Diana (co-founder): It’s hard to narrow down my favorite YA books to just five. I know that as soon as I post my list I’ll think of five other books I should’ve included. So for right now, here it is:
- “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling: There’s not much more that I can say about this series that hasn’t already been said. I fell in love with the characters and whizzed through each book in anticipation of what was next for Harry, Ron and Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts gang.
- “If I Stay” and “Where She Went” by Gayle Forman: From the moment I began “If I Stay,” I couldn’t stop reading this haunting novel. I immediately purchased the sequel, “Where She Went” and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Adam and Mia.
- “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins: My favorite of this series is the first book. I know I’ll get flack, but it’s my list and I think the first book far surpasses the other two in the series. The action in this book is riveting and finding out what will happen to Katniss, Peeta and Gale keeps you reading.
- The “Twilight” Saga by Stephenie Meyer: Although it’s been a couple of years since I read this series, I can’t forget how I completely loved it as I read it. I know I’m not supposed to love this and Harry Potter, but I do. So sue me.
- “Flat-Out Love” by Jessica Park: This is not a well-known book or author. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and couldn’t wait to find out whether Julie would end up with Matt or Finn. I grew to love the Watkins family and kept trying to figure out what happened with Finn and what caused his sister Celeste to carry his life-sized picture around with her.
Sandie (co-founder): My favorite YA books change every time I read another amazing novel, and honestly, I could’ve easily picked almost the exact same list as Diana, so in the interest of diversity, I’m going to skip my list-topping love of J.K. Rowling’s genius and Suzanne Collins’ dystopia to share the following (unordered) five adored books:
- “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak: When a book is good, you can’t wait to lend it to friends, but some books are such a treasure, you can’t bear to part with them. Zusak’s tale, told from the perspective of Death himself, is one of those stories that never leaves you. I am fairly sure my family thought I had injured myself when I read it, because I could not stop crying. It’s a coming-of-age story that takes place in Nazi Germany and explores themes of friendship, love, and the power of books. You must read it; just keep tissues on hand.
- “Before I Die” by Jenny Downham: I have Amazon’s “Other books you might enjoy” list to thank for this amazing read. It’s the chronicle of 16-year-old Tessa, who’s dying of leukemia but has made a list of things she’d like to do first. Downham’s poetic writing is gorgeous, and we experience Tessa’s sensations — from the slightest sounds to the most intimate of touches — with an honest immediacy that makes those final pages feel like she’s a part of you and not a fictional character.
- “Divergent” by Veronica Roth: My editors at Common Sense Media assigned me to read this dystopian thriller, and I just fell in love with it. The idea that in the future we’d all have to choose what “faction” we want to live in (even if it means never seeing our families again) at age 16 appealed to me for so many reasons. Roth, a debut author who wrote the book while a senior at Northwestern, created a compelling story and a fierce but fragile heroine (Tris) that it was unputdownable. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the love interest Four is awesome.
- “Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta: I have a thing for strong female protagonists, and Taylor Markham is one kickass girl. But underneath the bravado is a delicate soul that’s desperate for intimacy (not that kind… ok, well maybe a little) and connection. Enter Jonah Griggs, whose got an equally as complicated past and is definitely not a chocolates-and-roses Lloyd Dobler type of guy. Together they’re the perfect mix of intensity and devotion.
- “Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins: I had the good fortune of reading this book on my way to Paris, where I already knew who I was going to kiss (that would be my husband). Perkins’ story is a delight to read, not only because she makes Paris another character, but because she perfectly captures the culture clash between a clever American girl and her much worldlier boarding-school friends. I adored Anna and fell hard for her best friend/love interest St. Clair. I can promise you they’ll end up on our Favorite Couples list.
Cassie is a children’s librarian from Ohio with an unshakeable love for YA lit and a strangely specific fascination with fairy tale novelizations. Asking her to pick a top five list from the whole wide world of YA lit would send her into an unproductive spiral of indecision, so she’s going to limit herself to her top five books/series of adaptive YA literature because as previously mentioned, fascination with fairy tale novelizations.
- “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White). Meyer is, perhaps, one of the smartest adaptive authors out there. Not only has she created a rich and well-drawn world, she’s fit four fairy tales into it without ever feeling like she’s forcing anything. Innovative and brilliantly done.
- “Tyme” series by Megan Morrison (Rapunzel and Cinderella so far): I love every single thing about the two books in this series. I love how well crafted Morrison’s fairy tale world is, and real and substantial she’s made it. These countries and kingdoms feel like real places with real politics and real issues that have to be addressed and overcome, and that gives the fairy tales an incredible sense of grounding. Plus, her wordplay is fantastic.
- “The Princesses of Westfalin” trilogy by Jessica Day George (12 Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood/Robin Hood): Another brilliant author who grounds her fairy tales in real political and religious struggles, and combines three fairy tales into one world without forcing anything. An old and well-deserved favorite.
