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7 Best YA Books for Teens: What You Should Read

Books & Writing

September 05, 2023

The world of Young Adult literature is a vibrant landscape filled with stories that resonate with readers on a profound level. These books are known for their reliability, diverse representation, and especially the endless search for identity. However, please note that reading these YA books is not limited to teenagers; they offer valuable insights, entertainment, and personal growth opportunities for readers of all ages.

Whether you're a young adult seeking relatable stories or an adult looking to explore diverse perspectives, there are plenty of reasons to dive into the rich and dynamic world of YA literature. Here is a list of the seven must-read young adult books.

1. "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

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Page count: 464

Genre: realistic fiction

Thematic Topics: Racial Injustice, Identity, Authenticity, Activism, Family, Community, Empathy, and Loyalty

"The Hate U Give" is a powerful and timely exploration of race, identity, and activism through the eyes of young Starr Carter. When Starr witnesses the shooting of her unarmed friend by a police officer, she is compelled to find her voice and fight for justice. The novel explores the aftermath of the shooting as Starr grapples with her grief, fear, and the decision to speak out about what she saw.

This novel sparks an essential conversation about systemic racism and the importance of standing up against injustice. Through Starr's journey, the novel highlights the need for empathy, understanding, and courage.

"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?"

- The Hate U Give

2. "Counting by 7's" by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Page Count: 416

Genre: Realistic fiction Thematic topics: Adaptation, Resilience, Family, Loss, Grief, Identity, Hope, and Healing

"Counting by 7s" is a touching and insightful novel that follows the life of Willow Chance, an exceptionally intelligent and socially unique twelve-year-old girl. Willow's world is turned upside down when her adoptive parents tragically die in a car accident. As she copes with this loss, Willow's life becomes entwined with that of Mai, a Vietnamese girl, and Dell Duke, a unique school counselor.

As the characters struggle with their own challenges and idiosyncrasies, they find healing, acceptance, and hope through their connections with one another. It's a heartwarming book of finding beauty and meaning in life's unexpected twists and turns.

“I'm not brave; it's just that all other choices have been thrown out the window.”

- Counting by 7's

3. "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton

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Page count: 192

Genre: Realistic fiction

Thematic topics: Identity, Belonging, Grief, Friendship, Empathy, Loyalty, and Understanding

"The Outsiders" is a classic book that follows the life of Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser from the wrong side of the tracks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ponyboy and his members of the Greaser gang face daily struggles with the rival Socs, a wealthier group. When a tragic event occurs, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny find themselves on the run, leading to a series of events that challenge their loyalty, friendship, and understanding of societal hierarchies. It explores universal themes and portrays the struggles and triumphs of young people navigating a challenging world.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”

- The Outsiders

4. "Before the Coffee Gets Cold" by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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Page Count: 272

Genre: Magical realism, Time Travel Fiction

Thematic Topics: Time, Regret, Connections, Closure, Fragility of life, Fate, Destiny

"Before the Coffee Gets Cold" is a unique and thought-provoking novel set in a cozy Tokyo cafe with a mysterious twist. The cafe offers its customers the chance to time travel, but with certain limitations. The novel is structured around interconnected stories, each featuring a different customer who ventures into the past for various personal reasons.

As the stories unfold, the characters grapple with regrets, unfinished business, and the complexities of human relationships. The novel also explores the idea that while time travel can offer a chance to revisit the past, it cannot change the future or erase the inevitability of certain events. The book is beautifully written and emotionally resonant, so that readers are prompted to reflect on the fleeting nature of time and the importance of cherishing the present. It's a store that combines elements of magic with deeply human experiences, making it a captivating and touching read for those who enjoy exploring the complexities of time, memory, and human connection.

“Sometimes life is stranger than fiction, but sometimes it's incomparable in other ways. Sometimes it's heaven that the false fire of imagination could never capture.”

- Before the Coffee Cools

5. "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by ocean vuong

Credit: Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

Page Count: 256

Genre: memoir, realistic fiction

Thematic Topics: Identity, Self-discovery, Trauma, Healing, Culture, Family, Relationships

"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" is a moving and poetic novel written as a letter from a son to his illiterate mother. The novel is an exploration of identity, family, love, and the immigrant experience in America. The story is narrated by Little Dog, a Vietnamese-American writer, who reflects on his childhood, his family's history as immigrants, and his coming-of-age as a queer man.

Through vivid and lyrical prose, Little Dog's letter serves as a form of catharsis and a way to communicate the experiences and emotions he's struggled to express verbally. He explains the challenges of growing up in a working-class immigrant family, the impact of war trauma, and his exploration of love.

“In Vietnamese, the word for missing someone and remembering them is the same: nhớ. Sometimes, when you ask me over the phone, Có nhớ mẹ không? I flinch, thinking you meant, Do you remember me? I miss you more than I remember you.”

- On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

6. They Both Die at the End" by Adam Silvera

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Page count: 384

Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure Fiction

Thematic Topics: Death, Mortality, Connections, Relationships, Regrets, Redemption, Identity, Friendship, Family

"They Both Die at the End" is set in an alternate world where people are notified of their impending death by a mysterious organization called the Death-Cast. The story follows two teenagers, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio, who receive the dreaded call informing them that they will die within the next twenty-four hours.Faced with this grim certainty, Mateo and Rufus connect through the Last Friend app and embark on a transformative journey to make the most of their final day.

Throughout the novel, readers witness the characters' growth, their exploration of love, friendship, and the value of human connection. As they come to terms with their mortality, Mateo and Rufus discover the importance of living authentically and cherishing the present.

“You may be born into a family, but you walk into friendships. Some you’ll discover you should put behind you. Others are worth every risk.”

- They Both Die at the End

"Dumplin'" By Julie Murphy

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Page Count: 400

Genre: realistic fiction, romance

Thematic topics: Self-confidence, Friendship, Feminism, Relationships, Courage, Empowerment

"Dumplin'" follows the journey of Willowdean Dickson, a confident and plus-sized teenager living in Texas. Willowdean, nicknamed "Dumplin'" by her former beauty queen mother, is determined to challenge societal beauty standards and embrace her body. The story unfolds when Willowdean decides to enter the local beauty pageant, which her mother runs, as an act of rebellion and empowerment.

Throughout the novel, Willowdean learns valuable life lessons about self-acceptance, courage, and the importance of being true to oneself. Her journey, filled with humor, heart, and memorable characters, challenges stereotypes and promotes positivity and self-confidence.

Young adult books have gained immense popularity and acclaim for several compelling reasons, from their universal themes to exploration of complex issues, making them a valuable and enjoyable genre for readers of all ages. They provide a platform for young readers to see themselves in the stories and, at the same time, offer valuable insights and perspectives to readers of all ages. So, choose a book and dive right in!

Emma Luu
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Writer since Jun, 2023 · 6 published articles

Emma Luu is a high schooler in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is passionate about journalism, writing, and art. When she’s not creating art or writing, you can find her binging Gilmore Girls or on the search for cute stationery.