YA Novel Recommendations
August 15, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I enjoy escaping from the real world by reading YA novels. Please help me find some good ones!

What I like: Reasonably well written but not too heavy. Genres are fine (particularly historical, dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy in general), but I'm also fine with general fiction. If I like an author I'll usually check out everything they've written, so you don't necessarily need to mention books by authors I've already listed.

Books I've really liked (sorry, I can't do html tags, no matter how many times I've tried):

Dairy Queen (and the others in this series) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (although the latter books weren't great, so I didn't bother with the last one)
Stephanie Perkins's novels
Winger by Andrew Smith
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
A. S. King's novels
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy
The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray (also was not as great by the last book)
Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I know John Green is huge now, but I read Looking for Alaska, and found it heavy-handed and obvious, so I didn't bother with anything else by him. I'd be willing to try another one, but I'm definitely not into maudlin in my escapist reading, so I've been hesitant to get involved in The Fault in Our Stars.

I read Divergent and liked it fine, but wasn't interested enough to read the rest of the series. I read the Twilight series and it was fine as well, but didn't grab me the way the above described ones did.

So, do you have any beloved YA novels you'd like to recommend?

NOTE: Similar actual adult fiction is fine as well!
posted by odayoday to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (61 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I've seen this thread and got some good suggestions: http://ask.metafilter.com/232773/Favorite-wellwritten-young-adult-novels
posted by odayoday at 7:29 AM on August 15, 2014

His dark materials - Phillip Pullman (three books)
Enchanted forest chronicles - Patricia c wrede (four books)
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:32 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think if you'd be into Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty (Liane Moriarty's sister!)--she has one fantasy trilogy (the 3rd one isn't out yet) that I have really enjoyed and one general YA series that is GREAT. Really strong writing and very likable/ interesting characters. I LOVE LOVE LOVE her.
posted by leesh at 7:33 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Code Name Verity is fantastic historical (WWII female spies and pilots) YA. Heartily recommend.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:33 AM on August 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

OH YES to Code Name Verity.
posted by leesh at 7:34 AM on August 15, 2014

Not on your list or in the other thread: Holly Black. I personally love her Modern Faerie Tale series, but her Curse Workers trilogy is even more polished.

I've only read her Magic or Madness trilogy, but I'm intrigued by what Justine Larbalestier has put out in the past few years. Her husband Scott Westerfeld also has a big following, but I've not gotten around to his work yet.
posted by xenization at 7:34 AM on August 15, 2014

Seconding His Dark Materials, though it is somewhat "heavy," thematically.

For me, The Fault in Our Stars was not maudlin. Moving at times, but also charming and funny. And a noticeably better-crafted book than Looking for Alaska.
posted by baseballpajamas at 7:39 AM on August 15, 2014

Agree that Looking for Alaska was one of John Green's weaker books, but that the others are worth reading.

Melina Marchetta is an Australian author who is wonderful, although her first one (Looking for Alibrandi) is the weakest and I'm not a huge fan of her later fantasy stuff.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater is another good one in the fantasy genre. It's the first of a series.

Also, if you're not reading the blog Forever Young Adult I highly recommend it. That's where I get most of my YA recommendations.
posted by something something at 7:40 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh! I also really like Maureen Johnson's books The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath.
posted by something something at 7:43 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mortal Instruments did get worse!

NOW do:

the Abhorsen series, for sure....

but more importantly, HAVE YOU NOT READ DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE??? Bye, get started, see you in a week.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:43 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chime by Franny Billingsley (gaslamp fantasy)

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee (general fiction)

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (science fiction/dystopia)

I suspect if you like Cassandra Claire you might really like Laini Taylor's series that starts with Daughter of Smoke and Bone although it got too metaphysical and full of fate and angel war for me.

Kristin Cashore's trilogy starting with Graceling (fantasy)

Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand (urban fantasy w/ time travel)

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (general fiction w/ magical realism)

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Maggie Stiefvater's trilogy that starts with The Raven Boys
posted by Jeanne at 7:44 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Holes, The Westing Game, and The Phantom Tollbooth. I reread them all the time.

