Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This is a remarkably touching contemporary novel about two lonely, yet decidedly different, boys who meet at a swimming pool one summer. Being primarily character driven, we go on to see how the boys’ friendship develops, while along the way exploring important topics such as identity, sexuality, and teenage mentality, which I appreciated. This is a beautifully written, poignant and affecting novel, which I could not recommend more.
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
This is a historical fiction novel following fifteen-year-old Lina and her family as they get deported from their home in Lithuania to Siberia during World War 2. I found this book extremely eye opening and shocking; it is an aspect of the War that I think is very rarely discussed. It is a beautiful story of hope and perseverance and I found it to be extremely inspiring.
A Monster Calls and More Than This by Patrick Ness
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat, but I really couldn’t choose just one Patrick Ness novel; I have enjoyed everything I had read by him. A Monster Calls is a magical, dark and moving story about a young boy whose mother is ill. It is a beautiful book, and while it is short, it is impactful. For More Than This, I would recommend going into it knowing nothing more about it, other than that right at the beginning a boy drowns, and then he awakes in a strange and deserted place. You will be tense and asking questions all the way through.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
This tells the story of a young boy called Auggie, who was born with a facial deformity and is about to join mainstream school for the first time. I loved this story; it is full of humour and warmth and truth. The family dynamics in this book are a particular highlight. Overall this novel carries extremely important messages, and should be read by anyone of any age.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This is one of the best YA fantasy trilogies there is, and I would recommend it to children and adults alike. In this world, humans have deamons – creatures that reflect each person’s inner being – and there is a mysterious phenomenon called Dust that may have the power to unite the universe with one living parallel to it. It is not only an exciting, plot-driven adventure story, but it also explores adolescence and love, and even aspects of theology, physics and cosmology. It is expertly crafted.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This tells the story of Daisy, a precocious teenage girl from New York, who is sent to live with cousins she has never met before in the countryside in England. Whilst there, war breaks out in London, and the children are forced to look after themselves. This story is a gripping and powerful story about survival and love. I loved the writing style, and found this to be an extremely fast read.
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
This novel follows the story of teenage siblings Lochan and Maya who have had to take the parental role in looking after their younger siblings, due to their mother’s alcoholism. This is an extremely sad yet captivating book about dysfunctional families, mental health and taboo. While the book is shocking and dark, it challenged my preconceptions, and I really appreciate novels which deal with controversial topics, especially in YA fiction.
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
This novel is in the form of a letter, from sixteen year old Gemma to her abductor Ty, once she has escaped from his imprisonment in the desolate Australian Outback and is back home with her family. This is an extremely tense and gripping read. Furthermore, it is an interesting exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, something I had never read about before. The epistolary form of the novel really added something interesting to the book, also.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
While everyone has probably already been recommended this trilogy in the realm of YA dystopian fiction, it really is a brilliant read. The series takes place in post-apocalyptic North America, where the nation is split into the rich Capitol, and twelve other poorer districts. Every year sees the television of the Hunger Games, where one girl and one boy from each district are chosen randomly to fight to the death, to preserve and remind the districts of the Capitol’s power. If you’re going to read any YA dystopian series, read this.