During this pandemic (and the summer that came after it), some people have picked up a new hobby, some have just enjoyed the break from normal, scheduled life, and some have spent twelve straight hours reading YA fiction. I am the latter.
At the beginning of the summer, with a huge to-be-read reading list filled with fantasy, YA, some non-fiction, and even some old favorites like Twilight and the Hunger Games, I decided it might be a good idea to document every book I read, and share a list of the best ones, in the hopes that it might encourage someone, anyone, to pick up a book and start reading. Reading outside the classroom is not only proven to expand vocabulary and improve problem-solving but it also de-stresses.
A lot of teens I know used to love reading, but life seems to get in the way as you grow up, and a passion for all things literary tends to fade away the older you get. This list was designed with a range of teen-focused genres in mind — mostly fiction with some educational, they're all firm faves of mine.
1. The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Rodham-Clinton
For fans of Becoming by Michelle Obama, and anyone wanting their daily dose of female empowerment.
Not only did this book introduce me to so many incredible, sometimes, somewhat forgotten women, but every single chapter opened my eyes to possibilities of how girls can change the world. I really liked how the book was split into sections, ranging from Hillary and Chelsea's early inspirations to political figures and athletes to environmental advocates and freedom fighters. Every chapter introduced me to a new inspiration.
2. Earth Heroes by Lily Dyu
For fans of Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough, and making the world a better place — this is for you!
Earth Heroes tells the stories of a range of environmentalists making real change. For me, personally, it was staggering to read about so many stories that go mostly unheard.
Many of the featured men, women, and children in this book are not only saving the planet with their contributions, but are also making local changes to their areas, such as educating women, giving jobs to those living in poverty, and improving the standard of life for their families. Each chapter begins with beautiful artwork and a quote, and the writer starts each individual story with a page of anecdotal writing through the eyes of the environmentalist themselves.
Series to get hooked on
3. Twilight by Stephanie Myer
For fans of Vampire Academy, vampire diaries, and the Twilight movies...
I know... this is a controversial recommendation, but since this infamous series is having a 'Twilight Renaissance', I decided to pick up the series again this summer. Even though it's true the writer could've focused less on the (admittedly toxic) relationship between Bella and Edward, I still loved re-reading the books, and can always pick them up again in a reading slump.
Twilight follows Bella Swan as she adjusts to small-town life in rainy Forks, after catching the eyes of the alluring Edward Cullen- whose family has a dark secret that could put Bella in a life or death situation...
4. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
For fans of dark fantasy, fairy-tale-like settings, and black magic...
The Three Dark crowns series will always be the first book series I recommend — the world-building is beautiful, and I was incredibly emotionally invested in every one of the characters (there were many). This was the first series I read by Kendare Blake, and while the first book, for me, is far better than the other four, the series finale had me speechless.
Three Dark Crowns follows three sisters, destined to fight to the death for the crown of Fennbirn, a mysterious island set apart from the mainland by a magical mist. Over the course of the books, the plot really develops and takes new and exciting turns, and definitely leaves the reader with a satisfying, yet sad, ending.
Drama and Emotion.....Contemporary YA
5. We Were Liars by E.Lockheart
For fans of Dynasty, this is for you!
As soon as I'd finished this book, I went straight back to the beginning. Although I've seen some reviews calling We Were Liars' ending predictable, there is no doubt that the characterization, emotion, and storytelling all intertwine to a poignant ending.
When I first read this book, the writing style was unlike many books I'd read before, with plenty of metaphors and stylized sections to really convey the pain, numbness, and, infrequently, happiness the main character feels. This is definitely a great summer read, and will always be one I can go back to in a reading slump. We Were Liars is about a wealthy, all-American family, and how changing perspectives, teenage romance, and revenge can transform a family.
6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
For LGBTQ representation and a main character to fall in love with...
This is another book I've constantly revisited, not only for the very open, honest, raw depiction of the trials of growing up in an uber-conservative small town, but also for the interesting plot points and charming descriptions. This book follows Cameron Post with a few time-jumps to really encompass the whole of her teenage years, from the evening her parents die to her first 'girlfriend' to being sent to conversion therapy in the form of 'Promise' — a school for 'sinful' teens.
This book made me realize how harmful prejudices can be hidden and masked by religion and traditions. If you're looking for characters to fall in love with and a story to get hooked on, this book is for you.
7. Starfish by Kiko
Starfish was a contemporary book that I never usually would've picked — but I'm so pleased I did. Starfish follows Kiko, a teen struggling with identity and family relationships, and is later guided by a love for art. This book follows her after she is not accepted into her dream college, and shows that life goes on after a perceived 'failure'. Kiko road trips with her friend, explores her relationships with her family and re-evaluates her life and goals.
8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book has received a lot of hype — for good reason. For a debut novel, Angie Thomas writes with such a distinctive voice and character through Starr, the protagonist, and the novel itself couldn't be more relevant. Sadly, the storyline of racism and prejudice (and the grief that comes after) mirrors real-life events today.
If you read The Hate U Give, you will surely be laughing, crying, and smiling alongside the characters. The Hate You Give follows Starr, a black teen at a mostly white high school. After witnessing a life-changing display of systematic racism, Starr battles with the decision to speak out or stay quiet — fighting for what is right while dealing with loss.
Easy & Quick
I love this section of the list because it is for those that need a shorter read, whether that's something to fit into a lunch break, before bed or in between shifts. These books are for the people that want something a bit lighter, which is a hundred percent okay.
9. One Shot by Tanya Landman
One Shot follows the real-life story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, after a childhood of hardship. The writing is simple. This book is probably a little younger than YA, but the themes could easily be perceived as more adult.
I really feel that, although One Shot is an easy read, different ages will take different thoughts away from this bite-sized novel. After Annie moves away from her broken home, she is abused at the hands of her caregivers. As she grows up, she learns to fend for herself and defy expectations by learning to shoot.
10. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
This isn't super short, but definitely readable. The PLL series on TV was one of my favorites, but the plot of the book series twists and turns in a completely different direction to the show — it's scandalous, mysterious, and oh-so addictive. Pretty Little Liars follows Hanna, Spencer, Aria, and Emily after their best friend and leader, Alison, disappeared. Things become even more complicated and dangerous when an unknown stalker, A, taunts them with their deepest secrets.
11. Girl in A Cage by Jane Yolen
For history fanatics, fans of Scottish tradition and powerful writing
Girl in A Cage follows the story of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of the famed Robert the Bruce, after she is captured by her father's enemy and the king of England, Edward Longshanks. Marjorie is separated from her family, displayed in a cage, and remembering her brief time as Scotland's rebel princess.