Also, anything and everything by Robert Cormier. Start with I Am the Cheese.
posted by jbickers at 7:54 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

oh my god yes, excellent addition from Jeanne, i forgot Graceling, what a great series that is too!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:56 AM on August 15, 2014

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (plus a new one coming out, I'll Give You the Sun) (realistic)

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (realistic)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (fantasy with dragons)

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (magical realism?)

everything by e. Lockhart, start with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (realistic)

Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series starting with Cinder (sci-fi?)
posted by wsquared at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2014

Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series is a bit lighter than His Dark Materials but features similar kick-ass female characters though in a historical London mysteries setting. They're a quick read.
posted by travertina at 8:00 AM on August 15, 2014

MeFi's own Phoebe North wrote "Starglass" and "Starbreak" which I really enjoyed.
posted by jillithd at 8:13 AM on August 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've just been re-reading Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, which were written back in the 90s. Kick-ass lady protagonists, a well-developed fantasy world, zombies. It's got pretty much everything.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:17 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Also that link leads to the boxed set on amazon, which has the first three books. Nix also wrote a prequel and a novella set in the same world; I haven't read either yet).
posted by Itaxpica at 8:19 AM on August 15, 2014

Peter Dickinson writes beautifully, YA and Adult, especially Eva and The Lion Tamer's Daughter and Other Stories.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:19 AM on August 15, 2014

I can't recommend Nation by Terry Pratchett highly enough. The Tiffany Aching series is good too. I liked each book more than the last--I thought the last one was amazing--but it did get much darker as it went along, if that matters to you.
posted by johnofjack at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loved loved loved Just One Day by Gayle Forman. There's a sequel called Just One Year that's also pretty good, but not really necessary.
posted by jabes at 8:35 AM on August 15, 2014

Response by poster: These are great recommendations, everyone, thank you!
posted by odayoday at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2014

M.T. Anderson's Feed and the two volumes of his
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Vol 1, Vol 2.

Scott Westerfield's Uglies series.

Steven Gould's Jumper series.
posted by nicwolff at 8:57 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really loved the Percy Jackson series too. I'm in the middle of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. And I really love Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series!
posted by driedmango at 9:10 AM on August 15, 2014

Frances Hardinge: A Face Like Glass and Gullstruck Island.
posted by inire at 9:11 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The The Dawning of Power: Godsland Series by Brian Rathbone is a fun fantasy series with some strong characters and an adventurous story.
posted by tumble at 9:32 AM on August 15, 2014

The Girl Who Would Be King and Storykiller by Kelly Thompson.
posted by roosterboy at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2014

Definitely The Uglies. I am surprised that it's not more well-known since YA dystopian fiction is very popular right now.

The movie of The Giver is coming out this weekend which reminded me how much I loved the book.
posted by radioamy at 9:37 AM on August 15, 2014

Before you see the movie, read The Giver by Lois Lowry. Great YA novel.

I also have a special place for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

FWIW, I really enjoyed The Fault in our Stars. Didn't find it overly maudlin.
posted by Falwless at 9:38 AM on August 15, 2014

You might like Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki. It's urban fantasy. All the chapters are song titles and music plays a central role in the book. And if you like it, there's a sequel.

Also you might like Those Who Hold the Threads by Joyce Allen. The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl who has to decide whether to join the family business. Turns out her aunts are The Fates...and she would be the third fate, if she agrees. I liked it a lot.
posted by tuesdayschild at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2014

LJ Smith is one of my favorite YA author. She write the original Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries trilogies. However the publisher basically controls the series now so there's some stuff published in them that she herself didn't write.

She also wrote a Morgan le Fay series and an apocalypse series that's on the brink of concluding!!
posted by spunweb at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2014

The Delerium series and Panic by Lauren Oliver.

The Mara Dyer trilogy (two are out, third book coming in the fall)

Nthing Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys books- her writing is really spectacular in that series. She also has a werewolf series that I didn't particularly enjoy, except for two side characters who get their own stand-alone post-series book, Sinner. I really liked Sinner, but I think you'd have to slog through three lackluster books to really fall in love with these characters enough to enjoy this book.

I loved The Fault in the Our Stars and couldn't get into John Green's other books. He did co-write a book with someone else that was pretty awesome, though: Will Grayson Will Grayson

Oh, and For Darkness Shows the Stars, a dystopian YA retelling of Persuasion.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:44 AM on August 15, 2014

I was also reminded of some gems by looking through the Newberry list.

Hatchet and its sequels are quite good.

Homecoming and the rest of the Tillerman series are great.

Judy Blume wrote a great YA book called Summer Sisters.

Also if you haven't read The Face on the Milk Carton, I totally loved that book and the rest of the series. Kinda trashy and dramatic but fun. (Why are so many YA books in series?)
posted by radioamy at 9:45 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're wanting to try John Green again (and really, you don't have to, it's totally fine), I recommend Paper Towns.
posted by freezer cake at 9:49 AM on August 15, 2014

Another vote for Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. Don't let the "angels & demons" theme put you off... it's fantastic.

The Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant is also fantastic, and I generally dislike zombie stuff.

