camilla and her sisters have beauty magic in their blood to make the citizens of New Orleans beautiful...for a price. Because, without the Belles, the people are gray and ugly. When Camilla is second choice for the Queen’s favorite, she learns there’s a terrifying darkness to the princess. As she seeks a way to fulfill her role, she must decide if it’s worth risking her life in order to save the oldest princess, the true heir, who has been in a lifeless coma for years. I enjoyed this imaginative fantasy world where beauty is tightly controlled. Be ready for a surprise plot twist at the end.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
What a unique and mesmerizing story! In this alternate history, Zombies rise during the Civil War and Negro girls like Jane are either servants or trained as attendants to fight to protect their white families. Unexpectedly, Jane and her friends are kidnapped by the town’s mayor and shipped off to a sinister utopian-like western town where Jane learns the zombies are actually powering the town. Now it’s a quest to survive and stop the evil men who are running the town.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
REALISTIC / MENTAL ILLNESS
I couldn’t put this book down — it’s got everything: a great plot, excellent writing, and memorable characters. Of course, we aren’t sure our narrator, Mim, is reliable. We’re with her on a journey to help her mom who has been out of touch and has a disease. During her trip, we learn she’s supposed to be taking pills for psychosis and start to wonder what’s real and what’s not. Then we start to suspect that her mom might not have a physical disease…
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
HISTORICAL / PARANORMAL
Wolf by Wolf is a high-stakes journey of wits and bravery, an author’s skillful writing and imagination, and a compelling story that won’t soon be forgotten. It imagines a world in which WWII ended very differently — with the Axis powers winning. Yael, our heroine, is a death-camp medical experiment escapee who can shapeshift into other humans. She braves a motorcycle race across half the world in order to first win and second get close enough to Hitler to kill him. This is a must-read novel!
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
Reading this exceptional book feels so real and honest– it just resonates. Julia struggles against her parent’s cultural expectations as she tries to make a life for herself on her own terms. Of course, her mom is happy to tell Julia just how much she’s failed as a daughter. Then when her perfect older sister is killed, things get even more complicated and strange because Julia finds out that her sister had a lot of secrets…
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Not only will you love the writing but you’ll also love the characters Eleanor and Park, teenagers who are seemingly very different yet fall in love with each other anyway. It’s such a beautiful love story, you won’t want it to end.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, et.al
Because these books zip along with fast-paced adventure and action, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop reading! John isn’t a human teenager, he’s one of 9 Loric children who were sent to Earth when their planet was attacked by the evil Mogadorians. He moves around a lot with his guardian to escape these alien killers who can only kill the kids in numerical order…Now that he’s come of age, he develops his Legacies — powers that will help him survive. But one, two, and three have been killed already. John is next.
Eye of the Minds by James Dashner
A totally compelling and unique plot (with the craziest plot twist at the end!) Imagine our world with more advanced technology that lets you “live” in a game world. (I can actually imagine this!) Players hook up their bodies to the game; while they’re in the game, food and bathroom breaks are taken care of. It’s crazy action and adventure that will keep you reading late into the night!
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
HISTORICAL / FANTASY
Part historical (ancient Rome) and part fantasy, Elias and Laia live in a world that enslaves them both in different ways — Elias to fight and Laia to serve and spy. This is an epic page-turning series with lots of mystery, action, and a hint of romance. It’s SO good that it’s one of the most popular YA books right now.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
You don’t have to be a football fan to be mesmerized by this incredible underdog story of grit with the history of football as a backdrop. You don’t really know the history of football until you’ve read the history of Carlisle Indian School and Jim Thorpe. Did you know that a whole team played on the field all at once? Or that a president had to intervene because there were so many deaths from head injuries with no helmets? Jim Thorpe was clearly one of the greatest athletes in the world of all time, and his life wasn’t what you would ever have expected. Steve Sheinkin is one of the best writers you’ll read. The way he put together this book, which facts and how he told the story, is masterful. A must-read!
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
After Louis Zaperini’s WWII plane goes down in the open ocean — he’s starving, adrift, and prey to enemy planes. His triumphant survival is nothing short of incredible. You’ll be amazed and inspired at his incredible true story.
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
In this Wizard of Oz remix, Dorothy is evil and Amy Gunn, the other girl from Kansas, is recruited to help the freedom fighters to fix and free all of Oz. Great writing plus an unexpected plot make this hard to put down!
