reading list suggestions

I’m looking to expand my reading horizons in the contemporary YA market. To that end, I’ve just bought the first two books in Scott Westerfeld’s series: Uglies and Pretties. I’m also getting copies of Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You and Kelly Parra’s Graffiti Girl, plus Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. I’m also considering getting a book by Sarah Dessen, but haven’t decided which one to start with. Ditto on Meg Cabot (I was considering Teen Idol, but it’s an older title.)

Given those examples as the type of things I’m considering, what would you add to the list, and why?

ETA: Because a couple people have wondered in comments… I’m not limiting myself to any particular genre here. I am looking for things that are both high quality and popular. And, yes, overlooked sleeper masterpieces are good too.

40 responses to “reading list suggestions

  1. Are you interested in what’s good but maybe overlooked, or in what’s hot?
    (Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, for the Twilight crowd, in any case.)

      • Nifty. Based on the list of what you’ve already got, I think you might enjoy E. Lockhart’s work (very frank, lots of fun) and Cecil Castellucci’s (very smart, and sorts of characters you don’t see much of in YA). Diana Peterfruend has a neat series (starts with Secret Society Girl) going about the first class of girls inducted into a formerly all-male secret society at Yale Eli U.
        My list that’s less what-you-might-like-based-on-what-you-already-have and more books-that-I-just-think-are-worth-anybody’s-time would start with Kathe Koja’s YA. It took me a few books to get past the cognitive dissonance of Koja-as-YA-author, but she’s doing some super work. Slim, fierce books.
        Cures of Heartbreak by Margo Rabb is about a girl in the wake of her mother’s death. It’s a very graceful, gentle book, and sometimes quite funny, and I haven’t heard anyone say a bad word about it (and wouldn’t say any myself).
        Kristopher Reisz’s Tripping to Somewhere, I hear, didn’t sell as well as one might’ve hoped, but it’s a dazzled, dizzy, _intelligent_ book that I think should really appeal to readers of Holly Black’s Tithe, etc.
        And the Norton Award so far is coming up with pretty strongs shortlists. So there’s that.

  2. Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever was my favorite.

      • I thought all the characters, even the minor, secondary characters, were fleshed out really well. But in particular, I thought the love interest, Wes, was awesome. As a teen (and now!) the books I read HAD to have a good love interest, even if it was a small subplot. And rarely do I find a love interest that satisfies me as a reader. Wes was not the hot jock that every girl drooled over. As a matter fact, when Macy (the MC) questioned him about the attention he attracted, he seemed oblivious to the idea. He was charming and confident, but not arrogant. He was all the things you’d want in a boyfriend at that age.

  3. Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books are fun (probably considered paranormal contemporary — or contemporary fantasy) — GOLDEN, TATTOO, PLATINUM.

  4. YA
    Meg Cabot’s The Boy Next Door is brilliant — sort of not YA, but it’s epistolary e-mail, and I’m not much for the style but she pulls it off. After that, pick any Princess Diary–they’re such great popcorn.
    And I’m into Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps which really is the coolest take on vampires I’ve seen in years.

  5. Are you looking for YA fantasy/SF or YA generally?
    If it’s YA ‘general’, I’d recommend ‘Smack’ by Melvin Burgess (UK title is Junk), Doing It by Melvin Burgess, Pig-Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman (although that’s more a border MG/YA book), Antony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, and Over A Thousand HIlls I Walk With You by Hanna Jensen.
    If you want YA fantasy, then I’d reccomend Sam Enthoven’s Black Tattoo and I’d second the rec for Wicked Lovely.

  6. For Meg Cabot, I would vote for Avalon High. Maybe I was just in a good mood the day I read it, but it really tickled my fancy, even though I saw through the “big twist” on about page 1.
    I’m trying to remember what else has had around the house (as youth librarian is her job) — I know she liked Uglies, but I don’t think she ever finished the third one in that series. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and Whale Talk (unless you’re limiting yourself to SF/F).

    • Definitely look at Whale Talk (Chris Crutcher) … and I’d recommend An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and both Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (two separate books) by M. T. Anderson. Also maybe Heavy Metal and You by Chris Krovatin.
      I spent the afternoon at a local-library-consortium meeting for teen services librarians. Several of them are on various awards committees. Here’s what they brought for today’s “fave raves” recap:
      Pete Hautman — Rash (this won the teen book award in Michigan last year)
      Futuristic US society where people are punished for anything that harms others; a boy gets sent to a pizza factory/prison in Canada for infecting his classmates with a rash.
      Adam Selzer — How To Get Suspended and Influence People
      A boy tries to make an film about a controversial topic — sex — for school
      Gemma Malley — Declaration
      Like Haddix’s Among the Hidden, but meatier and harsher
      Alfred C. Martino — Pinned
      What you have to do to be a wrestler, told through two boys’ stories
      Buckhanon –Conception (I think this one was an ARC)
      An inner-city girl wants to escape the life her friends have — babies and guys who don’t stick around
      Margaret Buffie — Out of Focus
      Sarah Darer Littman — Confessions of a Closet Catholic
      Robin Brande — Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature
      Jenny Downham — Before I Die
      Conor Kostick — Epic
      Loretta Ellsworth — In Search of Mockingbird