I found Dianna Wynn Jones Chrestomanci series pretty charming as well.
posted by kimdog at 10:03 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series is one of my favorites even now. As an FYI, the first book skews more YA than the follow-ups; when I've recommended it to adult friends many like the first but don't really get into the series until the meatier second book.
posted by bettafish at 10:22 AM on August 15, 2014

I just finished Ruby Red by Ruby Red Kerstin Gier. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would! I was expecting a fairy tale retelling (I'm bad at reading jackets), but it's actually a time travel story!

Jonathan Stroud also just started a new series recently. The Screaming Staircase is set in modern London, but in a world where ghosts aggressively harass people, and kids and teens are the only ones who can see and fight them. It's also got a mystery!
posted by itsamermaid at 11:10 AM on August 15, 2014

I recently read, and greatly enjoyed, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones along with the two sequels. It would fit well with your current likes I think. I enjoyed the third one the most.

I also really love the four books making up the Alex Quartet by Tessa Duder for something different, although I have no idea how easy it would be for you to get hold of.
posted by shelleycat at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2014

Oh! Also The Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox. It's technically two books (Dreamhunter and Dreamquake) but they run right into each other and have been released in one volume as well. This is maybe less warm and fuzzy or overly dramatic than a lot of YA fantasy, but I enjoyed it's Edwardian flavour and found the story compelling.
posted by shelleycat at 11:36 AM on August 15, 2014

Classic SF: John Christopher's Tripod books and Robert Heinlein's juveniles (you can find these in the library).

Really classic Americana: anything by Stephen Meader. Used to be available at any library; now, the source is Southern Skies.
posted by Rash at 11:39 AM on August 15, 2014

I loved Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea; you can read a preview here. Queer author, swearing Polish mermaid in a filthy creek, magic pigeons and a working class setting.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:51 AM on August 15, 2014

Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

The Flora Segunda Trilogy by Ysabeau S. Wilce
posted by okieangel at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Laini Taylor's series that starts with Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Seconding this one - it starts off a bit typical for YA fantasy, but it gets really good.

Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series starting with Cinder
seconding this, too

My own suggestions:
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin
The Apothecary and The Apprentices by Maile Melloy

Have you read Libba Bray's short story in Steampunk An Anthology called Last Ride of the Glory Girls? I loved it.
One I haven't read and seems to be more adult is Deborah Harkness' All Souls series. You might like that one.
posted by soelo at 12:19 PM on August 15, 2014

Yes, Yes, Yes to both the Raven Boys and the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series. As well as the Graceling series. Go do them now. All are fantastic.

I just finished the Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen this week, and loved it. It is a beginning of a series, and similar enough to the Graceling books that I can't wait for the rest.
posted by librarianamy at 12:50 PM on August 15, 2014

Another vote for Laini Taylor. About twelve more votes for Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Kristin Cashore's stuff was also very good. I enjoyed very much Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance trilogy, starting with The False Prince (middle grade-ish). Yes to the Westing Game. Sorcery & Cecelia. The Enola Holmes books. Victoria Schwab's work. Sarah Beth Durst. Rosamund Hodge. Catherynne Valente's Fairyland books. Maybe Genevieve Valentine's Girls at the Kingfisher Club (not YA, quite). Rainbow Rowell. The American Fairy Trilogy. Gabrielle Zevin's Chocolate trilogy. Natalie Whipple. Brenna Yovanoff. Tammara Webber. Joelle Charbonneau's Testing trilogy. Tom Pollock's Skyscraper Throne trilogy. Sangu Mandanna's Lost Girl. Mefi's own Phoebe North. Where'd You Go, Bernadette. Karen Healey. Kasie West's Pivot Point duology. Gail Carson Levine's books (closer to middle grade than YA). Erin Bow's books (also closer to middle grade). Lev AC Rosen's All Men of Genius. Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy.
posted by jeather at 12:53 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's out of print now, but I read a series called Diadem many years ago that I absolutely loved.

Also, if you haven't read it: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
posted by Urban Winter at 2:01 PM on August 15, 2014

Check out Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen. The story of two high school girls who fall in love, the book is notable for beautifully evoked settings, complex and appealing main characters, great cast of secondary characters, skillful use of language and metaphor, amazingly accurate depiction of high school/peer group culture, marvelously realistic dialogue, and thoughtful and nuanced treatment of the complicated nexus of religion and sexuality. Highly, strongly, heartily, and enthusiastically recommended.
posted by littlecatfeet at 7:07 PM on August 15, 2014

Second in Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Also Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by David Leviathan and someone else. And Libba Bray's Beauty Queens is wonderful.

posted by danabanana at 8:42 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the general fiction category, I really liked Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Set in the 1980s, it follows the life of a girl whose uncle died of AIDS. It won an Alex Award which recognizes books written for adults with special appeal to teens. The hilarious Where'd You Go, Bernadette? is another crossover adult to YA. Anne Greenwood Brown has a series about mermaids (cold mermaids; they live in Lake Superior), love, revenge, & murder. Pete Hautman writes YA as well as adult fiction. His The Klaatu Diskos trilogy is a time travel story. Godless is about some teens who start their own religion worshipping a water tower.