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
This is a powerful, well-told personal story from the wise, self-reflective perspective of Malala Yousafzai. Malala draws readers in with her accounts of daily life in Pakistan — the sounds, smells, sights, habits. We are hooked from the first page. As the stage is set, we learn how her country used to be and the fearful place it became with the Taliban’s influence. After she is shot for her blog writing in support of educating females, she’s taken to England for recovery and safety. The confusion and contrast between the countries and cultures really stand out during this time. But what is even more striking is Malala’s hope, positivity, and belief in what she stands for. You can’t read this book and not be changed by it.
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Epic fantasy stories weave together a world of magical creatures where evil is threatening the land. The writing is complex, detailed, and intense.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
A fast-paced action book that takes place in D.C. with all the political movers and shakers. The overarching themes of friendship, forgiveness, and redemption plus lots of action make this a thrilling adventure story.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Based on Alexie’s own childhood, this is a powerful, in-depth look at the life of Junior, a boy who wants a different life, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation but commutes to an all-white, no other native kids, high school. Highs and lows contrast his daily life — he’s bullied, his family struggles with alcoholism, he loves basketball, and he escapes by drawing cartoons. This book is one of my top 10 books I’ve ever read. Not only is the writing amazing, but the story is also powerful and will give you insight into the life of one boy growing up in poverty on a reservation.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
This story is unbelievably good. I think it would help a LOT of girls to read Xiomara’s story because it will make them think about what it means to be a woman, a poet, a teenager becoming an adult, a mixed-raced individual, a faithful believer… Xiomara’s sick of boys and her parents focusing their attention on her curves. She’s sick of the church rules. She’s just frustrated. And she expresses this frustration not to her family or friends but in verse.
*NOTE: Language and some mature content.
Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Lieu
GRAPHIC NOVEL / ADVENTURE
This is the superhero story about the origins of the Green Turtle, a 1940’s masked Asian-American man. I loved everything about this man who is a reluctant vigilante! His overbearing mother pushes him to become a hero and is disappointed in him, thinks him a failure. There’s a cool element of Chinese mythology (the turtle spirit) that comes into play, affecting Hank, who steps up to fight the Chinatown gangs, a hero at last.
Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
COMING OF AGE
Blade can’t wait to graduate from High School and get away from his drug-addicted rock star father. He thinks things can’t get any worse but they do — his dad crashes his graduation, his girlfriend moves on, and he finds out he was adopted. Blade leaves to Africa on a hero’s journey of sorts to find his biological mom. There he ends up finding himself. Brilliant and moving.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
ROMANCE / REALISTIC
Warning – you’ll laugh and cry and want more after the final page. (Okay, I didn’t just cry, I may have sobbed.) This is an amazing love story of two teenagers with cancer who learn to make the most of each day. To live. Not to wait to die. Powerful. (There is sex in this book.)
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Overnight a fence is built with armed guards divides Berlin. Gerta is stuck on the east side with her brother and mother while their father and another brother already escaped to the west. Greta’s father gets her a message that set her on a course to dig a tunnel to the west. It’s dangerous but Greta’s determined. Excellent.
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry
I didn’t even know what a zombie really was until I read this book. I wanted to give the zombie fiction a try. Surprisingly, I liked it a lot. The author skillfully made the zombies somewhat sympathetic, a difficult task to be sure. It’s absolutely compelling and hard to put down — don’t miss this series! BOXED SET.
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick (Chronicles of Nick Book 1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Chronicles of Nick series is actually a magical, mythical-creatures landscape. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed adventure about a teenager who possesses powerful magic that could destroy humanity. Of course, he doesn’t know it quite yet. But he will. 🙂
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
FANTASY GRAPHIC NOVEL
This is dark humor at it’s best! Shape-shifter, Nimona, appoints herself the sidekick to villain, Lord Ballister Blackhart. But Nimona is way more serious about real villainy than Lord Blackhart. She kills and creates chaos whenever possible which distresses Lord Blackhart. Nimona thinks Lord Blackhart’s rules are weird and totally unnecessary. But, despite Nimona’s dark side, together they set out to prove that the heroes are not really heroic. The main characters are very well-developed and both have back-stories that make them really interesting. I love that Nimona isn’t a sexed-up heroine, she’s just a regular-looking girl. I highly recommend this book and so does my 10-year old. Also, it on the long-list for the National Book Awards.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
When I first looked at the description of this book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it — a book about the devil? But, I read too many raving reviews not to give it a chance . . . I’m so glad I did, for many reasons: the writing, the concept, the plot, the characters totally blew my mind. Taylor created a totally original, completely compelling mythical world; it’s a world split into two sides, the Chimera and the Angels. Our heroine, art student raised by a magician named Brimstone, Karou, knows about the monsters, at least she thinks she does. Adding to the mystery and adventure is a forbidden romance between Karou and a beautiful angel named Akiva. I’ll admit, I couldn’t put this down but after I finished, I had some seriously freaky dreams! (Giving you fair warning.) This is one of the BEST books I’ve ever read in my life, let alone one of the best YA books for teens. AMAZING. (Some mature content.)
Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles) by Gena Showalter
A YA chapter book about Alice and zombies — that I recommend? Crazy but true! Alice’s father has embarrassed her all her life with is paranoia, refusal to go out after dark even to a school performance, and drinking but it turns out he is right. And now he, her mother, and her sister are dead. Adventure and a little romance make this quite a unique page-turner. BOXED SET.
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
If you like strong girl power books for teens, you’ll love this story of five mermaids who journey to find each other and to find the sea witches. An ancient evil is being unleashed and not only is trying to kill the girls but enslave or kill their communities. Very entertaining.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
REALISTIC (Middle grade with YA themes)
Joseph is an abused boy with a violent father, a parent at age thirteen, and is now living as a foster kid with Jack’s family on their organic farm. As he learns to trust them, we slowly learn about Joseph’s deep love for a rich girl named Maddie, his daughter named Jupiter who he’s never seen, and his shattering heartbreak. This is an amazing story– painful yet filled with redemption and hope — beautifully written and one that will give readers so much to ponder.
The Rig by Joe Ducie
Oh, this was a deliciously good action story. I loved how the author wove in the science-fiction elements with a realistic story of incarcerated kids who are mistrusting, and find that there are a few people in the world that they can trust. This detention center is on an oil rig in the ocean. But Drake is determined to escape — especially after he discovers what the Rig is really doing.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Dessen’s fiction always grabs at your heart and this is no exception. Sydney’s parents are wrapped up in her incarcerated brother. They don’t notice how Sydney’s floundering. She feels guilt for the damage her brother inflicted on a boy riding his bike, she feels scared about her brother’s best friend’s leering, and she feels hopeful about her new friend group. This is a powerful coming-of-age story.
Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartlett
I love how the author writes this using the facts and clearly stating when there are gaps in the accounts, making conjectures very clear. It’s a great book — and frankly, fascinating to understand the details of solving and then proving that Mary was the common thread of illnesses. It also asks the questions of Mary’s rights weighted with the rights of the public. This would be a great book club selection!
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly
The Living by Matt de la Pena
Shy is a teenager from the ‘hood working on a cruise line when a huge earthquake causes a tsunami that sinks the ship. As you can imagine, it’s a harrowing fight for survival on the open ocean with only a spoiled rich girl, and when they eventually make it to an island, there’s a strange illness, men with guns, and more danger than trying to survive on the ocean.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
You’ll LOVE this unique fantastical tale. Water horses eat human flesh so it’s a sign of great skill and bravery to race one in the annual Scorpio Races. Orphan, Puck needs to win the race or she and her brother won’t have food to eat or a home.
Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
If you love fairy tales, you must read this novel based on a comic book series. It’s based on the story of the Pied Piper and is about two brothers, one good and one evil, Peter and Max. Through the story, Max becomes more entrenched in black magic and only his brother, Peter, will be able to stop him.
Psion Gamma by Jacob Gowans
I generally dislike self-published children’s books. But not self-published YA books. This is one of those book series — self-published and excellent! In this dystopian world, some people have unique powers (psion powers) including our hero who can use his powers to fight the ongoing battle for a better world. Loved it!
Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal
Well-written, well-researched, and completely fascinating. I read this book start to finish in one sitting. I like how at the beginning of each chapter, Blumenthal quotes from the poem written by Bonnie herself called “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.” It sets the tone as she traces the lives of these two notorious criminals starting with childhood and ending with their deaths. What struck me was the dichotomy between how much these two valued their families but not any other human lives…they killed a lot of people and yet became immortalized through the media as sympathetic vigilantes. This biography doesn’t take a side of who is right and wrong but shows the facts as best can be known.
