Parents will love these YA books. By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer
I used to think that YA books were a waste of time. I mean, I didn't even read them when I was an actual teen. (OK, I did read a friend's much-dog-eared copy of Judy Blume's Forever, but that was in sixth grade, and what Gen Xer didn't read that?) There wasn't enough time in my schedule to read all of the critically acclaimed "grown-up" books I wanted to read, much less those aimed at a totally different demographic.
But a few years ago, I finally took the advice of my Common Sense pals Betsy Bozdech and Carrie Wheadon and started reading the Harry Potter books with my oldest son, who was 7 at the time. I was hooked -- I read all seven books in one week -- even though my son didn't finish reading them until he was 9. A year later, Betsy recommended I read The Hunger Games, and again, I devoured read the entire series. Voila, I was officially a YA lover. I even started a blog with my sister, an elementary school teacher, about our newfound love of teen lit.
So now one of the questions I get asked constantly (aside from "Should I take my kids to see this movie?") is "Which YA books are worth reading?" Here are five teen-targeted novels I loved -- and I think you will, too.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
It's 1986 in Omaha. Park, a half-Korean kid who loves new wave music and graphic novels, begrudgingly allows an offbeat new girl, Eleanor, to sit next to him on the bus. That one moment changes everything, as the two ever so slowly develop a bond over pop culture that leads to the kind of first love that could just be the real thing. A must read if you grew up in the '80s.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This was the YA book of 2012 and landed on dozens of best-of-the-year lists. Green's story of Hazel Grace and Augustus, two impossibly precocious cancer-stricken teens who fall in love, is heartbreakingly beautiful. Smart and funny and so poignant you'll need Kleenex on hand, The Fault in Our Stars should be required reading in high school English.
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Marchetta, an award-winning YA author from Australia, is best known for her contemporary novels like Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesa, but her first foray into the world of medieval fantasy is breathtakingly rich and sophisticated. Imagine the complexity and intrigue of the Game of Thrones universe, with a central epic romance between a mysterious novice named Evanjalin and the titular warrior diplomat Finnikin, both of whom just want to return from exile to their homeland Lumatere, which has been cursed for more than a decade. (Also read the other two books in the Lumatere Chronicles trilogy: Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn.)
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
It's only her second book, and already Sepetys has become one of YA's preeminent historical novelists. Meet Josie Moraine, the smart, sensitive daughter of a high-end New Orleans prostitute whose one ambition is to go to college far away from the Big Easy. Sepetys' thoroughly researched story, set in 1950, brings the era to life in brilliant detail. Also read her first novel, Between Shades of Gray (NOT to be confused with that other Grey book).
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Forman's emotional story follows 17-year-old Mia, who's in a coma after a car crash killed her parents and her little brother. Mia's a Juilliard-bound cellist whose spirit can see everything that's happening to her, and ultimately -- with the help of her best friend and her amazing boyfriend Adam -- she must decide whether to follow her immediate family and let go or stay behind and live without them. You'll need that stash of Kleenex again. Also read the companion novel, Where She Went, which takes place three years later and is written from Adam's perspective.
Do you like YA novels? Share your favorites below.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:www.commonsensemedia.org.