The Best YA Books To Get Excited About

If you're shopping for the YA lover in your life (or if you're a YA lover yourself!), it's time to look beyond the adventures of Katniss Everdeen. YA has only gotten more popular in the years since The Hunger Games came out in 2008. Blockbuster adaptations of stand-alone novels and series like The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner, and Divergent have made YA familiar even to those who haven't picked up a book written for teens since they were a teen themselves. But just because the box office is dominated by dystopian landscapes and John Green doesn't mean that's all YA has to offer.

Recent titles destined to become classics represent all sub-genres. There's everything from historical fiction to magical realism and literary fiction. Here are some recent YA titles that should be at the top of your must-read pile. And feel free to ask anyone who tries to mock you for reading "kids' books" how many times they saw Toy Story 3. Anyone and everyone can enjoy YA.


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The Beauty That Remains, Ashley Woodfolk

In this gut-wrenching debut, a trio of diverse teenage narrators cope with life after untimely and unexpected loss. Shay had defined herself by her twin sister; now, her twin sister is gone. Logan, who once loved writing music, now spends his days watching his dead ex-boyfriend's vlogs. Autumn is unmoored without her best friend. They're brought together in interesting ways over their shared love for a band. Given the subject matter, The Beauty That Remains is dark — but it's a necessary and moving exploration of grief.
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The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles is shaped around a truly thrilling premise. Everyone in Orleans is gray, except for the few exceptionally beautiful individuals, called Belles. They're literally in color. Camellia Beauregard is a Belle — but it's not enough. She wants to become the most elite Belle in the land. Still, as she learns more about being a Belle, she reconsiders whether buying into this system is actually the right thing to do.
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Flight Season, Marie F. Marquardt

After a tumultuous first year at Yale, Vivi Flannigan goes home and takes an internship at a hospital in Central Florida. She's still grieving the loss of her father, who died the summer before she left for college. Also at the hospital is TJ Carvalho, who's training to become an RN. The two had met before — but on a night that Vivi tries not to remember. They're both caring for the same patient: A teenager dying of a heart infection who doesn't speak a word of English. There are a lot of balls up in the air, but Marquardt balances them all with dexterity. This book is an affecting exploration of issues like love, loss, and immigration rights.
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Caraval, Stephanie Garber

Ready to be swept away into a new world? Caraval begins on the small island on which Scarlett and her sister, Tella, have lived their whole lives under the control of their controlling father. More than anything, Scarlett wants to see Caraval, an annual interactive show. But now that her father is arranged a marriage for her, Scarlett doesn't think she'll have a chance to go. Scarlett and her sister steal away to Caraval — and immediately after getting there, Tella is kidnapped. To Scarlett's horror, finding Tella's location is the end goal of this year's Caraval.
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Berserker, Emily Laybourne

Where American Gods meets Godless, you'll find Berserker, a gripping mixture of Norse mythology, the American west, and good ol' growing up. Hanne Hemstad inherited her family's gruesome curse. When someone Hanne loves is in danger, her powers as a Berserker emerge — and she becomes a killing machine. Hanne and her brothers, Stieg and Knut, flee Norway for the American frontier to avoid being brought to trial for Hanne's crimes. There's only one person who can help them, and he's in the middle of the wild West. He also happens to be their uncle.
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The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli

Molly Peskin-Suso has had 26 unrequited crushes over the course of her 17 years. She hasn't ever had her first kiss. Now, she has to watch her twin sister, Cassie, fall in love for the first time.
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Wonder, R.J. Palacio

Technically Wonder is a middle-grade book — but people of all ages should read this novel. August Pullman is about to begin his first year of school. Born with severe facial deformities, Auggie had been home-schooled in between the 27 surgeries necessary for medical and cosmetic purposes. Now, he faces his biggest challenge yet: Being accepted for who he is. Wonder has an extraordinary effect on readers. You'll feel kinder for having read it.
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The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, Ambelin Kwaymullina

In post-apocalyptic Australia, a group of children have developed strange powers to control the natural environment around them. The government is rounding up these children, dubbed Illegals, and sending them to detention centers. Ashala Wolf lives in a refuge, but is betrayed by another Illegal and sent for questioning. Who are these kids? Why do they have these powers? And how the heck is Ashala going to get out of this one? We first heard of this book in a Money Diaries entry.
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Turtles All the Way Down, John Green

YA superstar John Green drew on his own struggles with crippling anxiety and depression to write this novel. 16-year-old Aza Phillips suffers from an intense form of O.C.D., to the point when she's often unable to focus on anything but her mind's spiral. Green sits with Aza's thoughts — what she calls "light-swallowing wormholes” — for more time than will be comfortable. Yet as a result, you'll walk away from Turtles All the Way Down with a much deeper sense of empathy for those struggling with mental illness.
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When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah's just graduated, and is almost out of her parents' clutches. After this summer, she'll stop hearing all about her mom's schemes to marry her off to the perfect Indian husband. So, Dimple heads off to a pre-college summer program for web developers, without realizing this, too, is part of a match-making scheme.

