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 I’ve written Imagination Soup, I’ve reviewed 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!
Good Books for Teens
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer SCI-FI
(This is a great series for kids 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 which puts her life at risk and the entire country’s fate is hanging in the balance. And, it turns out she’s not who she thinks she is. This is an AMAZING can’t-put-it-down series based on the fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Red Riding Hood! And, every book is just as good as the previous book.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown SCI-FI
Thousands of readers, teen and adult love, love, love this YA book. It takes place on Mars with a caste society, color-coded by the level of your caste. Darrow, a low-caste Red, infiltrates the ruling Gold caste’s special training school. His training? Kill or be killed. Lead an army or be enslaved. It’s better than Hunger Games – especially for boys who don’t want to read about romance and really get enthralled with battle strategy. Excellent. And every book in this series is well-written, enthralling, and mind-blowing.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes ADVENTURE
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 Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans SCI-FI
If you like fast-paced, not to hard to read 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.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas REALISTIC
Hands down, The Hate U Give, is the best book I’ve read in 2017. The author’s gifted writing wraps around a compelling story that feels so real we can almost taste it. Starr’s life is sharply contrasted between her family’s urban neighborhood and her fancy suburban school. She is riding in the car in her neighborhood when her unarmed close friend is shot by a policeman. Now people 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 as a result is a gut-wrenching drama that will make you think, question, and connect. This book should be required reading. It does an amazing job at describing three-dimensional characters and the events that happen without vilifying or stereotyping anyone, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions and try to answer the hard questions the author raises. It’s absolutely brilliant.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton FANTASY
Camilla and her sisters have the 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 PARANORMAL HISTORY
What a unique and mesmerizing story! Zombies rise during the Civil War. Negro girls like Jane are either servants or trained as attendants to fight for their white families. Janes and her friends are kidnapped by the mayor and shipped off to a sinister utopian-like western town where Jane learns the zombies are actually powering the town.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold REALISTIC
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 FANTASY
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 REALISTIC
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson FANTASY / SCI-FI
Wow – you will love this series!! It’s typical of Sanderson’s amazing world building and offers tons of unforeseen plot twists and turns. In this world, the Epics are super-powerful individuals who have extraordinary powers and no goodness. Epics control the cities. David’s father was killed by Chicago’s Epic, Steelheart so now David wants revenge. He joins the rebel group called the Reckoners in order to assassinate Steelheart and all Epics. Memorable characters, a spell-binding plot, and page-turning action!
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell ROMANCE
Not only will you love the writing, you’ll love the characters Eleanor and Park, teenagers who are seemingly different yet who fall in love with each other anyway. It’s such a beautiful love story, you won’t want it to end.
Eye of the Minds by James Dashner SCIENCE FICTION
I can’t believe it took me so long to read this YA book for it’s totally compelling and unique plot (with the craziest plot twist at the end!). How to explain . . . Imagine our world with more advanced technology that lets you “live” in a game world. Players hook up their bodies to the game, and while thy’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!
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin BIOGRAPHY
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 HISTORY
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.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick BIOGRAPHY
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie MEMOIR
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, the story is powerful and will give you insight into the life of one boy growing up in poverty on a reservation.
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. (Romance and sex in this book.)
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen HISTORICAL
Overnight a fence with armed guards divides Berlin. Gerta is stuck on the east side with her brother and mother while their father and other 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.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir HISTORICAL / FANTASY
Part historical (think 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-turner with lots of mystery, action, and a hint of romance.
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick (Chronicles of Nick Book 1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon FANTASY (SERIES)
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 FANTASY
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. (I think there is mature content — I’m writing the review long after I read the books.)
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt REALISTIC
An abused boy, Joseph, is taken away from his violent father to live as a foster kid with Jack’s family on an organic farm. As he learns to trust them, we learn about Joseph’s love for a girl named Maddie, his daughter named Jupiter, and his heartbreak. This is a painful story but one with redemption and hope. I really loved it and highly recommend it! (Not necessarily YA but a book includes YA themes.)
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, all but her. She’s trapped in a broken body and wondering if she has a life worth living anymore. SO, so powerful!
I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff ADVENTURE
The second book in the Unknown Assassin series, this fast-paced adventure will keep your kids (advanced readers and teens) hooked until the last page. At least it did for me. (The first book was just as good and the third comes out June 2015.) So we pick up after the last assignment where our teenage assassin had doubts, botched the job initially, and then finished it. This assignment is to kill the leader of a radical
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen REALISTIC
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 NONFICTION
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 NONFICTION
The Living by Matt de la Pena – ADVENTURE
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.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo FANTASY DYSTOPIAN
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about orphan, Alina, 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!
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry ZOMBIE
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. 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 book!
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater FANTASY
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 SCI-FI
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! A dystopian world where some have unique powers (psion powers) that he can use to fight the ongoing battle for a better world. Loved it!
Wither by Lauren DeStephano DYSTOPIAN
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. Young bride, Rhine, wants to escape but becomes attached to her pregnant sister bride and one of the servants.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray HUMOR
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 FANTASY
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
Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles)by Gena Showalter FANTASY
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.
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 to 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 HISTORICAL FICTION
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.
Legend by Marie Lu
I now you’re going to be shocked to learn . . . it’s another dystopian novel! But, I liked the story a lot. It pits a wealthy elite girl, June, against a slum-kid, Day. June’s brother is supposedly murdered by Day and she hunts him down. But, the truth is that the country is manipulating them both.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor FANTASY
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 – and eventually, her royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan finds her and takes her back to fight.