Wither by Lauren DeStephano
Another good dystopian book. (I know, I love them!) In this world, humans die at 25 years of age so young girls are kidnapped, married, and mated to rich young men. A young bride, Rhine, wants to escape but becomes attached to her pregnant sister bride and one of the servants.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
What if a plane carrying beauty queens crashed on a desert island? And someone wrote the book about it? Well, it would be a hilarious satire with meaningful life lessons.
Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee
Angels (not the friendly kind, the warrior kind) rule the world using humans for experiments, and disposable arm candy. Penryn’s sister is kidnapped, and she is determined to rescue her. On her journey, she meets Raffe, an angel whose wings were brutally cut off. The two work together and what they discover at the angel compound will make the world even worse off than it already is. I couldn’t put this book down — totally mesmerizing!
The 5th Wave by
Bot Wars by J.V. Kade
SCI – FI / DYSTOPIAN
Trout’s dad disappeared in The Bot Wars. When Trout makes a plea for his missing dad on a vid that goes viral, things go crazy FAST. Like the government trying to kidnap him. What do they know that he doesn’t know? A fast-paced, excellent YA adventure!
Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz
Learn how to make the most of being an introvert at school, with friends, in your family, and with extracurricular activities with this remarkable guidebook.
Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel by Gigi Amateau
Based on the true story of a plantation slave named Gabriel, this story imagines his childhood growing up with the master’s son, learning the blacksmith trade, and later planning a rebellion. It gives readers a glimpse into the grim realities of slavery and growing up in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
I loved this creative expanded Alice in Wonderland story. Alyss Heart, heir to Wonderland, flees from her evil aunt Redd who has attacked her kingdom and killed her parents. Alyss ends up in London, lost and unsure of how to return home. She tells her story to Louis Carroll who writes it down — but not exactly right. Eventually, her royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan finds her and takes her back to fight for her throne.
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
This was a very interesting story about an orphaned girl who finds out that her previously unknown dad is actually a married senator running for the office of President. In a whirlwind of events, she’s taken on the campaign trail with his “real” family, all the while trying to grieve her mother’s death and learn if she’s just a prop to her dad, or if he really cares.
Wereworld by Curtis Jobling
Drew is raised on a farm and knows little of his surroundings. He’s ill-prepared to live on the run, which he does when his were powers arise. Fortunately, he meets other WereLords including a WereBear Lord who fought with Drew’s father and is willing to help him. Kidnappings, revenge, murder, and a prophecy — this book has all the elements you’ll want in a fantasy adventure series. I loved the story, the writing, and the characters.
The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin
It looks like the Nethergrim is back and so are it’s monstrous minions. After Edmund’s brother is taken, he and his two friends and an adult decide to find the Nethergrim and save all the children who were taken. They’ve counted and know that for the Nethergrim’s spell to work, it only needs one more child. I found this a compelling story with interesting plot twists and adventure.
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
This is a most interesting graphic novel for teens that contrasts teen Anda’s real life and her gaming life and raises big issues about poverty, culture, and fitting in. I found it very thought-provoking and suggest this for a book club since it has rich discussion possibilities.
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
These are not the happy, cute fairies you read in Disney stories. These fairies want to control, kill, and destroy. But only a Falconer, a fairy hunter, can fight the fae and teenage Aileana just so happens to be the only one left. In the world. She’s on a mission to kill all fae, especially the one who murdered her mother. Ironically, she’s helped by a handsome fairy who she knows she can’t trust. But why would he turn on his own people? Loved this story and can’t wait until the next book sequel!
Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Mahler
I loved this story. Princess Meriel’s father marries a witch in disguise who turns Meriel’s brothers into swans. Spoiled Meriel must work for once in her life, weaving nettles into shirts to save her brothers. It’s based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Wild Swans.
Variant by Robison Wells
This might be one of my top 10 books of the year! It’s a wild ride that kept me guessing. Variant defies the stereotypes of typical dystopian novels. Benson feels lucky to attend Maxfield Academy on scholarship only once he gets inside, he’s locked in with the other kids without adults.
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
A totally original story of an orphan, Fever, who is raised by a scientist in the order of Engineers. She begins having strange memories and wants to know the mystery of who she is – if she’s a non-human Scrivener and where she came from.
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
I totally enjoyed this adventurous story of Deuce, who at fifteen becomes a huntress who will hunt for food outside her tribe’s underground enclave. When Deuce is assigned a partner named, Fade, who came from the outside, she begins to wonder about everything she’s accepted as truth.