- “The Wrath and the Dawn” duology by Renee Ahdieh (Arabian Nights). This is by far one of my favorite reimaginings of the Shahrzad story. Innovative and unique, I love the world I’m pulled into with these novels, and I love the characters for how flawed they are. Give me assassin Shahrzad any day!
- The ever-expanding universe of novels by Rick Riordan (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythology). I have to applaud Riordan, not only for deftly weaving together some many staggeringly different mythologies and making them all work, but for being a platform for diversity in YA writing that the lit world so desperately needs.
Erin: I agree with Sandie and Diana, there are so many to choose from– with new books stealing into my heart all the time. Of course Harry Potter! No list would be complete without it. And like millions of others, I really enjoyed the Hunger Games, but I’m going to make-do with that note and not list it. I want to take umbrage with Sandie for totally stealing Anna and the French Kiss, but her story is better than mine (no romantic trips to Paris here), so I’ll let her have it. –2016
- “Cold Sassy Tree” by Olive Ann Burns: I have loved this tender coming of age story for what feels like my entire life. For many, many years I read it every summer. I am not a boy. I did not grow up in the South at the turn of the last century. I don’t live in the country. I don’t now (and never have) lived by relatives. At first blush Will Tweedy and I have nothing in common, but somehow it feels like we have everything. This is one of the most real stories I’ve ever read.
- “Cinder”series by Marissa Meyer: I love her imagination! This fairy tale twist complete with cyborgs, spaceships and alien mental control is such a rollicking good time that it’s hard to put down. With a wide cast of characters who are so well written that you’re invested in each. Plus, one is a dead ringer for Rhett Butler, which is always a plus in my book.
- “When I Was the Greatest” by Jason Reynolds: Ali and Will Tweedy couldn’t be more different, but they are truly kindred spirits. They’re hardworking, loyal, unintentionally funny and someone you want to hang out with. Like Will Tweedy, Ali inhabits his time and place with a fierceness that puts you there too. His friends, parents, neighbors and neighborhood are so well drawn you feel like you could go and visit them.
- “Undertow” by Michael Buckley: What’s exciting about this book is that it takes a fantastical creature—mermaids and not only turns it on it’s head but subtlety prods into things like immigration, prejudice, and poverty. Lyric Walker feels like a girl with a lot of problems but, like most kids, a lot of them are not mermaid related. A big one is her ever-changing relationship with her parents. (Who are actually there! They haven’t died or disappeared after the divorce or too rich to care or too poor to be around.) Somehow it’s both an exciting and thoughtful read.
- “For Real” by Alison Cherry: This book is hilarious. As in, I actually lol’d. It’s light and fun and the perfect sugary snack.
Claire is a social media junkie, and part-time library assistant. Her love of YA includes all swoon-worthy romances, dark paranormal stories, a little sci-fi flavour, a happy (or at the very least hopeful ending), and anything with dual first-person narratives. She is a comic, and graphic novel fan with a cat named Harley Quinn. Reading upwards of 200 books per year, Claire is always on the lookout for that next great standalone, or horrors of horrors a first in a series.
- “Perfect Chemistry” series by Simone Elkeles: After a long hiatus in the YA genre, Elkele’ trilogy grabbed me, and would not let go. The three books, each focusing primarily on one of the Fuentes brothers, and their lady loves, were my first introduction to the concept of dual first person narrative, and really used this device to the fullest advantage. I have read, and re-read these several times, and have recommended them more than is appropriate, or solicited.
- “The Rephaim” series by Paula Weston: Seriously, seriously, one of the hands down best paranormal series I have ever read. This series has it all, a great smoldering romance, awesome amnesia, fallen angels, nephilim, heartfelt female friendship, and unbelievably engaging pacing. Because of my lack of patience to see the conclusion to this amazing series I actually ordered them, and had them shipped from out of country. I can’t wait for what Weston may come up with next.
- “Made You Up” by Francesca Zappia: This was a slight departure for me, in terms of books that usually draw my attention. The main character Alex is dealing with schizophrenia. This book is so lovingly crafted with moments of true emotion, and real humour. I found myself more, and more connected, and concerned as Alex’s story went along. This was an amazing read by a debut author, and I will remember it for a long time to come.
- “Pushing the Limits / Thunder Road” series by Katie McGarry: I know this one is kind of a cheat. But I simply love McGarry’s books and couldn’t chose one series over the other. McGarry is the kind of author that I love, amazing stand-alone books that are under the umbrella of one (or in this case two) series. I love the focus on one particular character (and their love interest), but still get the chance to revisit favourites from previous books. McGarry also uses dual first person narrative. I literally think I will read everything now until the end of time.
- “All the Truth that’s in Me” by Julie Berry: I don’t know where to begin with this one. It blew me away. Written in second person, I had never read a YA so unique. The story is a dark one, set in a time period not our own. The historical leanings, and elements of the novel definitely aide in the world building, and immersion to the story. I remembering picking this one up, reading the first few pages, and knowing it was going to be something special. The characters, setting, and language are so richly drawn that it is nigh impossible to not read in one sitting.