Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell:
In high school, Cath happily writes a fan-fiction blog with her twin sister, but once she starts college at the University of Nebraska, she feels like an awkward outsider. This is a great coming of age, finding your voice kind of story. Rainbow Rowell is the author of the equally amazing book, Eleanor & Park
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:
Cadence Sinclair Easton’s grandfather owns a private island off of Cape Cod, where the extended family gathers every summer. Cadence and her friend Gat and her two cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are the four inseparable “Liars”—friends since they were 8 years old. The mystery driving the book surrounds an accident Cadence had during the summer she turned 15, but she’s unable to remember much of it. The book takes place two years after that fateful summer, with Cadence trying to piece together exactly what happened to her.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson:
Jude and Noah are twins, and the book is told through their alternating viewpoints. In an interesting twist, the chapters from her point of view are from when the twins are 16, and Noah’s chapters are told from two years earlier—which gives readers a view into the past and what went wrong to fracture their once-close relationship. The twins are artists, both hoping to attend an exclusive art school, but only Jude is accepted. There’s a little bit of mystery, family drama, tragedy, magical realism and an LGBTQ relationship.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:
This is a semi-autobiographical story of the author’s own experience. Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA, transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan. The friendships he forms at his new school prompt him to question what makes a person’s community, identity, and tribe.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:
Anyone who has ever had a family member or friend suffer from cancer will appreciate many of the unflinching truths about the disease that this book reveals. There’s no romanticizing the illness, but nothing is shied away from, either, which makes for bits of unexpected humor—for example, Hazel Grace Lancaster, the main character, calls certain privileges (like free concert tickets) “Cancer Perks.” Despite the realities of her situation, hope and life come through in her unexpected relationship with Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang:
A graphic novel that’s more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood—it’s for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape. Also worth reading from this author: Boxers & Saints Boxed Set
, a graphic novel in two volumes, showing parallel stories of two young people caught on opposite sides of the Boxer Rebellion in China:
Hate List by Jennifer Brown:
Five months ago, Val’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Valerie was shot trying to stop him, and even though she saved the life of a classmate she was implicated because she had inadvertently helped Nick create his list. It was a list of people and things she and Nick hated, and that’s what he used to pick his targets. Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy and her role in it.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold:
Mim lives with her father and stepmother in Mississippi, but when she finds out that her mother in Ohio is very ill, she runs off on a road trip to Ohio. Mim’s father and her psychiatrist believe Mim is mentally ill—and she takes Abilify—but she and her mother question the diagnosis. When she runs away, Mim stops taking the pills so the reader is left wondering until the end whether what is happening on the journey from Mississippi is real or not. Arnold masters the feat of maintaining just the right amount of tension between these two possible outcomes.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli:
Simon Speir, a junior in high school, walks away from his computer for a few minutes, accidentally leaving his biggest secret exposed on the screen: he’s been emailing a boy in his grade anonymously, and now Martin Addison has taken a screenshot and has a powerful way to blackmail Simon into getting his friend, Abby, to date him.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:
Charlie is an intelligent, wallflower of a freshman. He faces same struggles that many kids face in high school—how to make friends, the intensity of a crush, family tensions, a first relationship, exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs—but he must also deal with his best friend’s recent suicide. The story is told through letters, giving the book the intimacy of a diary.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers:
Is 16-year-old Steve Harmon a monster? That’s what the judge calls him for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the “all clear” to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? In this innovative novel by Walter Dean Myers, the reader becomes both juror and witness during the trial of Steve’s life.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven:
From their very first meeting, it’s apparent that Finch and Violet make an unlikely, and tragic, couple. This book offers an honest portrayal of someone living with mental illness.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz:
Ari is an angry 15-year-old growing up in Texas in the 1980s. One day at the local swimming pool, Ari meets Dante, a boy his age from another high school. Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim, and they become friends—bonding over things like art, their shared Mexican-American heritage, and the way they don’t quite “get” their parents. As their relationship intensifies, Ari finds himself simultaneously needing Dante’s friendship and being scared by that need. Things start to go wrong when Dante reveals that his feelings for Ari are stronger than friendship. Ari doesn’t want to lose Dante’s friendship but he’s not ready to deal with Dante’s feelings.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini:
The main character, Craig, is starting to feel the pressures of life. Recently accepted into a prestigious high school, things start building up and he considers suicide. The book covers his 5-day stay in a mental hospital, and it’s a semi-autobiographical take of an episode that happened to the author when he was a teenager. It seems odd to say this about a book dealing with a mental hospital stay, but it actually is kind of a funny story.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher:
There’s no happy ending in this book: when it opens, Hannah Baker has already committed suicide. After her death, Clay Jensen receives a mysterious package containing cassette tapes from Hannah. On them she details the reason for her suicide, and the story alternates between Hannah’s perspective and the impact on Clay as he listens to her reasons for making such a devastating decision.
