5 Teen Lit Books Parents Should Read

Get 'em for your teens -- but "borrow" them when they're not looking.
Sandie Angulo Chen Guest Blogger | Movie/DVD/Book Reviewer | Mom of three Categories: Reading, We Recommend
Guest Blogger | Movie/DVD/Book Reviewer | Mom of three

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.

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About Sandie Angulo Chen

Sandie has been writing about movies, books, pop culture, and entertainment since 1998, when she landed her first job after college at EntertainmentWeekly.com. From there, she moved to AOL's Moviefone.com, where, as a... Read more

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Comments (35)

Adult written by karenistah

I'm now at 22, but still I love to read some children books, teen books and YA books. Maybe because reading has nothing to do with what genre you read, as long as you enjoyed reading and learned something from it, any genre will do. My favorite YA books are of course can't deny almost everybody is reading The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. That book is just excellent. The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner, Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling, Shatter Me series by Tehereh Mafi, and there's a lot more actually. In this generation YA books are getting bigger in number, authors are busy making YA novels.
Parent of a 14 and 17 year old written by Happy Penguin

My teens and I LOVE the Ranger's Apprentice Series and have now just devoured the Brotherband Series, also by John Flanagan. They offer strong male AND female characters, appealing to both my daughter and my son. We also enjoy Flanagan's wry wit, especially in the character Halt. I especially appreciate the leadership skills the character Hal has to learn and display in the Brotherband series.
Teen, 13 years old written by gmvyoshi

My favorite Young Adult novels are: -Divergent Trilogy and Four: A Divergent Collection(Veronica Roth) -The Fault In Our Stars(John Green) -Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy(E. L. James) -The Giver(Lois Lowry) -If I Stay and Where She Went(Gayle Forman) -Eleanor and Park(Rainbow Rowell) -The Spectacular Now(Tim Tharp) -Looking For Alaska(John Green) -Pretenders and License To Spill(Lisi Harrison) -Let It Snow(John Green, Lauren Myracle, Mauren Johnson) -The Maze Runner Series(James Dashner) -Speak(Laurie Halsey Anderson) -Paper Towns(John Green) -Famous Last Words(Katie Alender) -An Abundance of Katherines(John Green) -Matched Trilogy(Ally Condie) -The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series(Ann Brashares) -Will Grayson, Will Grayson(John Green, David Levithan) -The Hunger Games Trilogy(Suzanne Collins) -Twilight Series(Stephanie Meyer) -The Book Thief(Markus Zusak) -The Host(Stephanie Meyer) ^I recommend all of the YA books above(to older, mature readers only)^And quite a few of them are film adaptations (which I also recommend) and some are soon-to-be film adaptations: (Fifty Shades of Grey)can't wait until February 13, 2015! And (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)- can't wait until November 20, 2015! Also, (Where She Went) is supposedly coming soon too-can't wait until April 2015! And remember, everyone: Books are bæ!
Kid, 11 years old

I'm entering 6th grade next year, so this summer i hope to read "if i stay," "mockingjay," "what's left of me," "the death cure," and "the spectacular now." Right now, my current favorites are "divergent," "the maze runner," "the fault in our stars," "the hunger games," and most of all "fangirl!"
Educator written by Tracy Ferguson

Also, every high schooler should be required to read "Looking for Alaska" by John Green, "13 Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, "Feather(s?)" by Walter Dean Myers (I'm not sure about the author of this), and "After" by Amy Efaw....some of the ones that I think are VERY powerful for teens!
Kid, 10 years old

I love love love YA books although they're not really appropriate as I'm 10 :/ but I love them anyway. If you love YA read all of John Green's books including The fault in our stars which was mentioned Will Grayson Will Grayson is extremely dirty though I read about twelve pages then nearly threw up so yeah even if you are mature don't read unless you are about 15+. It's not even funny really just gross. Slide is my favourite YA book, I forgot who it is by but it is absolutely fantastic. I also love all of Lisi Harrison's books!
Teen, 17 years old written by graceloo123

I think that "Wonder" is a very good book. It is by R.J Palacio. I read it when I was a kid and I still remember it today. It tells a moral to be yourself. It also tells their point of view. Its about..... A boy name August which has a face disorder and yet he goes to school while getting picked on. It shows the feeling for him, friends, sister, etc... They go through all of this and made it through their hardships. I recommend you reading it if you haven't. :) Happy Reading ~
Teen, 15 years old written by G30rg!3

I love love love 'If I Stay', and have probably read more YA novels than many teens have read any books! I would recommend for adults so many YA books, as they are both well-written and, if they're good novels, relatable to all ages. I especially like the 'Beautiful Creatures' series (although I have yet to read the sequels), anything Maggie Stiefvater writes, the 'Lunar Chronicles' and the 'TimeRiders' series (which is also suitable for tweens/early teens). Sorry for such an in-depth comment, but (as you can probably tell) YA is my forte :)
Parent of a 11 year old written by Girls2moms

Hi, wonder if you can offer some suggestions. My daughter is 12 and reads at a high school level. However, she doesn't have the emotional maturity to tackle some high school books nor is she ready to deal with serious high school romance. Can you recommend some books for her?
Parent written by teamdietrich