Rishi Patel is also heading to the same summer program. He's been told his future wife is there, waiting for him. Craving stability and tradition, Rishi's much more on board with the whole notion of arranged marriage.

What'll happen when Dimple meets Rishi? A charming, funny book — that's what.
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City of Saints and Thieves, Natalie C. Anderson

After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother think they've found their saving grace in the estate of wealthy Kenyan Roland Greyhill. Her mother is employed as a housekeeper. But when Tina's mother finds that the fortune is actually built on shady business deals and corruption, she's killed.

For the next four years, Tina lives on the streets and works as a thief. She's entirely motivated by revenge, and eventually makes her way back to the Greyhill estate to uncover the truth of her mother's death.
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If Birds Fly Back, Carlie Sorosiak

Linny and Sebastian are both haunted by loss, but that's not what brings them together initially. Both are obsessed with the novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrero, who just reemerged after a three-year disappearance. As they investigate the great enigma that is Alvaro Herrero, Linny and Sebastian come closer together. The mysteries that hound them — where Linny's sister disappeared to, and who Sebastian's father is — might be uncovered in the process as well.
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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon

Welcome to the perspective of 15-year old Christopher John Francis Boone. He knows a lot about a lot of things. He can name all the countries of the world and their capitals, and has memorized a whole lot of prime numbers. Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Christopher is not as good at reading emotions, or relating to people.

The action begins when Christopher's neighbor's poodle is killed, and he becomes the prime subject. Christopher applies his logic skills to solving the crime, and ends up uncovering some of the neighborhood's secrets in the process.
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Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of the 1986-1987 school year, Eleanor & Park tracks the course of "true love" between two high-school misfits. But, as Shakespeare said, it never did run smooth. Eleanor & Park captures the frenetic fury of first love, and the realization that love doesn't alway stay.
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Ash, Malinda Lo

Who can pass up a though-provoking retelling of a fairy tale? In this retelling of Cinderella, a girl escapes from the torment of her stepmother after she meets an alluring fairy, Sidhean, who will grant her wishes — if she submits to his pact. While she sinks deeper in the fairy world, Ash meets the King's Huntress, a woman named Kaisa. She'll have to choose between Sidhean's fairy promises and a true love right here on earth.
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Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver

To continue the morbid theme in teen literature (see: Thirteen Reasons Why), Before I Fall is about a high school Queen Bee trapped in a Groundhog Day-esque purgatory after a car crash. She repeats the same day over and over again until she can change her behavior, and escape the cycle.
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Saints and Misfits, S.K. Ali

She's only a sophomore in high school, but Janna Yusuf is already torn between just about a million communities. Her struggles with her Muslim identity come to a head when a) Jeremy, her non-Muslim crush reciprocates her feelings and b) the boy who assaulted her at a party is also a pious and well-respected member of their community.
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Uglies, Scott Westerfeld

Before the dystopia craze swept over the landscape of the YA literary scene, there was Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, an unsung hero of science fiction. In this futuristic society, all 16-year-olds are initiated into adulthood through a comprehensive and mandatory surgery that makes them excessively beautiful. Though Tally Youngblood is, at first, eager for the pretty surgery, she gets tied up with a group of people who choose to live on the fringes and abstain from the surgery.
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The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

After witnessing the police shooting of her best friend, 16-year-old Starr Carter is awakened to activism. Starr's previously cordoned-off world begin to collide, as the stress of serving as the only witness to Khalil's shooting and attending a private school begin to collide.
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Photo: Courtesy of Speak.
Looking for Alaska, John Green