Red Glove by Holly Black
A delicious reading treat of romance, magic, and the mob and book #2 in the Curse Workers series. Cassel’s family members are workers, meaning they have magic abilities in different areas but Cassel doesn’t know what his specialty is, or so he thinks. And, when his brother is murdered, both the mob and the Feds want Cassel’s help.
Jane by April Lindner
This modern Jayne Eyre shows us a Jane who is forced to drop out of college and accepts a nanny job for a rock star, Nico Rathburn. It’s an easy read that would entice most girls to read the real Jayne Eyre upon completion.
The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
The first in a duology, this is a romantic adventure about a princess whose lands were conquered. She infiltrates the invaders in order to get information to take back her lands. Of course, you can predict who she falls in love with, right? The Orphan Queen is a fun, lighthearted adventure story.
MYSTERY / HISTORICAL
The Queen’s Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1) by Jeff Wheeler
Taken from his family at age five, Owen lives at the castle as a hostage to the vicious king Severn. Fortunately, he’s befriended by the old queen’s poisoner who trains and helps him survive — at least for now. Great fantasy adventure!
The Chess Queen Enigma A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gelason
The two compelling main characters, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes, become entrenched in the mystery of a missing chess queen that is thought to unlock treasures and power. Entertaining.
Winterspell by Claire Legrand
My daughter LOVED this book. Claire awakens her godfather’s nutcracker statue and learns he’s an exiled prince from another world — a world of fairies and magic that is ruled by an evil fairy queen. It’s a spirited adventure filled with steampunk and fantasy elements, romance, and the ultimate fight of good vs. evil.
Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff
This exciting YA graphic novel is about a kick-butt heroine whose world travels are cut short when she returns home to England to get revenge, clear her name, and save the British army, even if she has to be her alter-ego, proper lady while she’s there.
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
Three girls lives, Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, are showcased in this beautiful verse. Each girl’s interest is explained and elaborated. We see how these interests grew into something more, into the passions and discoveries that become their life’s work. I love the flow of the poems and the celebration of these ground-breaking women.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
A slave girl and a Chinese immigrant girl flee west, disguising themselves as boys. Fortunately for them, three cowboys allow them to travel with them. We see the dangers of the Oregon Trail, racism, as well as the bonds of friendship in this beautiful historical book for young adults.
Air Awakens by Elise Kova
Vhalla thinks she’s just a library assistant but when the prince needs her, she learns she’s the only air elemental in the kingdom. Now she must decide if she’ll train her magic or let the wizards remove it. The second book is already out, too! Adventure and magic make this a great story.
Pure (Pure #1) by Julianna Baggott
This is the same premise as many of these YA books, dystopian, post-apocalypse hell. In this world, some people, the Pures, are safely inside “The Dome” while the the mess of who is left is not. Lots of twists and turns made it a fun read.
The Name of the Blade by Zoe Marriott
Our heroine Mio faces Japanese gods and monsters (love this unique mythology!!) when she steals her grandfather’s ancestral sword or katana for a costume party. Once she does that, the monsters can find her. But so can a warrior boy who was trapped in the sword and who can protect her. Interesting. I’m looking forward to the second book.
Freakling by Lana Krumwiede
What I loved about Freakling was the author did an amazing job with the ending – thank you to her for that! (Don’t you hate a book you love but the authors end on a cliffhanger OR just hurry through the conclusion and ruin it!?) Anyway, this is a dystopian novel about a group of people with the power to do things with their mind. It’s a power that can be used for good or bad, and the leaders of the city, Taemon suspects, are using it for supreme control and evil. It’s a great story, with a different angle than most dystopians. I really enjoyed it.
Origin by Jessica Khoury
Teen, Pia, is the only immortal in the world. She’s been raised in seclusion (captivity?) in the Amazon jungle with no knowledge of the outside world. But, all that changes when Pia finds a hole in the electrified fence and meets a village boy who helps her see that her origin might be a secret the scientists will kill to guard. Or worse. Predictable yet still entertaining.
Shade’s Children by Garth Nix
Yes, another dystopian novel – but if you like them, here’s another entertaining read. Nix creates a world of evil Overlords who kill children on their 14th birthday to turn them into hybrid-machine-animal killers. Shade, a holograph projection of his original adult self, guides escaped children to discover the Overlord’s secrets. Only how many children have sacrificed their lives for his missions? Is he everything he says he is?
