If you’re looking for some good summer reads, consider diving into the world of young adult fiction. For those of you who teach grades 6 to 9, these novels will equip you with reading recommendations for your students, and they’re also great for starting book discussions.
Some of you may also have your own young adult living in your home—or soon-to-be young adult. In that case, do some reading together, or preview these books and make suggestions. And if you’re just looking for something engrossing and compelling to read, these will fit that bill.
Top 10 Young Adult Reads
My recommendations include classics that you might have missed, as well as a few others:
My 12-year-old son and I read this gripping novel by Cory Doctorow over the course of a few days. It’s got all the makings of a terrifying—only slightly—contemporary science fiction novel. It has a fast plot and great characters, and it takes on some of the big issues of our time: homeland security, Guantanamo, and the Patriot Act. My son and I talked about the issues raised in this book for weeks.
Sherman Alexie’s humorous, semiautobiographical novel follows 14-year-old Junior as he leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation for a mostly white school in a nearby town. While this book is about the pain and awkwardness of adolescence, it is also a thoughtful exploration of the devastation that poverty, racism, and alcoholism have wreaked on Native American communities. If you’ve never read Sherman Alexie, start here. You’ll be left wanting more of his heartbreakingly beautiful prose.
This book is a series of poetic vignettes about a young girl growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods. Written by Sandra Cisneros, it’s the kind of book that you can devour in one sitting, or slowly savor by reading one page per day. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and you’ll want to read it over and over. It’s also a powerful launching point for a conversation with young girls about their identity and self-image.
The premise of this book by M. T. Anderson is creepy and futuristic. In the future, most people have a feed chip implanted in their heads that connects everyone to a version of the internet. Privacy of any kind is gone. But during a spring break—on the moon—Titus and Violet meet and build a relationship when their feeds are hacked. This is a sharp satire that’s reminiscent of George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. This book offers a powerful entry to conversations about entertainment, the internet, and contemporary culture.
Wait until your child is in eighth grade to read this one by Lois Lowry together. It’s the kind of book that they’ll get so much more out of with a little more maturity and background knowledge. This is a creepy, haunting story whose protagonist—12-year-old Jonas—lives in a seemingly ideal world of conformity and contentment. But when he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory, he begins to understand the terrifying secrets behind his fragile community. This is the kind of book that’ll launch conversations and reflections about freedom, justice, fairness, and democracy.
In the first of this trilogy by Philip Pullman, you’ll meet Lyra Belacqua, our young heroine, who tries to prevent kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments. When she helps Will Parry—a boy from another world—search for his father, she is pulled into a battle between the angelic forces of the Authority and those gathered by her rebel uncle, Lord Asriel. These fantasy novels are gripping and provocative and easily accessible even if fantasy isn’t your thing.
This is a unique book by Ransom Riggs, partly because the text is interspersed with photos. After a family tragedy, Jacob feels compelled to explore an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. He discovers that the children once kept there, including his own grandfather, may have been dangerous—and may still be alive. This novel’s haunting twists and turns will keep you glued to its pages.
This realistic fiction series by Ann Brashares is funny, moving, and sad. It’s a quick and engrossing read, especially—I suspect—if you are or ever were a teenage girl. The four best friends and backdrop of a Greek island might make some of us envious, but the real struggles the characters deal with are widely relevant. If you have a daughter in grades 7 to 10, this would be a fantastic series to read together.
This is a series by Christopher Paolini that begins as Eragon, a poor farm boy, grows into a master swordsman who fights alongside his dragon, Saphira, to help save the empire from evil and darkness. It’s complex and classic fantasy, and it’s further inspiring to young readers—and aspiring writers—because the author began the first book in the series, Eragon, when he was only 15 years old.
Finally, if you are among the few who have not yet read the Harry Potter series, or the Hunger Games series, now’s the time! I’m envious of anyone who hasn’t read them because you’re in for one of the biggest reading treats of your life.