At this point, if you’ve ever had a roommate or a little sister or a mom or your monthly period, you’ve probably heard about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. You’ve probably also either read it or are lying about having read it. The book, which tells the love story of two teenage cancer patients, was originally released in 2012 — the movie adaption comes out on June 6 of this year. It’s been a bestseller since it came out and has, in turn, turned the spotlight towards the myriad books crafted specifically for the small, zitty and hormone-crazed.
YA fiction, despite getting a lot of flack for being written for young adults, is undeniably one of the most important genres of literature for many reasons: it opens the door to bigger ideas for burgeoning readers, it’s cathartic, and it has a unique way of helping curious kids find their way out of the foggy world that is middle and high school. While The Fault in Our Stars is a great place to begin, here’s some of NYU Local’s favorite YA fiction that John Green didn’t write.
Amanda McLoughlin, City:
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden, one of the first YA novels and with a same-sex couple to boot! The voice is so strong, the characters are so well-defined, and the scenes are so memorable that I can go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walk you through Annie’s and Liza’s first meeting.
Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, trilogy by Garth Nix. Fantasy that ranks up there with Harry Potter and LotR. Kickass female protagonist? Can’t say no to that! Unique brand of magic? Heck yes. Immersive world-building and maps galore? Sign me up.
His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) by Phillip Pullman. Okay, these are my desert island novels, and not just because large parts of them are set in the Arctic. Lyra is my favorite protagonist of all time. Daemons and alethiometers are my favorite authorial inventions of all time. Pullman’s witches are my favorite witches of all time. This version of world-hopping is my favorite of all time (I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, can you tell?). If you had the misfortune to watch the movie a couple years back, cast it from your mind and give the source material a try.
Adam Cecil, Entertainment:
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler.
Olivia Loving, On Campus:
Speak and Catalyst, which are both by same author, Laurie Halse Anderson – who I was pen pals with).
A Wrinkle in Time (or anything else) by Madeleine l’Engle.
My Sister’s Keeper (or again, anything else) by Jodi Picoult – I think she’s good for teenagers because they’re not done with the suburbia clichés, and her books are exciting before you read 10 of them. I do still pick up one every once in a while though! Don’t want to diss Jodi – I think she’s great at what she does and her books are good for teens because they’re addicting.
Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (this one is less about teenagedom and more for middle grade readers – it won the Newbery – but I think it’s for everyone), and One Day by David Nicholls, which is also a book for everyone, but I think teenagers latch onto it.
Andrew Karpan, Entertainment:
For the best in mildly serious YA lit, I think M.T Anderson is pretty much a critic’s darling – Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. He belongs somewhere.
Catherine Addington, On Campus:
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, everything Gail Carson Levine ever touched, but especially Ella Enchanted, Fairest, and The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts, the Inkworld series by Cornelia Funke, the Royal Diaries/Dear America (both with various authors), The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and ALL THE NANCY DREW BOOKS NOW AND FOREVER. And as for middle-grade books that I still revisit/revisited all through high school, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare…could go on for days with this one.
Elizabeth Preza, City:
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (duh).
Addy Baird, Entertainment:
If I had to pick just one series of my own that exemplified great YA lit, it’d be The Ruby Oliver Series (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, Treasure Map of Boys, Real Live Boyfriends) by E. Lockhart. This series is the epitome of teen chick lit, but Lockhart’s writing is so sharp and her characters so relatable you can’t help but see yourself in them and adopt their ways. Before you know it you’ll be referring to puberty as “mocha latte.”