John Green is a big name in YA; read any of his books, and you'll understand why. This one, his debut, is about a boy who falls hopelessly in love with the pretty, damaged girl across the hall at boarding school — you know, as you do. But what sets this book apart from many in the genre (and from many of Green's other novels) is that the boy eventually realizes she's a real person, not just an actor in his play, and everything gets more complicated from there.
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Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Set on the Spokane Indian Reservation, this classic YA novel tells the story of Arnold Spirit Jr., a 14-year-old with dreams of becoming a cartoonist. Junior's life changes when, upon encouragement from a teacher, he decides to attend the all-white public high school in Reardon, Washington, off the reservation. Since the book deals so frankly with the realities of life on the reservation — like alcoholism, poverty, and violence — it's landed on many "banned book" lists. All the more reason to dig in.
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Courtesy of Harper Collins
Falling Into Place, Amy Zhang

Liz Emerson intentionally crashes her car into a tree. In a twilight haze in her hospital bed, Liz's nonlinear flashbacks piece together the short, tragic life of Meridian High's Queen Bee. With its inventive, unconventional structure, this book will especially appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Paper Towns, John Green

John Green is a big name in YA; read any of his books, and you'll understand why. This one, which was made into a movie in 2015, perfectly tears down the "manic pixie dream girl" trope.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Saving Red, Sonya Sones

Sones' latest novel in verse follows Molly, a high schooler whose chance meeting with a homeless girl pushes her into action for the first time since suffering a family tragedy a year before. Deftly handling the topic of mental illness, the book also features a sweet romance and plenty of humor.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dutton Books for Young Readers.
Still Life With Tornado, A.S. King

As Sarah deals with the fall-out of broken friends and an even more fractured family, she's visited by her ten-year-old and twenty-three-year-old self.
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Photo: Courtesy of First Second.
This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel follows a preteen girl on her family vacation as she tries to make sense of her evolving sense of self, and her subtly shifting family.
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Photo: Courtesy of Flatiron Books.
If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl tells the story of a young transgender woman who wants a new start at a new school without the burden of her past. But as she starts to make friends, she begins to wonders if she'll ever really be close to anyone she's keeping so many secrets from.
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Photo: Courtesy of Speak.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan

Green and Levithan each write the perspective of a teen named Will Grayson. Though the two Wills couldn't be more different, when they finally meet they're able to change each other's lives for the better.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delacorte Press.
The Sun Is Also A Star, Nicola Yoon

Yoon's latest novel is already a National Book Award Finalist. The book follows two teenagers who both have believed they don't have the time or inclination to fall in love— until they meet each other.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic.
Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older

Sierra Santiago loves to create murals. But when she notices something very strange happening to the street art in her community, she learns her family history is more complicated, and magical, than she could have ever believed.
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Photo: Courtesy of Candlewick.
The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist explores three generations of women as they find and lose love. It eventually focuses on Ava Lavender, a girl born with wings who was raised apart from so much of the world but still isn't safe from it.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson

The National Book Award finalist follows the adventures of Nimona, an aspiring supervillain (with magical powers, of course) who finds a very reluctant mentor in Lord Ballister Blackheart, a man with a mysterious past. The story is illustrated by popular webcomic creator Noelle Stevenson.
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Photo: Courtesy of Balzer + Bray.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli

Simon has never had a boyfriend, but he does have a mysterious e-mail pen pal he can't wait to talk to every day. As their messages become more personal, Simon begins to wonder what a real-life meet-up could lead to.
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Photo: Courtsey of St. Martin's Griffin.
Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

As Cath goes through her first year of college, the one comforting constant is her fan fiction. Even as her sister pulls away, her relationship with her parents gets more complicated, and her love life becomes, well, suddenly existent, she knows she can go back to the characters she loves. But what happens when her story ends?
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Photo: Courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books.
Extraordinary Means, Robyn Schneider

In a not so distant future, drug-resistant TB has become a health crisis — and teens suffering from the illness live in sanatoriums meant to help them recover, and keep them separate from the general population. When Lane first arrives at the Latham House all he can think about is getting better and getting out — until he finds a group of friends that makes him feel like he belongs.
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Photo: Courtesy of David Fickling Books.
Unbecoming, Jenny Downham

This multi-generational story explores what it means to do what is expected of you, how relationships can form out of need as well as out of love, and the power of forgiveness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
The Great American Whatever, Tim Federle

When Quinn's sister was alive, the two were a filmmaking team. They had big dreams and works in progress. With summer winding down, Quinn has to decide if he'll make the most of it, with minor adventures and crushes and maybe returning to screenwriting. Most importantly, he grapples to come to terms with how his sister died and who he'll become without her.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dial Books.
Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley

This novel by Printz Award-winning author John Corey Whaley follows Lisa, a teen so determined to get into a good college, she's willing to drag a fellow teen, unaware, into the psych test study that will serve as her admission essay. The teen in question, Solomon, has stayed home for three years because of his debilitating panic attacks. At first, when a "new friend" shows up on his door, he's suspicious. But as their friendship grows, so does his interest in the outside world.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Anna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit

This magical realism novel imagines Poland during World War II through the eyes of a young girl who barely has time to grasp the loss of her father when a new father figure appears — the Swallow Man. While he's not someone she quite understands, she puts her trust in him. And so they set out on a years-long walk and attempt to avoid the constant violence and danger of war.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Books.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear, E.K. Johnston

This haunting book about a teenage girl, Hermione, learning to live her life after she's drugged and sexually assaulted, is riveting. A departure from novels like Speak, which follows a young woman who deals with the aftermath of her rape in isolation, Hermione navigates with (almost) never-ending support from all those around her, but she still has to deal with the fear and self-doubt in the wake of her attack.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Denton Little's Death Date, Lance Rubin

Denton Little always knew he was going to die before his high school graduation — in his world, learning your death date is just a part of growing up. He doesn't know how he'll die, but he begins to get an idea when he starts turning purple the day before. However, that turns out to be one of the more normal things to happen to him on the day of his traditional pre-death funeral.
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Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish.
The Truth About Alice, Jennifer Mathieu

A book about a teenager named Alice told from multiple perspectives, this novel offers a truly fascinating look at projecting your issues on someone else and how a teenager's reputation can be completely destroyed by a mob mentality.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon Pulse.
If I Lie, Corrine Jackson

Quinn has become an outcast in her town overnight for a perceived wrong she didn't actually commit. But a deep friendship and love keeps her from clearing her name, so instead, she has to learn to adapt to living in a community that no longer wants her.
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Photo: Courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.
If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan

This is a love story between two teen girls in Iran who always knew they couldn't be together — but always thought, deep down, they could never be separated. As a wedding draws near for one of the teens, her lifelong best friend considers drastic measures to stop it in a country where being gay can get you thrown in jail — or worse.
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Photo: Courtesy of Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Through The Woods, Emily Carroll

A collection of chilling horror stories that focus more on human monsters than creatures with fangs (though there are some fanged creatures — and they will haunt your dreams).
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Photo: Courtesy of Ember.
Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey

A 2012 Printz Award Honor book, Jasper Jones is a mystery told from the perspective of a loner teen that is suddenly pulled into the private life of the town outsider.
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Photo: Courtesy of Razorbill.
Paper Valentine, Brenna Yovanoff

Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part love story, the core of Paper Valentine is a lifelong friendship that couldn't end, even in death.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon Pulse.
Gone, Gone, Gone, Hannah Moskowitz

Moskowitz manages to incorporate the fear in the midst of the D.C. sniper into a story about the aftermath of 9/11 and multiple love stories.
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Photo: Courtesy of Soho Press.
More Happy Than Not, Adam Silvera

In the future described in More Happy Than Not, you can chose to erase the memories that are too painful to live with. Silvera's teen protagonist believes not even erasing the memory of his father's suicide is worth the possible side effects of the procedure — until he's faced with living with heartbreak.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The Diviners, Libba Bray

There is a lot going on in 600-plus page novel by Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray. Set in New York City in the '20s, it introduces you to a teen with supernatural abilities, a flapper with a troubled past, and a boy with a secret even he doesn't fully understand.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delacorte Press.
Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon

A teen with a rare illness that compromises her immune system has spent her whole life in her house, with only her mother and her nurse for company. But when a boy moves in next door, she beings to question if her future has to have the same constraints as her past.
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Photo: Courtesy of Speak.
Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith

Read the book before you see the movie. The story of a teen struggling to figure out his sexuality in the midst of a giant-bug apocalypse is getting a film adaptation from Sony Pictures.
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Photo: Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.
The Cure For Dreaming, Cat Winters

Set in the early 1900s, when American women were still fighting for the right to vote and an independent woman could be seen as a dangerous thing, Olivia tries her best to hide her feminist efforts from her controlling father. A mix of historical fiction and magical realism, Winters creates a believably terrifying portrait of what it meant to be a woman at the turn of the 20th century.
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Photo: Courtesy of Quercus.
Only Ever Yours, Louise O'Neill

