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.
- “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling: Through each novel, we follow Harry as he discovers the truth about who he is, makes friends, and fights to save the world he loves. This series is my all-time favorite because it’s impossible to resist the desire to escape into the world Rowling created and impossible to resist falling in love with the characters she crafted.
- “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins: This is a gripping series about a strong heroine who unwittingly pits herself against her oppressive government in her struggle to keep herself and her family alive. Everything about this series is amazing: engaging characters, mind-blowing plot, and a terrifying society as the setting.
- “Looking for Alaska” by John Green: Anything by John Green is a winner, but the combination of clever characters and witty dialogue in this story about a group of kids attending a Southern prep school drew me in immediately.
- “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson: This is a powerful story about a girl who struggles to find her voice after a traumatic event while simultaneously navigating her first year of high school. I liked the authenticity of the novel and the delicate way that Anderson handled the subject matter.
- “Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood” by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Set in the sixties in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in Las Cruces, NM, this book highlights the struggles that Hispanic teenagers faced as they tried to find a place in a country gripped by conflict abroad and within while staying true to their roots. It’s a bit heavy, but I got attached to the characters and their stories.
Carabee is an avid YA fan, which she reads in the 42 minutes of free time she gets every day in between chasing down her 4 year old, attempting to tidy her never clean house and preparing thrice daily meals that are usually met with abject ambivalence. She is a raging “Harry Potter” fan (she has a Devon Rex cat named Notsohairy Potter, known simply as Potter) and “Hunger Games” addict (she is currently plotting to get a Mockingjay tattoo) but her affection for YA extends to many other authors, including:
- “The Last Survivors Series” by Susan Beth Pfeffer: The trilogy which began with Life As We Knew It and culminated in This World We Live In chronicles the lives of survivors on earth after the moon is struck by an asteroid, drastically altering earth’s climate. The books follow three teenagers and their families as they fight for survival.
- “The Mortal Instruments Series” by Cassandra Clare: I can’t resist the YA and supernatural and this series has it all: teen angst, mystery, vampires, demons, wizards and romance.
- “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman: I adore Neil Gaiman and this moving book about an orphaned boy raised by the ghosts in a graveyard captured my heart.
- “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak: Told from the perspective of Death, this is the wonderful, sad story of a young girl in WWII Germany. I loved this book. I cried, happy and sad tears.
- “Incarceron” by Catherine Fisher: Incarceron is a prison, but one like no other you’ve ever imagined. Claudia, the daughter of the warden, meets Finn through a looking glass into the prison and begins a plot to get him out, not realizing just how complicated that task really is. This is the first in a series that I haven’t completed yet, but the story and characters are so compelling, I can’t wait to read more!
Cassie is a part-time children’s librarian 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 will likely send her into an unproductive spiral of indecision, but here goes, as free of overlap as possible (because otherwise: Book Thief, Harry Potter, Anna and the French Kiss, and Hunger Games would make repeat appearances).
- “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green: In a culture dominated with the idea that every person can change the world if they just believe in themselves, it’s both refreshing and thought-provoking to read a book where the message is that you will probably never make any sort of lasting impact on the world at all — and that that’s okay.
- “I Am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak: The parallel message to TFiOS in many ways, this book chronicles the life of an entirely ordinary teenager living an entirely uninteresting life — until he starts receiving playing cards in the mail, asking him to change the world for a handful of people, and himself along the way.
- The “Graceling” trilogy by Kristin Cashore: I adore everything about this author. It’s incredibly rare that a fantasy author comes up with an entirely original idea, and Cashore pulled that off in every installment of this trilogy. Her characters are rich and brilliantly painted, the relationships she builds are genuine and powerful, and her world is incredible.
- “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray: A plane full of pageant contestants crash-lands on a deserted island and have to fight for survival and rescue. A wonderful tongue-in-cheek look at beauty pageants, as long as you don’t expect this book to take itself too seriously, you’ll get a lot out of it. Like everything Libba Bray writes, it’s gold.
- “Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac” by Gabrielle Zevin: This book ended up being so much more than I was expecting — high school girl has an accident and forgets everything that’s happened since sixth grade. It’s a lot deeper and more involved than it seems on the surface, and asks the question: if you had a clean slate in your life, who would you decide to be?
Jessica is an avid reader of all things but mostly YA, because you can’t deny the awesomeness of that first kiss. Plus, who wants to read about old ladies dealing with divorce and caring for their even older parents? Blah. My Top 5 is a list of books I read in high school (independently of the English curriculum) that blew my mind and made me a life-long reader.
- “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” by Peter Hedges: Recommended in a Sassy magazine article (which I still have), I devoured this book several times in high school — long before the Johnny Depp movie.
- “The Wizard of Oz” series by L Frank Baum: I read up to book three; the second I got through during a family trip to an amusement park. I hate amusement parks. I loved the stories.
- “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen: Me junior year: “why do people keep talking about this Jane Austen lady?” At the library, I checked this out, her slimmest novel. Read it in a weekend. Met my long-lost best friend.
- “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver: Okay, so it’s not really YA but the story of Taylor’s haphazard search for a place to belong rang deep and true.
- “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr: This book decimated me. I sobbed for days and days. I have since never read another book where I knew the main character was doomed.
T. is a teen blogger at TheyCallMeT.com. She loves to blog about books, her Life List, family and to rave about her latest music and all things vampire. She’s a 14-year-old, 8th grade”Twilight Saga” fanatic!