The 30 Best Young Adult Books of All Time

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)



There was definitely a point in my life as a teen when everyone I knew was reading Chobosky's debut novel, and it's easy to see why it resonated with so many readers. The epistolary novel highlights the struggles that come with being introverted and unpopular, while also discussing friendship, sexuality and abuse, both physical and emotional.

In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is a shy freshman who loves books and finds himself taken under the wing of an English teacher. Meanwhile, he becomes friends with some high school seniors, forming a quirky clique that leads him through a complicated period of self-discovery.

As Charlie navigates the ups and downs of high school, toxic relationships and some deep secrets, he must decide if he's living the life that he ultimately wants. Give it a read, and keep the tissues handy.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (2014)



Theo is a teen ballet dancer who has been through it all: an eating disorder, trauma from sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse. And she struggles with the fact that her best friend, Donovan, has been missing for years and is constantly on her mind. But Donovan was kidnapped. Donovan is gone.

Until Donovan suddenly isn't.

Donovan returns after years with his kidnapper, and repressed memories rush back to Theo.

It's impossible to dig into this book without revealing serious spoilers. Just trust me that Pointe offers a dark story of mystery and heartbreak. If I'd been writing for Paste back in 2014, I would have chosen it as the best Young Adult novel of the year.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (2015)



We've all watched those movies and TV shows where the teen hero saves the small town from zombies, vampires, whatever supernatural threat might be looming. But after the character saves the day, what happens next?

Enter Patrick Ness' The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

In this geeky blend of contemporary YA and fantasy, we meet Mikey, a teen who just wants to go through the motions of high school and maybe, just maybe ask out his best friend, Henna. He's got a great pack of friends, including a best friend who has super-powered family members and is weirdly treated like a God by the cats around town.

The novel explores interesting questions: What happens when you feel so average around extraordinary people? Can you find a way to stand out? Do you even want to? And hidden within all the geekery, Ness tackles mental illness, sexuality and friendship for a serious emotional punch.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)



Set in a dystopian future that doesn't sound far away (making the whole book infinitely scarier), Ship Breaker highlights the Gulf Coast where people scrap massive oil tankers and other ships for spare parts and precious fuel. Because in this future, mankind has exhausted the world's resources and stripping ships is how people survive.

Amongst all this we meet Nailer, a teen boy dealing with the pressures of this brutal life. Poverty is everywhere, people are dying and not meeting your quota on scrap means starvation. Throw Nailer's abusive father into the mix, and it makes for a short and miserable existence.

Until a glimmer of hope presents itself on the shores of the beach after a hurricane—a clipper ship. It's loaded with technology and the sort of riches only the wealthy can afford in this dark future. The only problem? There's a survivor on board, and Nailer will have to choose between taking apart this ship to provide for himself and his people… or saving the girl.

Ship Breaker promises a vivid portrait of a brutal world and the kids who must fight to live in it.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)



(It's important to note that while reading this book, you're going to want some Oreos. It's in your best interest to pick up a pack of cookies before diving in. Just giving you fair warning.)

Meet Simon Spier, a theater-loving teenager who isn't open about his sexuality just yet… save for with Blue, a boy he's been emailing. Blue's a mystery, but a mystery he's falling in love with.

But all of that threatens to come crashing down when Martin, a classmate and overall jerk, claims he'll out Simon unless Simon does what he says.

Becky Albertalli's debut novel won numerous awards, including the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, and was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. It's a diverse, contemporary story that I hope will be added to school curriculums in the coming years.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)



Melinda Sorindo is a teen girl starting high school at Merryweather High, and what should be a time of new friends and broadened horizons is anything but. She finds herself a social outcast after calling the cops on a party at the end of the summer, and now no one wants to talk or to listen to her.

What happened at that party that made her call the police?

Melinda begins to explore the events of the party through her art class, finding both her voice through the art she's creating and the strength to stand up for herself in the face of what happened.

Speak tackles assault, trauma and PTSD through a uniquely written narrative that appears disjointed and scattered on the page, mirroring Melinda's thoughts. A National Book Award Finalist and a nominee for the Printz and Edgar award, this novel is essential reading for any teen.

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales (2005)



In her debut novel (which won the Pura Belpré Award), Viola Canales' introduces readers to Sofia, a girl growing up in Texas. Sofia faces racism and stereotyping in school, so she seeks out her revenge by doing well in school and proving others wrong. And when the opportunity to attend a prestigious private school surfaces, she has the opportunity to leave the barrio and explore the world beyond. But this means leaving behind her family—and the traditions she holds so dear.

The Tequila Worm is ultimately a crucial story of family and learning about the importance of one's own history.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1963)



With memorable characters and a story that rips through space and time, there's a reason Madeleine L'Engle's classic has been a mainstay in Young Adult literature for over three decades. The story takes readers on an incredible adventure as the Murray children quest with three immortal women on a mission to save their father.

Telepathic aliens, centaur creatures and a dark cloud that is the embodiment of evil… there's so much going on in A Wrinkle in Time, and it only continues in the three books that follow. There's also an outstanding graphic novel adaptation written and illustrated by the fantastic Hope Larson. If you read and loved this classic, Larson's gorgeous interpretation is a great way to revisit it.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (2015)



"My mother always says when you fight destiny, destiny fights back. Some things, they're just written in the stars. You can try but you can never escape what's meant to be."

A stunning debut that's as beautiful as it is devastating, Written in the Stars introduces readers to Naila, a young Pakistani girl in love with a boy name Saif. Unfortunately for Naila, her conservative parents absolutely forbid her to be friends with boys, never mind actually date one.

When her relationship is discovered, her parents whisk her away to Pakistan under the guise of a vacation to learn about her culture. But her parents have actually arranged a marriage for her, and the wedding is to immediately take place.

This is a haunting story about choosing between what you want and what's expected of you.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (2013)



Bullying is at the center of Meg Medina's realistic YA novel, which follows Piddy Sanchez as she learns that Yaqui Delgado wants to beat her up. Piddy is new to the school and just wants to fit in… not get picked on and harassed. But Yaqui isn't eager to make Piddy's life easier. Yaqui and her gang make life miserable for Piddy, and she'll have to find a way to survive each day.

While it's certainly a story about bullying, Medina's book touches on complicated friendships and broken families as well. And the tension created for Piddy and her situation feels very, very real.

What about that title? You need this book on your shelf.