A haunting dystopian novel for fans of The Handmaid's Tale. In a society where girls are raised to be wives, prostitutes, or celibate caregivers, beauty is everything and there's no real romance or love. But there is friendship.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.
Dead to Me, Mary McCoy

A Hollywood noir in the same vein as a Raymond Chandler — except that it essentially takes the misogyny of those classic books as its subject. In McCoy's twisty debut, an aspiring girl detective finds her once-disappeared sister in a coma and sets out to find the man who put her there.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan

The high school in this book is like a dream land — everybody's free to express themselves however they like, no one judges, the cheerleaders ride motorcycles. The quarterback is also the homecoming queen, and his name is Infinite Darlene. What does it say that a novel about a high school without intolerance feels like magical realism? Well, at the very least it says: Read it. Grown-up life is hard and this novel is the perfect idealized world to escape into when our real one is just too bleak.
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Photo: Courtesy of Atria.
Unteachable, Leah Raeder

The plot is delicious, if easily recognizable: A tough girl accidentally sleeps with her teacher the summer before she realizes he's her teacher. They can't control themselves, rumors begin to spread — you know the rest. But what really elevates this novel (and makes it worthwhile for any adult reader) is the prose. It's so well written, so lyric, and so electrifying that every line will give you a thrill.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delacorte Press.
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

A bunch of privileged kids bring a less-privileged friend to their family's private island — and something happens. Things begin to not add up. This book is about inheritance, death, amnesia, and its gripping plot will have you whipping through the pages. Pick up this plot-heavy book along with Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (which is all about eponymous Frankie, who tries to break into her boyfriend’s all-male secret society), and you've pretty much got a perfect weekend of reading.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amistad.
Monster, Walter Dean Myers

This affecting and all too relevant novel is written as a movie script playing out in an African-American teenager's mind while he's on trial and incarcerated. "Monster" is what the prosecution calls him, but Steven is about as human (flaws and all) as it gets.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Sabriel, Garth Nix

If you love Game of Thrones, read this. It has as many disturbing themes, and also, it's better. The eponymous character is an 18-year-old necromancer on a quest to rescue her father from the other realm. Nix just finally came out with a new book in the series last year, so there's no better time.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Playlist for the Dead, Michelle Falkoff

Want another The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Try this, a compelling contemporary novel that manages to incorporate online gaming and communication in a way that feels natural, real, and very, very relevant to anyone living in the modern world. Plus, Falkoff's a lawyer, so you know she's smart; and she went to the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, so you know the prose is good, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish.
American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

This powerful and funny graphic novel follows three stories: one of aching outsider Jin Wang; another of popular kid Danny, whose stereotypical Chinese cousin totally ruins his reputation; and er, one about the Monkey King. In the end, it's all about feeling comfortable in your own skin — which is always a good reminder.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven

When this book came out, Elle Fanning immediately bought the film rights, if that tells you anything. It features two narrators, one who has undiagnosed bipolar disorder, the other dealing with the death of her sister. The ending is a little too moral, but the writing is so good that you'll want to visit Indiana, which is saying something.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic.
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray

Okay: A plane containing the 50 Miss Teen Dream Pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island, which turns out to be not exactly deserted. Sound mega campy? Well, it is — in the best way. It's also a crazy, funny, satirical, feminist, Wonderland-mirror version of Lord of the Flies that will entertain you and also (gasp!) leave you thinking.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A book about being 15, queer, and of color in the '80s. Not a barn burner like some of the others on this list, but a delicate, lyrical investigation of character, sexuality, and one very important relationship unfolding over one long summer that will stick with you for years.
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Photo: Courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin.
All the Rage, Courtney Summers

The protagonist of this novel is a little like Veronica Mars — an outsider whose truth-telling has cost her everything — except, er, sort of without all of V's redeeming qualities. A searing novel about rape culture with an extremely complicated female character at its heart? Not just good for grown-ups, but necessary.
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Photo: Courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.
The Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma

This powerful psychological thriller goes places few YA novels go — a juvenile detention facility, for one, where girls convicted of murder unravel the truth of their pasts. The writing in this one is on fire.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic.
The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

The story of a girl born to a family of psychics and destined to kill her true love with a kiss. Based on ancient legends, yet unique in its field, this novel is atmospheric, complex, and (for those of you who like to sink into a series) only the first book in The Raven Cycle. Side note: Stiefvater has about the most fun Twitter feed on the planet.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Alexie excels at just about everything: YA, fiction for adults, poetry, even screenplays. This novel, based in part on Alexie's own experiences in an otherwise all-white school, is powerful and often hilarious. It'll make you want to read everything Alexie's ever written, which wouldn't be a bad thing.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block

