I sometimes worry about all the young adult (YA) books that are out there screaming, “read me, “read me”. There’s so little time and too many books!
It’s rare to find a really good young adult read (see my previous post as to ‘Why young adult books are the best reads’.
This is the criteria I would use for a YA to make my top five:
- A main character who’s worth rooting for. Someone who’s pain and anguish speaks to you.
- A page turner that keeps you from studying, working, hanging out with your friends and reading into the small hours (does the torch under the sheet sound familiar?).
- I’ve read the book more than once – don’t ask me how many times I’ve read The Outsiders – at a guess at least ten times!
- It leaves you exhausted and breathless at the end. You were so there with the main character. You lived their life, experienced their highs and lows – you were them!
- You had no idea what was happening in the world while you read it (in fact, the world could’ve exploded and you wouldn’t have known). You were oblivious to anything and didn’t even care that you hadn’t checked your phone, Facebook or Twitter in, like, two hours.
So here goes. My top five YA books:
1 The Outsiders by S E Hinton, published 1967
This story is set in the 1950s. Ponyboy Curtis is a greaser who comes from the poor side of town.
He’s the youngest of three brothers whose parents were killed in a car crash. His older brother not only struggles to make ends meet but also to steer Ponyboy on a path away from trouble.
When the greasers and the well-offs, the ‘socials’, clash and a social is killed, Ponyboy and his best friend, Johnny, run away.
This book focuses on themes of youth, belonging, social inequality and loss of innocence set in a background where young men struggle to find identity in an unfair world.
S E Hinton was only 17-years-old when she wrote the book, which has since become a cult classic. The Outsiders, along with her other young adult books, have received honourable mentions from such organisations as the American Library Association.
2 Underdogs series (The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl) by Markus Zusak, published 1999, 2000, 2001 respectively
The Underdog series revolves around Cameron Wolfe and his brother Ruben. They fill in their time by getting into fights and coming up with illegal hair-brained schemes.
In the Underdog, Cameron struggles to find a place in a family that is falling apart while at the same time impress Rebecca, a girl he fancies.
The story continues in Fighting Ruben Wolfe where, in a bid to earn some money to help their unemployed father, they enter the unsavoury world of illegal boxing matches. But Cameron and Ruben fight differently and Cameron is not cut out for the resulting violence.
In the last book of the series, Getting the Girl, tensions rise when Cameron falls for Ruben’s ex-girlfriend, Octavia.
Written in a semi-text and poetry style the words flow seamlessly off the page where the power of one-word sentences cannot be underestimated.
Markus Zusak wrote the award winning The Book Thief (another of my favourites, but that deserves its own special post).
3 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, published 1999
Meet Charlie – shy, introverted, not really fitting in anywhere – a classic wallflower. Charlie tells his story through letters to a stranger.
Having to deal with his own secrets plus his feelings over a friend’s suicide sometimes makes this book heavy going.
Chbosky doesn’t shy away from attempting to address issues that can arise at any time in a confused teenager’s life. The use of humour to lighten the themes in this book is welcoming.
Often compared to The Catcher in the Rye this book has been banned in some parts of America for its controversial topics.
This was a book that by the time I got to page 10 I knew that I would be going on a special journey. The more I read the more that all I wanted to do was shut out the world, bury myself in the book and read and read until it was finished. And then cry! I could so feel Charlie’s hurt and pain.
Heartbreakingly honest and touching, this book will have you reading into the small hours and shedding a tear at the end.
4 Speed Freak by Fleur Beale, published 2013
Archie loves to drive karts. His goal is to win the Challenge series and compete in Europe.
Powerful imagery of speed, loud engines and skilful driving highlights Archie’s passion. But there are obstacles in his way – both Craig, his rival, and Silver Adams want to win just as much as he does.
Will Archie’s ambition drive him to win at all costs? How much value does Archie place on the support he receives from his family? How does he deal with his father’s new girlfriend moving in with her son?
A good paced book which is probably aimed at boys but girls will also be able to relate to the story and maybe even fall for the determined Archie!
Fleur Beale is an award winning novelist of over 40 books.
5 I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, published 2011
This part-love story part-thriller book tells the story of Sam and Emily.
Sam is pulled across country by his father living a nomadic life while trying to take care of his speech-affected younger brother, Riddle.
Sam meets Emily and the attraction is immediate. Sam and Riddle find comfort in Emily’s stable home life
But it’s all turned upside down when tragedy strikes.
This beautifully written and refreshingly different book explores the power of friendship, love and the testing of loyalties.
Can’t wait to read the sequel Just Call My Name!
The following websites have a go at identifying the best in YA fiction:
I’m looking for my next YA read that will tear my heart apart and send me on an emotional journey and forget about life for awhile.
What are your all-time favourite YA adults?
What criteria do they have to fit to make into your top five?