The Web of Titan by Dom Testa SCI-FI
The Web of Titan is the second book in the Galahad series written by Denver’s own Dom Testa. In short, I LOVED this book. In long, the teenager characters are continuing their journey in space toward a different solar system. While they travel, they encounter a mystery around the moon of Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. As things get weirder and some of the crew gets debilitating headaches, especially Bon, the sullen Swede in charge of agriculture on the ship. Did I mention that they’re escaping a deadly virus on Earth that attacks anyone over the age of 18? Read the first book, The Comet’s Curse and you’ll be as addicted to this series as me.
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne REALISTIC
This was an 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 FANTASY
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 a 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 FANTASY
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 REALISTIC
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 FANTASY
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!
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly FANTASY
A seriously good girl power book for teens — this is the story of five mermaids who journey to find each other and then to 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!
The Maze Runner by James Dasher SCI-FI
I loved this series . . . mostly. I didn’t love the last books and how the story ended — but that often happens with series doesn’t it? Series are hard, especially when the first book starts out so strong. In this dystopian world, kids are either killed or must kill to survive. There are tons of plot twists which I loved and the writing is engaging.
Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Mahler FAIRY TALE
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 DYSTOPIAN
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.
Havoc: A Deviants Novel by Jeff Sampson (Deviants 2)
Emily is a Deviant — a werewolf at night only. She tries to figure out who made her a Deviant and who is the sinister Shadowman who watches her. It’s a quick and easy paranormal read.
Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer FANTASY
The Mafia in Italy is made up of powerful families whose members can turn into animals – snakes for the heroine, Rosa’s, family, and tigers for her enemy’s family. Of course Rosa falls in love with Alessandro, son of the enemy family and things get murderously messy. Romance, I think sex, too but I can’t remember.
Everneath by Brodi Ashton FANTASY
Teenager Nikki has just returned from a year in Everneath, where she was lured by the immortal, Cole. She has only six months before she must return for good but she’s determined not to go. Romance and sex if I remember correctly.
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve SCI-FI
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 DYSTOPIAN
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 FANTASY
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 ROMANCE
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.
Divergent by Veronica Roth DYSTOPIAN
Another awesome dystopian book – one is one of the best! Tris must pick her faction from the five choices. She picks a different faction than the one from which she’s been raised and she discovers the world is not as it seems. Nor is she. Romance. (Update: the second and third books weren’t as good as the first.)
Strange Skies by Kristi Helvig SCI-FI
If you like fast-paced action and sci-fi YA, this is a good book for you! Second in the Burn Out series, Tora is rescued from the Consulate and arrives on a new planet in the middle of a two conflicts — one, between the Resistance and the Consulate and two, between the vicious Resistance leader, Kale and the less-violent Resistance members including Tora. And everyone wants Tora’s father, the scientific mastermind behind the guns or at least his knowledge of the key to using the guns. Her feelings for James are conflicted but develop into a romance during this action-packed story. The story isn’t done yet, so look for book three next year.
The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows ROMANCE FANTASY
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 with book 2 out April 2015.
The Queen’s Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1) by Jeff Wheeler FANTASY
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 Rig by Joe Ducie SCI-FI
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.
The Chess Queen Enigma A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gelason HISTORICAL MYSTERY
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.
Burn by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine SCI-FI
Sequel to Scan, this book was even better than the first in my opinion. Now we know that aliens exist and have infiltrated the humans so well that most humans AREN’T human and don’t even know it. In fact, only 12 pure families remain and are in constant danger from the alien leaders. Only when Tate and his girlfriend, Christina, are captured, it appears that maybe they both have a common enemy and should work together to save the Earth. Tons of action and adventure made this a fun and entertaining read.
Crossing Ebenezer Creekby Tonya Bolden HISTORICAL
Winterspell by Claire Legrand FANTASY
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.
Fire Storm (Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins) by Andrew Lane MYSTERY
I’ve read two books in this series and really love them — it’s so interesting to read Lane’s version of an adolescent Sherlock who is developing his skills and passion for solving mysteries. This series is well-written and very entertaining.
Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff ADVENTURE
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.
Mirage Above World #2 by Jenn Reese FANTASY
If you haven’t read the first YA book in the series, do because it’s important to read them in order. The gist of the Above World teen series is that the humans were created to live into tech-dependent, animal-morphed groups who were lab created for different climates – mer people, snake people, centaur, bird people – and have mostly remained separate from each other. The main character, Aluna, a Kampii (mer), has left her clan in order to discover why they are dying. In Mirage, she and her unique group of friends must try to convince the Equian colonies that the evil Karl Strand is trying to take over Above World. These books pack in the action and adventure with such creative storytelling, I highly recommend them!
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins NONFICTION
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 HISTORICAL
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 FANTASY
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 book – 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 FANTASY
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 DYSTOPIAN
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 cliff hanger 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 DYSTOPIAN
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 DYSTOPIAN
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 DYSTOPIAN
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 they it’s unlikely they’ll escape with their lives.
The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff (ages 13+) 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 FANTASY
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 FANTASY
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 MYSTERY
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 HISTORICAL
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin! I’m so impressed how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure / mystery / thriller and not real life. 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 FANTASY
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 FANTASY
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker FANTASY
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.
Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland NONFICTION
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine FANTASY
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 FANTASY
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 address injustice and prejudice as revolution and secrets unfold.
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan FANTASY
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 women gets a full page bio with information about what makes her a role model and “rad.” Ladies like Willma 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 take 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 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 ch chosen n 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 an 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
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!