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
We’ve all read books set in the future, but Ship Breaker isn’t like any of those, it’s better. Set in Florida, the world has changed into a bleak, crime-ridden place of despair, child labor and poverty. Our hero, Nailer, scavenges boats for his “crew”. When Nailer stumbles upon a fancy boat and a rich girl it leads him to reconsider his life, his friends and his family to hope that he won’t always be a ship breaker. Have no fear, this is a dystopian-ish novel with hope. (Thank you, kind author!) I don’t doubt a future dystopia is possible (Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is my current favorite book) so I equally love and fear any dystopian book which is why I’m glad Bacigalupi gave me a glimpse of hope for the future.
A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachman
HISTORICAL / HORROR (ages 13+)
A little bit historical and a whole lot freaky, this is the story of four teens who are invited to a special archeological unveiling of a historical French underground palace. But that was a lie. Now the kids are trapped in a labyrinth of booby-trapped rooms with a dangerous killer and have no idea what’s going on. Except that it’s unlikely they’ll escape with their lives.
The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff
HISTORICAL / FANTASY
Moss hates that her father is the Tower’s executioner. She has to accompany him to collect the heads. But her father says they have no choice, he’s a prisoner. Moss escapes, determined to have a different life. She finds it harder to survive than she thought, especially because the Riverwitch is after her. An interesting story in a cool historical setting.
Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey
I read this forever ago and don’t remember all the details. However, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s about a princess who has a dragon claw instead of a ring finger which her mother says she’s supposed to hide. But when a dragon kidnaps her, she discovers she has dragon blood and is meant to fulfill a prophecy to bring peace to the humans and dragons.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I loved, loved, loved this book and darn it if I didn’t find the second book a bit disappointing. 🙁 But, I still recommend reading this first story, if not the entire series. It’s about a girl named Seraphina who lives at court as a music teacher assistant and performer. She must hide that she’s part-dragon (scales and all) in a world that is mistrustful of dragons. Neither human nor dragon can be categorized into good or bad, both races do horrible things as well as show kindness. Beautifully written with evocative imagery, this is a wonderful story filled with mystery, danger, secrets, and friendship.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallari
This Watson, Jamie, is the direct descendant of that John Watson and it’s no coincidence that he’s at the same boarding school as Charlotte Holmes who is the descendant of Sherlock Holmes. When the two are framed for the murder of a classmate both hated, they pair up to solve the crime themselves. But more crimes are committed, each with a nod to their ancestor’s famous stories, and neither can figure out who is doing it. Is there a Moriarty around? If you’re like me and an Arthur Conan Doyle fan, you’ll LOVE the details that pay tribute to the original stories! This book does mention sex and drugs.
Into The Dim by Janet B. Taylor
FANTASY TIME TRAVEL
Time-travel relic hunters? Romance? This new YA book for teens starts with action and adventure from the first page. (And I don’t usually like time travel books.) I love how the plot and details wove together so artfully!
Bomb: The Race to Build –and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin! I’m so impressed by how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure / mystery / thriller and not real life and true. Well, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. But usually, it’s written like it’s duller than dirt. This book is a great exception — mesmerizing. I wasn’t even interested in the topic until I started reading.
Truthwitch: A Watchbands Novel by Susan Dennard
Safiya and Iseult are best friends and outcasts, running from life-threatening dangers. Safiya is a valuable Truthwitch and is hunted by those who want to use her for their nefarious purposes. An engaging adventure.
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
This is an adventurous series opener that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In a kingdom that outlaws the use of magic, Elizabeth hunts and imprisons witches (who have magic) until she herself is imprisoned. At the moment she’s to be burned, she’s rescued by a powerful wizard who shows her truths she’d never imagined and who she should really be fighting.
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
This is such a compelling book — in a world of magic only allowed to the queen and priests, the queen-in-training, Elli, flees the capital when the priests plot to kill her because she’s not blessed with magic. When she’s rescued by an outlander named Oskar and healed by an illegal magician, she learns she can void or expand the magic of others, making her a valuable prize for dangerous magicians.
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Unlike most romances in YA novels, I like that this story starts with a solid partnership and is about how the duo change and grow. In this world, there are Light and Dark magicians. The Light are in control and wall off the Dark city. The plot addresses injustice and prejudice as revolution and secrets unfold.