    • Going back a few years there are the Paul Zindel books:
      Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball;
      My Darling, My Hamburger;
      Confessions of a Teenaged Baboon…
      I was totally taken by these for a while in my teens. Some of the topics are a bit dated – do teens still do LSG? But the issues are still relevant.

  7. Oh, you’re in for a treat…so much great stuff out there to dive into!
    If you want a great place to start, just take a look at the five NBA nominations this year, particularly Kathleen Duey’s SKIN HUNGER, and M. Sindy Felin’s TOUCHING SNOW.
    And perhaps it’s a bit of BSP, but I’d recommend some of my clients’ work too. Recent pubs are BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale, BEIGE by Cecil Castellucci, HACKING HARVARD by Robin Wasserman and SUCH A PRETTY GIRL by Laura Wiess.
    Oh, and while I’m a fan of all of Sarah Dessen’s books, I’ll always have a particular soft spot for her first novel, THAT SUMMER. I was the rights director at Orchard when we published it, and it was a lot of fun to sell!

  8. Apparently Spinelli’s STARGIRL is awesome, and it has a recent sequel that I think is called LOVE, STARGIRL. Not as great as Maniac Magee, but worth it. Also, have you ever read the Montmorency books that start with THIEF, LIAR, GENTLEMAN? Montmorency is my new imaginary Victorian boyfriend.

  9. I was lukewarm on Libba Bray’s first book, butafter I had finished it and let it sit in my head for a while, I came down on the side of really liking it. I liked the second one even better, and I’m quite looking forward to the third. Libba Bray explores a lot of good themes within the framework of a compelling fantasy story. I have only read Princess Diaries and adult stories Meg Cabot, but I find them all rather enjoyable, and I would note that you don’t need to start with a particular volume to have them make sense. She explains most of the relevant backstory in the later ones. I think I particularly enjoyed the 6th one.

  10. Westerfeld’s Midnighters.

  11. Recommendations
    I would also recommend the Libba Bray books — A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and REBEL ANGELS. I liked the second one a lot more, but the first is solid. They’re historical/fantasy and I love the number of tough issues she tackles — including incest/abuse, cutting, basic women’s issues at the turn of the century, etc. She writes beautifully. Very enjoyable.
    Another good one is KETURAH AND LORD DEATH by Martine Leavitt. It has this great fairy tale feel to it, kind of dark, but as all FT’s, a great message.
    Stolarz’s BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series is interesting. I’ve only read the first, but it was a quick, fun read. They’re contemporary paranormals about psychics/witchcraft.
    FWIW, it sounds like you’ve picked out some good ones. I didn’t go ga-ga over TWILIGHT, but absolutely wanted to read the next book for some reason. The next two are great, tho. 🙂 I’D TELL YOU… is so cute and fun. I hope you enjoy it.
    I wasn’t wild about WICKED LOVELY, but a lot of people seem to like it.
    Anyway — hope this helps!

  12. I’m working my way through roughly the same list right now. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY. A fresh, real voice, with a plot that will NOT let you go.
    I enjoyed UGLIES very much, and have PRETTIES next on my list, with Libba Bray’s books. I’d also recommend Diana Peterfreund’s SECRET SOCIETY GIRL series.
    I’ll keep an eye out for the Meg Cabot recommendations you get–I read SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT and it was okay, but I bet there are stronger choices.

  13. On the note of Scott Westerfeld, I suggest also trying his wife’s, Justine Larbaesteir, series that starts with Magic or Madness.
    My favorite Meg Cabot stuff was The Mediator series, but that is also older. Her most popular is definitely The Princess Diaries. Her more recent books include Pants on Fire and Jinx, as well as the Avalon High manga.
    I must thoroughly back those who suggested Wicked Lovely. I love Melissa Marr’s writing, and though it is for older teens, think it a prime example of beautifully written YA.
    Another author who writes grittier, darker faerie stories for older teens is Holly Black. I highly suggest her as well.
    I also suggest Maureen Johnson, John Green (especially Looking for Alaska), and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (an interesting twist on vampires that I’d never seen done).

