When I was little, I used to bring a book wherever I went — usually an embarrassingly covered/titled one, what can ya do — in my bookbag, tucked into my coat, piled in the car. I would snuggle under covers till darkness blurred to dawn, lost in new worlds and familiar pages. Reading Young Adult (YA) novels now brings me back to that time — when reading felt as essential as breathing (and much more essential than sleeping) and every feeling burst like a flame. Below is a list of my old favorites and new up-all-nighters, because I need to share my obsession with others. You won’t be sorry.
CONFESSION: I have never read a John Green book (I know, I know, I’m just not into that whole manicpixiedreamgirl shtick), so none are on this list. Haters gonna hate.
Ella Enchanted might be my favorite YA novel of all time. Every magical moment makes my heart literally HURT with joy. It is full of the best of childhood — determination, spunk, silliness. Read it immediately. And never speak of the movie adaptation which is a CRIME AGAINST THIS BOOK.
This book is irreverent, irrepressible, and nonsensical in the most glorious way. It captures the spirit of actual, real-life friendships in a way that few books do — with plenty of teenage angst, romance, and laughter to go around. Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty makes me want to talk like an Australian and also be her best friend. If you like it, I HIGHLY recommend Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie.
This book was everything I never knew I needed: aka a Monty Python-esque YA historical romp, that asks nothing of you except to enjoy yourself. It's not for everyone, but if you're looking for a light-hearted, silly adventure, then look no further.
I recently re-read this book from my youth and I was CACKLING out loud in my apartment by myself like a weirdo. Our heroine, Jan Miller, is all of us. Pick it up for a seriously relatable read at any age. (NOTE: this is a real case of not judging a book by it's cover. Trust me.)
Part of a series (YAY SERIES ARE THE BEST), The Raven Boys is paranormal YA romance at it's angsty finest. With a cast of strong-willed (albeit a TOUCH stereotypical, stick with me) characters, this book accomplishes for me what Twilight just could not make happen: weaving romance and magic amidst characters you'll actually want to know.
The YA book for anyone who remembers that feeling of first love — agonizing, heart-too-full, feel-too-much first love that breaks you and builds you up at once. Eleanor & Park will give you ALL THE FEELS. Read it when you need a good cozy night in with your feelings.
There are three things I talk about way too much: Gilmore Girls, Jon Snow, and the Princess Diaries series. I remember the exact day I picked up the first book (at a real live bookstore when I was small enough I had to ask an associate to get it down for me) and my life has never been the same. LOL dramatic, but kind of true. I could not love these books more — they are truly feel-good, laugh-till-you-cry enjoyable. Mia Thermopolis is my spirit animal and Meg Cabot (the author and a YA GODDESS) is one of my favorite people that I have also never met. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS. Also another case where the movie just DOES NOT do justice — and I cannot even with the second movie, I feel a rant emerging, goodbye.
Set against the backdrop of WWII, this novel tells the stories of four refugees, vying for passage to freedom from their suffering. A read that is rich in context with today's world — it will make you think, it will make you cry, it will take you a journey you won't be able to forget.
This book is hilarious, full stop. The gist: Henry “Monty” Montague is off on his grand tour of Europe, with his sister and his best friend/secret crush. SWASH-BUCKLING ensues in the most purely entertaining book I've read all year. Read it with a beer and a smile and be prepared to suspend your disbelief in the best way.
A Parisian romance that feels like so much more than a Parisian romance, Anna and the French Kiss pulls you into it's characters lives — Perkins is a master at creating people I want to hang with, who feel real in a way that is as enjoyable as it is impressive. Also like, falling in love in Paris, okay? YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO READ IT.
The first time I read this, I had no idea what snogging even was, but I loved it all the same. It's adept at ironizing all the nuances and insanities of being a teenager — from kissing with tongues to accidentally shaving off part of your eyebrows (which ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO ME, #relatable). Also part of a hilarious series.
This book seriously doesn't hold back. It puts all of the bravery, insanity, neediness, emotion of being a girl on display. It will rub you raw, and remind you of how strong you are. An essential read that will challenge you, pick at you, and make you examine the new and old realities of teenagerdom.
I'm ending on this sweet, sweet book about a girl who loves Jane Austen and her battle not to be overshadowed by her exuberant best friend. I was a real quiet lady in high school (hence my reading addiction) and I related to the main character of Enthusiasm, Julie, SO MUCH it hurt. A novel for when you're feeling a little blue, and need a real cute pick me up to breeze through.