YA Fiction Recommendations

In the current Twilight thread, AuntiePam asked for some YA recommendations.

At 22, I am just outside the target market for YA Fiction, but I don’t see myself outgrowing it any time soon. I’m also a high school English teacher, so exposure to YA literature goes with the territory. I even wrote my undergraduate Honors thesis on YA literature.

When I look at good YA literature, I look at a few things. There’s YA literature I admire for some aspect of the writing, and there’s YA literature that I value for it’s entertainment value. Twilight is not well written, IMHO. The prose is kinda overdone and the characterization sucks (haha). And the entertainment I got from the books came from snarking, not from anything Meyer intended.

Anyway, on to the recs:

Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville, both titans of the YA fantasy genre. This book is not fantasy: it’s a chilling look at religious fanaticism. It’s told from the alternating perspectives of two young teenagers whose parents get sucked into a millennial Christian doomsday cult and haul them to the top of a mountain to await the end of the world. The two protagonists are very well done; their musings on religion are interesting, and as far as just getting sucked into a story- wow. One of my all time favorite books ever.

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech, as well as its companion novels Bloomability, Walk Two Moons, and Absolutely Normal Chaos. They’re all funny and touching and feature strong female protagonists who come across as real girls- not the simpering Sue that Bella is.

Dizzy, by Cathy Cassidy. A good look at a teenager’s relationships with the less than responsible adults in her life.
The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets **by Shannon Hale. The acknowledgments to the last Twilight book mention Hale as a friend of Meyer; but Hale can actually write. These books take their initial cue from a Grimm fairy tale (my favorite one, actually), but soon spin off into a bigger fantasy world. The second in the trilogy is probably the strongest.

And a recommendation on pure entertainment value: The Mediator Series, by Meg Cabot. The Mediator Series is an earlier take on the live girl/undead boyfriend thing, this time with a girl who sees dead people and the 150 year old ghost who haunts her bedroom. The ending to the series is too tidy, and Cabot is guilty of Sue-ism at times, but I like these better than the Twilight books; at least the main character isn’t as much of a twit, and the hero isn’t as stalkery. Funnily enough, one of the books in this series is also titled “Twilight.”

Please feel free to add your own recommendations! I may come back with more after I comb through my shelves and old notes, and after I talk to my little sister.

When I was a teen, I LOVED the book “Pheonix Rising” about a farm girl and her friendship with a teenage boy refugee from a power plant explosion. I haven’t read it in years, but I’d still recommend it. It left quite an impression.

I’m 20 and I just read So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane for the first time, and it was lovely. Reminiscent of A Wrinkle In Time, another classic that you’ve surely already heard of.

I’m probably not telling you anything you’re not already familiar with, you being an English teacher, and all, but on the off-chance that you’re young enough for these to be before your time, I’ll nominate It’s Like This, Cat (Newbury Award 1964), and Deathman, Do Not Follow Me, a tale of teen angst and art theft, set in a cat-and-mouse flight from a potential killer.

I enjoyed both of these as a teenager.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is a fantastic book, marketed as YA but everybody should go read it. Death is a main character. It’s set in Germany during WWII. Beautifully written.

I’ll also recommend A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voight. About a young boy who is emotionally abandoned by his parents, his own fragile emotional state is powerfully conveyed. I found it a very moving book.

There are so many good YA books. I’ll look forward to reading more recommendations here.

Terry Pratchett has been writing some YA books lately. Nation came out a little while ago, and I think it may be the best thing he’s ever written. It’s about a young man living in Polynesia in the 19th century whose entire island is wiped out by a tsunami, and his efforts to rebuild his society from the scattered survivors from other islands who find their way to him, including one English girl whose ship was wrecked by the same tidal wave.

Anything by William Sleator!

Also, The Girl Who Owned a City.

Anything by Michael Ende.

My two YA favorites from the past few years are:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, about a teenager who decides to attend a predominantly white high school instead of the school on the reservation. It goes back and forth between hilarious and sad.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt. a kid is convinced his 7th grade teacher hates him, and is punishing him by making him read Shakespeare. This covers his year in school and takes place during the 60s, so there is a running commentary on Viet Nam. Very sharp and enjoyable.

Another one I enjoyed a lot is* A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life* by Dana Reinhardt, in which a teenage kid has to confront her feelings about being adopted when she is contacted by her birth mother.