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
I can’t wait for book two!! After her parents are murdered and an eclipse darkens the world, the Princess Luna is safely taken to a tower by trusted guardians. She hates being cooped up even though the outside has flesh-eating beasts and almost total darkness. But she leaves with a mysterious archer named Fowler who is traveling to a land that is supposed to be safer. Together they encounter dangerous foes and new friends, but will Fowler’s secret destroy the little trust they have?
Rad American Women A – Z by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
I learned a ton from this book because many of these inspiring women aren’t well known. Each woman gets a full page bio with information about what makes her a role model and “rad.” Ladies like Wilma Mankiller, Nellie Bly, Lucy Parsons, and Hazel Scott.
Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
This book has an interesting premise — so I wasn’t sure if I would like it. But I liked reading about each of the 26 women. And, I liked that after each woman, the authors debated whether or not the person was “bad” — and how it depended on your perspective. For example, Anne Boleyn. Was she smart or manipulative or both? Each of the authors takes on opposing perspectives so one thinks Catherine the Great was a good queen for expanding her countries territory while the other author says that the deaths of her enemies (Peter and others) made her a ruthless queen.
Whoppers: History’s Most Outrageous Lies and Liars by Christine Seifert
I read this nonfiction book aloud to my kids — it was SO fun because it prompted great discussion and interaction. They couldn’t believe that people would make up such outrageous lies. Learn these incredible wild whoppers — from people you’ve heard of like Charles Ponzi to people you’ve never heard of like George Psalmanazar who convinced people he was a native from his made-up island of Formosa. It’s book best for middle grade to YA readers.
Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure
Based on a true story, this is a historical recounting of a wild boy the early 1800s found in France. I found the life fascinating as the author takes us on the journey of his life. He’s studied as a beast, less than a person. In fact, scientists of the time believed he was not a human but something other. This book will make you think.
365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio
If you’re like us and love quotes, this is the book for you. Even if you haven’t read the book Wonder, you will still find the quotes here (precepts) meaningful and thought-provoking from Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, Goethe, Sappho—and over 100 readers of Wonder who sent R. J. Palacio their own precepts.
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco
My kids can’t stop reading and rereading this enormous volume of Greek myths, retold Riordan style — I’m talking laugh-out-loud style. Remember all the hilarious chapter titles in Riordan’s Percy Jackson books? And the witty, sarcastic voice of Percy? Yup. All here.
National Geographic Why’d They Wear That: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee
Once my 13-year old and I started this book, we were engrossed from front to back. Albee writes fantastic chapter titles and headings: (Notice a theme? Nonfiction is getting GOOD, people!) “Caulk like an Egyptian,” “Putting the “Protest” in Protestant,” and “Hazardous Hemlines.” The book is formatted so that you can pick and choose interesting sections such as Corsets, Dressed to Compress because the corset photo is so intriguing or the inset of information has such a tantalizing title, “Why Did Napoleon Always Have His Hand in His Coat?”
National Geographic Kids 5,000 Awesome Facts 2 (About Everything)
I wasn’t sure about this book at first. It almost makes me cross-eyed to look at each two-page spread. Flip through to find a subject of interest — gemstones, famous heists, Harry Potter, or pandas, and the two-page spread has photos and facts galore. Sometimes a LOT of facts — 50 for shipwrecks– and sometimes LESS — 15 for animal athletes. I don’t think you could ever finish learning from this volume of awesome facts. Ever.
Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall
This is not your average biography for kids with small font and ugly black and white photos. No, it’s so much better! Untamed is an excellent depiction of Jane Goodall’s life with kid-friendly language using kid-appealing layouts of colorful photos. Interesting insets throughout describe tips for kids and information such as sign language. I love the Gombe Family Scrapbook at the end with some of the significant chimps in Jane’s life. I also found it really interesting to learn how this English girl read about Africa as a child and fell in love with it.
Genius! The Most Astonishing Inventions of All Time by Deborah Kespert
A visually appealing graphic layout makes it easy to access the invention information — in fact, it’s down-right enticing! Who knows I’d care about the Archimedes Screw and want to read all about it. Or the Elephant Clock — yes, that was a real thing which was super cool. You’ll learn about these early inventions and more modern inventions such as the space rocket. This is a well-done, readable nonfiction book.
Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrations by Christina Balit
This is a large, kid-friendly collection of Nordic myths with colorful illustrations and informative insets explaining more about subjects such as the Berserkers and the Norse diet. Excellent!
Book Lists By Age