    • Yes to Maureen Johnson, especially 13 Little Blue Envelopes which is wonderfully emotional and funny, and has a non-trad romantic interest, plus lots of gorgeous travel across Europe.

  14. I know Tamora Pierce is an old favorite but I thought her latest Trickster series was great (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen).

  15. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, is my favorite of all the books I’ve read this year. It’s just sublime. I wrote a very short review because I couldn’t put it down when I was done; I had to flip back to the first page and start over.
    Lots of great suggestions in this thread, though… I’d second the recommendations for Peeps, Holly Black, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

  16. what to read
    Hi. I am a YA writer and I maintain a page on my website called Need to Read. You probably don’t have time to drop by, but if you do, there’s a lot of good stuff on here about what I’m reading. I read about 3-5 YAs a week and have for several years.
    Before I had a website, it started as a LJ, which you can also access here: There are lots of good things in the archives.
    Recently, I enjoyed the YA LOVE, CAJUN STYLE by Diane Les Becquets and my favorite authors at the moment are Cathy Cassidy, Susan Juby, Joan Bauer and k.l. going.
    I think that Meg Cabot is a fun writer, but if you’re looking for her best stuff, I think she excels with the Mediator series…not so new, but very satisfying.
    And you’ll need the sequel to Ally Carter’s book…it’s on the NYT Best Sellers list already!

  17. I was going to suggest mine…but that would be, um, ya know…LOL!
    So I will say ANYTHING by Laurie Halse Anderson!!!

  18. sorry for a double comment, can’t help myself
    This is my favorites list from 2006.
    I’d intended to do a list of my favorite ten, but who can limit themselves to ten? So here are my top fifteen. I read 125 books that I remembered to write down in my file. About 90% were YA, 5% were MG and 5% were adult or nonfiction.
    I am going to put them in the order I read them because I don’t like to choose one over the other. These books are ones I’ve read this year, not ones published this year (although a lot of them are new). Enjoy!
    TRIBES by Arthur Slade
    PROM by Laurie Halse Anderson
    TOTALLY JOE by James Howe
    STUMPTOWN KID by Carol Gorman and Ron J. Findley
    INDIGO BLUE by Cathy Cassidy
    THE BIG NOTHING by Adrian Fogelin
    DO-OVER by Rachel Vail
    SUMMER OF THE SKUNKS by Wilmoth Foreman
    FAT KID RULES THE WORLD by k.l. Going
    THE XANADU MANUSCRIPT by John Rowe Townsend
    NOT AS CRAZY AS I SEEM by George Harrar
    WELCOME TO WAHOO by Dennis & Elise Carr
    LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green

  19. I see a lot of good suggestions here, but of course I can add to them. I’d recommend Bloom by Elizabeth Scott. Also Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and Tithe by Holly Black. Have fun!

  20. I liked Dessen’s JUST LISTEN, and can recommend it.
    One of the best YA I have ever read, though, is WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher. Blew me away!!
    This year’s Best First Novel Rita went to a YA, also. ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE, by Barbara Ferrar w/a Caridad Ferrar. I actually read it in the Rita judging and LOVED it. Was thrilled when she won!
    I read a YA or 2 almost every week. Lots of Simon Pulse titles – the romcom line is light and fun, and romance-y (hmmmm, sort of like what I write, imagine that!), but they do other things in the line, too. Love Meg Cabot, she has such a strong voice, and it comes through in everything she does. Her MEDIATOR series is the one I gravitate toward every time I go to buy books. I like the Alex Rider series, but it is solidly British. I also enjoyed James Patterson’s MAXIMUM RIDE books – solidly in the sf/fantasy/thriller camp (hey, it’s Patterson!), and great reads.
    The one series that caught my eye because of a reader was GOSSIP GIRLS. I was in the YA aisle when a young girl (11? 12?) came in whispering to herself, “Oh, please, let it be there. Please, please, please.” When she spotted the book on the shelf, she squealed, snatched it, and ran for the counter. After that, I HAD to read one. They’re glitzy romance done for teens, and have certainly generated their share of controversy.
    OK, this ended up being a LOT longer than I had intended. Clearly, I have developed a real enthusiasm for the genre!
    Chris Y

  21. Really good YA fantasy was Holly Black’s Ironside out this year.

  22. YA book recommendations
    What about Megan McCafferty’s series starting with SLOPPY FIRSTS? She’s great! And my latest discovery is Jodi Lynn Anderson’s two-book PEACHES series. I LOVED them, great characters and wonderful setting. Does anyone know anything about her? I couldn’t find a web site. Only know that she lives in Georgia (peach country).