If you don’t mind fantasy, then China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun is a lot of fun, but also well done. His books for grown up are even better :wink:

I’m a fan too, although I’ll admit the recent books aren’t up to standard. My favorites are House of Stairs and Singularity.

I love children’s and YA books, so I’m glad to see this thread but I’ll have to think about some recommendations. Here’s one: How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff.

Thank you!

I’ve read one book by Sharon Creech, Ruby Hollow, and enjoyed it. I’ll check out the others.

A couple of others I enjoyed are Dust by Arthur Slade (Bradburyesque without the flowery language), and The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. The footnotes written by the Demon are the best part. The main characters grows a bit but is never very likable, and there should have been more from the POV of ordinary people living in that world, but those are minor complaints.

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix is pretty good too, if a bit dark. Now there’s a young girl that I wouldn’t mind seeing youngsters emulating.

How I Live Now

(sorry, I suck at authors)

Sisterhood of Traveling Pants starts out very chic-litt-y and with an obvious hook, but there’s more depth to the books than I think even the author first intended. They’re not bad.

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori is a trilogy. Set in a sort of medieval
Japan with some touches of supernatural. It tells the tale of a young man, raised in a peaceful religious community who finds that he has special skills that make him the perfect assassin. He is used by those in power, but finds his own power, too.

I can’t think of anymore right now.

M.T. Anderson, Meg Rosoff, Laurie Halse. :slight_smile:

Oh wow, I haven’t thought about that book in years! Very good choice.

I think my initial list weighted towards girls, but I think boys and girls alike would enjoy:

Tenderness, by Robert Cormier. Deeply disturbing but very well written book about a teenage sociopath and a runaway.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes**, by Chris Crutcher. Crutcher writes a lot of sports-themed books, but while the narattor of this book is a swimmer, it goes far beyond sports.

The Moves Make the Man, by Bruce Brooks. It mixes basketball, baseball, the civil rights movement, and male bonding. The character of Bix breaks my heart.

I also want to recommend My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr, which really deals with sexuality issues in a thoughtful, touching way.

Personally, I like anything by Louise Lawrence, espcially Andra and Children of the Dust, but those are really hard to find now. Which kind of stinks, but so it goes.

Thirsty, by M. T. Anderson, is also good. And Others See Us, by William Sleator.

Seconding Armageddeon Summer. Also, there are a few short story collections edited by Jane Yolen which are awesome. I recommend Vampires and especially 2041.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: a young boy living in a safe and comfortable utopia must come to terms with the harsh realities of life. Very good read.

Gathering Blue, also by Lois Lowry, involves a girl named Kira. She has both a deformity (which almost ends up costing her life) and an unusual gift (which ends up saving her). She lives in a society which is nearly the parallel opposite to that in The Giver. It is dirty and squalid, and its citizens care little for each other. When she learns the nature of her past and possible future, she must make a decision that will change the course of everyone around her. Great book as well.

Gathering Blue is good, but falls short of being the masterpiece that The Giver is. It is billed as a companion to The Giver, and there are hints that the stories are connected. There is a third companion book, Messenger, that makes the connecting explicit in a way that is supremely disappointing. Reading it destroyed one of my favorite aspects of The Giver; I prefer now to pretend Messenger doesn’t exist.

I really liked The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras). I read them in a reading group with some of my students and liked them a lot. They are set in a dystopian future where teenagers go from being uglies to being pretties when they turn 13, with accompanying plastic surgery and handicaps that make them bubble heads. The protagonist rebels against these forced changes and remakes society. The books were allegories for the trials and tribulations of growing up, and I thought they were imaginative and interesting.

ETA: I agree with ProudlyDefiant 100% about The Messenger.

Oh my God, I almost mentioned Messenger in my post then decided not to. And yes, it was a terrible book and even more so when compared to the other two. Doesn’t she make it clear in Messenger that Jonah is alive and in a leadership position of sorts, thus completely ruining the ambiguous ending of The Giver? I really wish she had stopped at Gathering Blue, because there wasn’t any need for Messenger. It didn’t answer any questions and affected the storylines of the other two (and not in a good way).

That’s exactly what I’m talking about!

What I like is that The Giver gives young readers a good introduction to Dystopian fiction. If kids come out of junior high having read The Giver, they have a solid base to build upon with lots of literature covered in high school, like Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” or Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World, or even Rand’s *Anthem *(UGH).