I love the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Prachett, especially as audio books.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:19 PM on August 15, 2014

I am like you!

I really really enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians—it's a (complete) trilogy, the third and final book just came out this month, which got raves in the NYTimes and I also just finished and loved. They're not really YA but similar-feeling in terms of having adolescent characters and engaging storytelling.

The premise of the books sounds similar to Harry Potter (precocious and troubled young man finds out he has magical abilities, is accepted into magical school) but different and exciting in so many ways. The characters learn magic (magic that is way more tricky and finicky than in Harry Potter) as well as drink, have irresponsible sex, mess up their relationships, and struggle with growing up. They are a lot of fun to read but also make you think a bit (not too much)!

The first book in the triology is $2.99 on Kindle or you can probably find a paper copy for cheap (or check your logcal library)!
posted by Zephyrial at 9:50 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I personally love Jasper Fforde's other work, Nursery Crimes, Shades of Grey (no, not that one), and The Last Dragonslayers series(es?).
posted by Literaryhero at 12:17 AM on August 16, 2014

I came in to suggest Jaclyn Moriarty - leesh has beaten me to it, but I just want to heartily second the recommendation. She is easily among my favourite writers. Her general YA also has a very light touch of fantasy feel to it, imo.
posted by lwb at 4:38 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

One million times Ready Player One. It was a blast to read, particularly as a child of the 80s. Can't wait to read Ernest Cline's future works.
posted by sciencemandan at 1:49 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes to Jaclyn Moriarty (I prefer her earlier general fiction novels to her more recent fantasy) and Frances Hardinge - wonderful writers.

For YA recommendations, the Book Smugglers blog is very frequently updated (and excellent) with several reviews per week - you could browse their 10 star rated, 9 star rated or 8 star rated books.
posted by fever-trees at 8:00 PM on August 17, 2014

Unless otherwise stated everything here is the first book in a trilogy. It's just what they do now!

  • Breathe
  • Matched
  • Partials
  • The Selection (I promise it's not nearly as much about pretty dresses as it seems)
  • The Testing
  • Life as We Knew It (so realistic it's scary, but the mom is a badass, and I love that)
  • The Giver (the movie looks All Wrong to me, but oh well—don't miss that there are three more books in the series, as they're all good)

  • Code Name Verity is astonishingly good, and if you can handle the concentration-camp setting, its sort-of-sequel Rose Under Fire is also very good.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City
  • Orphan Train

  • A hearty recommendation for Shadow and Bone. Having just finished the third one in the trilogy, I think this may be the second-best writing on this list. I loved it.
  • Seraphina (sequel long-delayed)

    Standalone novels that aren't in a trilogy because the authors didn't get the memo I guess:
  • When You Reach Me
  • Jellicoe Road

    You're not missing much by skipping the second and especially the disappointing third books in the Divergent series. No worries. That said, The Fault in Our Stars is head and shoulders better than Looking for Alaska, and I'd give it a try if you want. It's sad, but I wouldn't call it maudlin.

  • posted by kostia at 10:50 PM on August 17, 2014

    I forgot Ready Player One. GREAT BOOK!

    And if the fantasy stuff isn't too offputting and you're really looking for escapism, here are two more trilogies that require a lot of suspension of disbelief and minor suspension of feminism:

  • Fallen (she's in love with an angel!)
  • Starcrossed (she's in love with the descendant of a Greek god! [like the Percy Jackson books with more snogging)

  • posted by kostia at 10:52 PM on August 17, 2014

    Seraphina (sequel long-delayed)

    Actually, it's due out in March!
    posted by leesh at 7:01 AM on August 18, 2014

    Response by poster: These are all wonderful, and I've put many of them on my library request list. Thanks for the responses, everyone!
    posted by odayoday at 8:42 AM on August 18, 2014

    I also forgot another one I love, love love: Unwind. I've read it three times, and it's so scary and so great. Now I'll shut up!
    posted by kostia at 6:13 PM on August 20, 2014

    I don't normally enjoy YA but have recently read and enjoyed "Derelict" by LJ Cohen.
    posted by emilyw at 6:21 AM on August 22, 2014

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