I have been previewing( reading) boys books. Sophia's War- American Revolution. Tangerine- has soccer and football. I just finished my first Alex Rider preview and I really liked that too. It is violent but no sex. A mini James Bond
Parent of a 11 year old written by amyzen

Has she read any Rick Riordan? Especially the Kane Chronicles but also the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series. All are great, my 11yo daughter has been reading then for years, but the books are long have strong characters and the Kane chronicles have good humor mixed in. All have just the hint of romance
Teen, 13 years old written by clarabelle220

Sorry this is a year later, but for anyone else who needs this info: Well I am a 13 year old girl and my mom is a librarian for 5th and 6th graders so I have a lot of experience with that sort f reading level :) I just read the Divergent series and it was AMAZING! Also The Fault in Our Stars as stated above is great, but it does have an inappropriate scene and quite a bit of language. Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter are always good choices. I have personally developed an obsession with the Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare, which is like Twilight, except good and exciting... and good. Some other books that I've heard are good are: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell; Eleanor & Park (as stated above) by Rainbow Rowell; The book Thief; and Paper Towns by John Green
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old written by Sandie Angulo Chen

I can commiserate, as my 11-year-old son also reads at a high-school level, but he's not interested in romance at all (yet) and tends to stick to fantasy or sci-fi, which tend to have less romance. Have you checked out the site's excellent Essential Books list? Check out the ages 13-17 books here: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/essential-books/ages-13-17 -- The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefavater is excellent and although there's romance it's more emotional than physical (just a few chaste kisses). Same goes for The Knife of Never Letting Go series by Patrick Ness (no kisses until the third book!). The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my all-time favorites, and a great one to read *with* your daughter.
Teen, 14 years old written by FILMCRITIC500

everybody should read World War Z, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Blackjack-34, Ashes, and the Hunger Games series
Parent of a 3 and 9 year old written by doveculver

Code Name Verity is *astonishing* in print or audiobook. It's historical fiction with strong female protagonists and a lot suspense and intrigue. I look forward tucking in to the titles here.
Kid, 12 years old

But like all WWII books, very scary and sad. A couple graphic descriptions of torture
Parent written by jimandjamie@sbc...

My favorite YA novels are: How To Save a Life, If Only, and Bluefish. I also recommend the biography called Discovering Wes Moore and if your child has ADHD, ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild.
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old written by Sandie Angulo Chen

I love How to Save a Life as well and would read anything Sara Zarr writes. I've heard of If Only and Bluefish but haven't read either of them. Thanks for the suggestions; I am going to check them both out.
Teen, 15 years old written by JellyfishJam38

The Gone series by Michael Grant are great young-adult novels, but they're very brutal, so I'd probably only recommend them to 15 and up. But still, they're good examples of YA novels an adult would like.
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old written by Sandie Angulo Chen

We haven't reviewed it yet, but if you liked the Gone series, you should check out The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. It comes out in early May (we'll have the review up week of release), and it's an excellent, fast-paced read for mature teens and adults.
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old written by dlorenz

LOVED The Fault in Our Stars! My daughter and I are constantly looking for new reading material (she's an avid reader, thank goodness) so I've been able to replenish our list of books to check out after reading this. We also enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and all of Sarah Dessen's books are quite good, although I wouldn't consider them hard to put down.
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old written by Sandie Angulo Chen

How great that you and your daughter read together! Wasn't The Fault in Our Stars amazing? Miss Peregrine's is being turned into a movie, so I should get to that book before the adaptation comes out, and I have two Sarah Dessen books on my night table waiting for me to read. Thanks for the extra recommendations!
Parent written by wifemomteacher

I highly recommend If I Stay and it's sequel, Where She Went. Both are very popular in my reading class among my 7th and 8th grade girls. Between Shades of Grey is one of the best historical fiction books I've read. I would also recommend Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, the Life as We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and the Beautiful Creatures series by Garcia and Stohl. If you're looking for something for a boy, my teen boy students really like these titles and their sequels: Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth.
Parent of a 5, 8, and 11 year old written by Sandie Angulo Chen

I just finished reading Prodigy today and thought it was excellent. Both of the dystopian series you recommend are among my favorites in the genre. I also really enjoyed the Life as We Knew It trilogy, and I think Susan Beth Pfeffer's description of Alex Morales is one of the most authentic portrayals of a Latino in all of young adult literature. Sounds like I share the same taste in books with your students ;-)
Educator and Parent of a 15 and 17 year old written by dilavida

I've read three out five of these books and I can honestly say that they are fantastic. While I haven't read Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys if it's as well written as Between Shades of Gray then I know I will read it soon. The same goes for the amazing Melina Marchetta. Thanks for the great recommendations!
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old written by Thrift Store Mama

I'm in desperate need of new authors and new genres to read, AND I want my kids to see me reading books printed on paper. So, off to the library I go !!!
Parent written by Tee@yacrush

Fantastic choices! I feel like I'm constantly reading and re-reading If I Stay and Where She Went. I'm happy to see you added other books like Finnikin of the Rock (all things Melina Marchetta are amazing). I would add The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Both have such breathtaking stories and absolutely beautiful writing.
Adult written by Kiki_kenz

Completely agree, great choices!! I've read and recommended all but Finnikin (only bc I haven't read it myself yet!) Eleanor & Park though, WOW. Who knew holding hands could be that great?