≡ Menu

Poll: Good Books For Young Adults?


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Short and sweet today: good books for young adults?

The designation of Young Adult literature isn’t as clear cut as you might think. Every week someone asks me to help them find a book that turns out to be in the young adult’s section.

“That’s not a kid’s book.”

When I give them a call number that says their Anne McCafrey or Harry Potter or Mark Twain book is actually cataloged under Young Adult, responses range from:

“That’s wrong” or “I’m not going down to the kid’s section” to “It’s not for me, it’s for my kid.”

There are some great Young Adult books that are worth reading as adults. There are plenty of books in the same category that get many adults fussing and hollering because they’re unfit for kids. These people don’t want to hear about the difference between “Juvenile” and “Young Adult” literature.

There’s simply no way to define the group outside of the numerical “Ages 12-18” that seems to fit most of the books in section. And when we get into questions about what is “appropriate” for every kid in that age range, forget it.

Today, based on whatever your definition of Young Adult is, and whatever you think people in that bracket should be reading, please list a few books that you think every Young Adult should read or could find enjoyable.

And if you list War And Peace I’ll do my best to get every library in the world to reclassify it according to your august counsel.

For me:

  • Lord of The Flies by William Golding
  • The Lord of The Rings books
  • Both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books
  • Piers Anthony’s Adept, Xanth, and Incarnations of Immortality series
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  • I actually read the first Gossip Girl book and I can tell why they’re so popular. I think most kids get enjoy them, whether they’ll admit it or not
  • The Harry Potter series
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series
  • For fantasy lovers, just about anything by Terry Brooks or Anne McCaffrey
  • Feed by MT Anderson
  • Octavian Nothing by MT Anderson
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain–I always see this cataloged as adult, but it’s a hilarious and easy read
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  • House of Stairs by William Sleator

I’ll leave off there for now.

Please help fill in the gaps. Dredge those memory banks.


If you were ever a young adult, please subscribe to the RSS feed.

And have you joined the book club? It’s free!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Iain D July 6, 2011, 12:42 pm

    Cory Doctorow has done a few good YA books. “For the Win” and “Little Brother” are my favourites. FTW follows some kids who earn their living playing video games (as gold farmers) who try and unionize. LB is some teenagers hitting back against a surveillance state.

  • cinderkeys July 6, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Too many to count. Here are a few I remember offhand.

    * Just about anything by Tamora Pierce — multiple fantasy series that focus on girls/women as strong characters, not just objects needing to be rescued and courted

    * The Great Gilly Hopkins: Didn’t read until I was an adult, and was surprised at how much it didn’t talk down to its supposed audience. I enjoyed this as an adult, I think, as much as I would have as a kid.

    * Anything by Judy Blume. She has more competition now in terms of decently written first-person YA books, but at the time she was a revelation.

    I may submit more as I think of them …

    • Marsha July 7, 2011, 12:31 pm

      I read Terrier & Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, excellent!

      • cinderkeys July 7, 2011, 2:34 pm

        I still haven’t read that. And I need to!

  • Tim D July 6, 2011, 12:55 pm

    Robert Heinlein – “Starship Troopers” and “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”
    Statrship Troopers is a great textbook on Duty, morality, government and personal integrity disguised as a ripping sci-fi novel. The opening chapter (a punitive raid by the Mobile Infantry dropped from orbit) is fantastic – hard to imagine that it was dreamed up in the 1950’s.

  • Laura July 6, 2011, 1:15 pm

    His Dark Materials and Hunger Games trilogies

  • Jim Janney July 6, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Good call on Treasure Island. I like Kidnapped too.

    * Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling
    * King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
    Unlike Edgar Rice Burroughs, Haggard lived in Africa, and it shows.
    * The King Must Die by Mary Renault

  • Steve M July 6, 2011, 5:48 pm

    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
    Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
    Retellings of Homer’s Odyssey and of the Greek myths

  • Sarah July 7, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Oh boy…I could go on forever about these…but here’s a few that stick out to me:

    Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story
    Michael Scott’s series The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel
    Joseph Delaney’s series The Last Apprentice
    Anything Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles, etc
    Cassandra Clare’s series Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices
    Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
    Any young boys wanting a good fast read like Goosebumps will like Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak
    YA Paranormal Romance The Caster Chronicles is a good one for girls, because it’s not vampires and it’s told from the boy’s POV.

    I second Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and His Dark Materials as well.

  • Sarah July 7, 2011, 12:27 pm

    oh, and I second LOTR and Alice too

  • Pauline July 7, 2011, 5:31 pm

    “There are some great Young Adult books that are worth reading as adults.” Well said, Josh, but change SOME to MANY! If you re-read Phantom Toll Booth (Norton Juster) as an adult you will laugh louder than when you were a kid. Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt) is deeper than you ever knew, and Snow Treasure (Marie McSwigan) or Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) will make you aware of how young people react to real life. On Fortune’s Wheel or anything else by Cynthia Voigt is a good choice, and Stone Water by Barbara Snow Gilbert might make you cry. There’s a huge repository of terrific fiction for Young Adults that will please Not-So-Young Adults!

  • Ryannack July 11, 2011, 5:03 pm

    A few on the lists that I am simply agreeing with and some that I really enjoy:

    The Neverending Story
    The Hunger Games Series
    The Book Thief
    Room (young adult??)
    Hole in My Life
    Artemis Fowl (graphic novels especially)
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
    Neil Gaiman’s books (Stardust, Graveyard Book)
    Fat Kid Rules the World

  • Marsha July 12, 2011, 5:25 pm

    Artemis Fowl series!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 12, 2011, 7:52 pm

      I can’t believe it took so long for someone to bring that up! Didn’t even cross my mind.