  23. The first Sarah Dessen novel I read was The Truth About Forever, and it hooked me — I’ve read all of hers now. Consistently realistic characters.
    Others have mentioned Laurie Halse Anderson. My fave by her is Catalyst.
    And John Green’s Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines are both great.
    Enjoy your reading! 🙂

  24. Definitely Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it made me cry. And the first Gossip Girl book is the Gold Standard for glitzy teen drama — so frickin’ good, even if you hate yourself for it a little. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison is hilarious.
    And you can’t beat The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, if you haven’t read it already. Absolutely wonderful.

  25. Meg Rosoff; How I Live Now

  26. Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series.

  27. Delurking because I love YA and had to respond to this post…
    My favorite Sarah Dessen books are DREAMLAND and SOMEONE LIKE YOU. Meg Rosoff’s HOW I LIVE NOW absolutely floored me when I first read it; her second novel, JUST IN CASE, is equally strong but very different. Of YAs published this year, TWISTED (Laurie Halse Anderson) and STORY OF A GIRL (Sara Zarr) have been my favorites so far.

  28. de-lurking myself…
    i’d suggest BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE by Anette Kurtis Klause for a sleeper masterpiece. Also – IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Other YA books (if you’ve got a thing for epic ya fantasy) would be Alison Croggon’s THE NAMING series.

  29. I’d second (third? fourth?) Chris Crutcher and Libba Bray, and add Rachel Cohen’s Gingerbread and Ysabeau Wilce’s Flora Segunda (still trying to decide if Wilce’s is more YA or more middle grade, though).
    My favorite Sarah Dessen is Keeping the Moon, for its assortment of weirdly fabulous yet realistic characters and its protagonist.
    Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn was an absolute favorite of my teen writer mentee’s; others included John Green’s Looking for Alaska and This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen.
    You might check ‘s blog for quick reviews of a wide range of mostly-teen books (she’s a teen librarian I used to work with). She’s got a good mix of widely-read and “sleeper” titles, and includes books that appeal to boys as well.

  30. Well … Start with the Great Grandparents
    Young Adult Fantasy has its most immediate roots in 19th Century story telling. Start there. You can approach that era by reading the 19th Century histories of fairy mythology (Thomas Keightly’s Fairy Mythology is the most useful.) Then read a few of the 19th century fairy books. Start with one of George McDonald’s.
    The early 20th century inheritors of Fairy Myth tradition are Baum and Neil Gaiman (Lord Dunsany). The sleeper in the era would be Gouverneur Morris. (It & Other Stories, Scribner’s, 1912. Read especially “Back There in the Grass.”)
    More modern YA Fantasy? Well, the older Nancy Drew books are fairy tales without the fairies. So are many of the 1930-50’s SF stories. (Think about it.) Of the current authors, Eoin Colfer makes me chuckle the longest. Tamora Pierce keeps me interested. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are essentially YA or YA crossover. The character of Melony is especially well done. Visit a bookstore and browse the shelves.
    My favorite YA fantasy? Pixie Warrior. You can’t read it though. Not yet. Look for it next year! (Shameless plug)

  31. Westerfeld, Nix, Gould, Larbalestier
    You already mentioned Uglies but I’d add Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour. I thought it perfectly captured the feeling of moving from a big city to a small town in the middle of nowhere and feeling like a freak, and then finding someone with a common interest and a secret to share, and having adventures together. It’s just a joyful book to read.
    And really, all of Westerfeld’s YA novels are great: So Yesterday about trendsetters and marketing, Peeps with a very refreshing take on vampires and toxoplasmosis, its sequel The Last Days, and all 7 books of his two trilogies.
    Garth Nix’s Sabriel. I don’t typically like fantasy, but I really liked how the magic in his setting was both consistent and evocative, and Sabriel is a terribly appealing protagonist. (I’m firmly in the camp of “If I don’t care what happens to the characters when I turn the page I’m not enjoying the book.”) Lirael and Abhorsen are a 2-parter later in the same setting.
    Steven Gould’s Jumper (the original, not Jumper: Griffin’s Storywhich is adapted from the movie adapted from the original novel, and much weaker for it). Also his Wildside. They’re both very good at taking one “What if?” and exploring it and the consequences. The scene in Wildside with the call to the director of the Natural History Museum makes me tear up every time.
    I second Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness. I haven’t read the other two books that follow it but I’m looking forward to doing so.
    I won’t mention Hope Mirrlee’s Lud-in-the-Mist because you said contemporary YA.
    Someone at the last Worldcon made an interesting comment that it used to be that YA protagonists used the things they learned at home when they went out into the world (Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Citizen of the Galaxy for example) and now it’s more common that they use the things they learn from their adventure to apply to their family situation when they return.

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