A classic of the genre, but not in the boring sense — classic in that this wackadoo story is required reading for everyone. It's a love letter to L.A., youth, and the bizarre, a postmodern fairy tale that will make all your dreams seem sparkly and spit-shined.
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Photo: Courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin.
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

An understated work of brilliance narrated by a 16-year-old aspiring writer and her family living in poverty — but in a castle. Very British, mannered, and witty, but with a bittersweet core you won't soon forget.
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Photo: Courtesy of Speak.
Legend, Marie Lu

This novel, the first in a trilogy, is at the top of the post-apocalyptic thriller heap. Great writing, compelling characters, gripping action —anyone with a pulse will find theirs quickened.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi

Bacigalupi is quickly becoming a household name in adult sci-fi, and he should be a household name in YA sci-fi, too (not that the two are all that different). In this vivid novel, a scavenger searching for usable metals in shipwrecks on the future Gulf Coast finds a survivor in the wreckage who purports to be able to change his life — if he helps her.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

An impressively profound, deliciously lyric Holocaust novel about a young girl who comforts herself during wartime by stealing books. Oh, right, and it's narrated by Death — but that's not as twee as it sounds.
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Photo: Courtesy of Milkweed Editions.
Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin

In this acclaimed novel set in the 1920s, a 16-year-old girl who aspires to be an ornithologist is sent to live with distant family at a resort in Minnesota. She meets a beautiful young flapper and they begin a secret affair. This book is gorgeous inside and out.
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Photo: Courtesy of Time Quintet.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle

To be fair, this novel was published before we used terms like "YA" and "adult" to refer to novels, but it's pretty regularly classified as YA now. That said, it should definitely be read by everyone. Brilliant, flawed characters questing through time and space! A nerdy girl who wins the day! Puns! It's great.
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Photo: Courtesy of Wendy Lamb Books.
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

In this riveting novel, a teenage girl from present-day Manhattan goes to spend the summer with her cousins at their farmhouse in the English countryside. It's strange and idyllic for a while, with no adults around. But then, an unnamed force attacks and occupies England — and suddenly, it's not so great to be alone anymore.
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Photo: Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.
Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor

This fantasy novel follows a young girl with albinism born in America, but now living in her parents' homeland of Nigeria. After feeling like a constant outsider, finds she has secret powers — she is one of the Leopard People. The framework is familiar enough, but the treatment, writing, and West African myths at play elevate this story into something truly special.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dial Books.
I'll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson

The two halves of this novel are narrated by estranged fraternal twins Noah and Jude, artists and dreamers and seekers both, who must come to grips with the dissolution of their family — or find a way to mend it. Unique, charming, and lyric, it's no wonder this book is a much-lauded best seller.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperTeen.
Jellicoe Road, Melissa Marchetta

Three school factions battle it out every year in a small Australian town — the Cadets, the Townies, and the Jellicoe School kids, whose leader, Taylor Markham, is not only out to secure her territory, but to crack the mystery of the mother who abandoned her. And really, that's the pleasure of this novel — the unraveling of a story complex enough to keep any adult interested.
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Photo: Courtesy of Blazer + Bray.
Bone Gap, Laura Ruby

Original and revelatory, this novel uses multiple perspectives to tell the story of a girl's abduction from the small town of Bone Gap, IL — where everyone knows to stay out of the otherworldly "gaps." In this novel, reality lies down next to fantasy and something else gets up. You'll want to see that something else.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tor Teen.
Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake

Cas kills ghosts — but only the ones who are murderous themselves. That is, until he encounters a ghost who captivates him, despite her violence. Gory, scary, and totally unlike anything else out there, this is a must-read for any horror lover.
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Photo: Courtesy of Blazer + Bray.
The Madman's Daughter, Megan Shepherd

Like H. G. Wells? Pick up this novel, told from the perspective of the 16-year-old daughter of Dr. Moreau, who, six years after her father was banished to a remote island for his uncanny experiments, goes off to find him. Strange science, the boundaries of insanity, and yes, a love triangle, ensue.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Reader.
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, A. S. King

Never has a book about accidentally drinking a petrified bat offered such a frightening, yet believable, account of what the future might bring if people in power continue to try to take rights away from women.
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