The Basic Eight: A Novel by Daniel Handler:
A witty parody of a murderous group of seniors. Teens who read Lemony Snicket’s Serious of Unfortunate Events will appreciate the snark in this book written by the same author (this time under his real name).
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes:
A graphic novel about two teens, Enid and Becky, who are growing up–and growing apart.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Modern Classics) by Betty Smith:
A well-loved story that’s a favorite of many readers for the past sixty years, this is a coming of age story about Francie Nolan and her immigrant life in Brooklyn at the turn of the century.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
You won’t find many books featuring Death as the narrator. Liesel Meminger lives with a foster family in Germany during World War Two. Torn from everything she’s known, she grows close to her foster father as they share late night reading sessions of the first book Liesel is able to steal: The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Her love of books also helps her forge bonds with the mayor’s wife and Max, the Jew, who the family hides in the basement. An intense and powerful book that’s beautifully written.
Legend by Marie Lu:
Legend is told from the perspectives of two characters: Day and June. Day is a modern-day Robin Hood living on the streets in the Republic, the ruins of what was the United States. He is the country’s most wanted criminal, while June is the opposite: the Republic’s smartest prodigy. The only person she has left in her life is her brother, Metias, until he is killed and Day is framed for it. As June sets out to bring Day to justice, they both discover secrets and betrayal in their own Republic. This book is the first in a series, and if you like Legend, check out the rest of the books as well as her new series, The Young Elites
The Iron King (The Iron Fey Book 1) by Julie Kagawa:
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth. Meghan is the daughter of a mythical faery king…and a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore:
Katsa lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace—a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!).
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater:
A well-written paranormal romance. Grace has always been drawn to the wolves that live behind her house in the winter—especially one wolf with yellow eyes. That wolf, her wolf, is Sam: a werewolf who spends the spring and summer months as a human until the winter cold changes him into a wolf. Just as he and Grace connect, Sam realizes that this will be the last summer he is able to keep his human form. When the cold comes back, he’ll turn into a wolf forever.
The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn) by Renee Ahdieh:
This is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights. In this version, Shahrzad (Shazi) volunteers to be one of the brides of the Caliph of Khorasan, even though all his prior wives have been killed at the dawn the morning after the wedding. Her plan is to take revenge for the death of her best friend, and she uses her storytelling skills to stay alive night after night. As she spends more time in the palace, she realizes there’s more going on.
The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series by Rick Yancey:
This is a perfect example of the book being much better than the movie. 16 year old Cassie is a survivor; she’s one of the last humans left on Earth. Aliens have unleashed a series of waves of destruction, killing Cassie’s parents, and she needs to survive the 5th wave and find her younger brother—if he’s even alive.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:
This book, the first in a series, is set in a fantasy world previously seen in the author’s Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy)
: You don’t have to have read that series first to enjoy this one—none of the characters are the same, although all the world-building details that were introduced in the Grisha series are carried through into this one. In Six of Crows, Kaz is a criminal prodigy who pulls together a team to pull off a dangerous heist, with romance, adventure and betrayal along the way.
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher:
18-year-old Finn has no memories from before he woke up three years ago in a massive world-like prison called Incarceron. Even though the “outside world” is just a rumor, Finn believes that he came from outside, and he is determined to become the second person to ever escape the prison. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron and she’s engaged to marry the kingdom’s prince. However, Claudia is convinced that the prince she knew as a child is not actually the prince she is supposed to marry, so she begins to investigate and discovers a sinister plot lurking in the castle.
The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns) by Rae Carson:
In this series, Elisa is a lonely and unattractive princess born with a Godstone embedded in her navel. This is a great gift—only one person receives that blessing each century and each is endowed with some great, unknown duty. Nevertheless, she is not treated very well by her family and new husband. Everything changes, however, when Elisa is kidnapped. She undergoes a physical and mental change as she walks through the desert for days with the rebels who have kidnapped her, and as she learns more about the world around her—the world that was hidden from her during her sheltered childhood—her idea of who’s right and who’s wrong begins to change. Elisa finds her voice and emerges from the desert ready to fight and to assume her birthright as the Godstone bearer.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas:
In this fantasy, Celaena is the most feared assassin in the world. After her capture and imprisonment, she is offered the chance of release. But to get it, she must out-fight 23 men in a deadly competition.
Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline:
In the year 2044, the real world is a near wasteland, and the Internet has evolved into a realistic virtual multi-verse called the OASIS. Most people—including orphaned, teenage Wade—spend most of their time in the OASIS, searching for the three keys hidden inside by its creator. Anyone who can find the keys, pass through the portals and find the egg will inherit a huge fortune. When Wade stumbles on the first clue, he realizes other players will kill to get it, and to survive he needs to solve the puzzle. Anyone familiar with the ‘80s will love this book: the clues are based on trivia from that decade.