Recently I looked at ten amazing YA books (first list here and second list here) that have inspired my writing considerably. Today, I wanted to look at even five more that I adore and think you should definitely take a look at!
1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
What’s not to love? The Hunger Games is one of the most popular young adult novels ever released, and it earns its popularity with terrific, tension-filled prose, a dazzling story, and a memorable lead character. One major reason the book works as well as it does is that Collins chose to write it in first person, present tense, and this immediacy and urgency gives the story its nearly non-stop tension. Secondly, I love that the violence is never shied away from, considering this is a book for teens. The violence is never gory or over-the-top by any means, but Collins wisely shows in detail that, yes, kids are getting slaughtered in this world. Additionally, Collins’ use of setting is vivid all the way through. Even in first person present, Collins makes the settings always pop in front of Katniss’s eyes.
2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This multiple-award-winning novel is a subtle gay love story that progresses like the movie Boyhood in many ways, emulating the joys and hardships of real life without any forced character moments or sentimental plot developments. Saenz’s writing is easy to read and draws the reader in, with his insistence to not over-complicate his prose and instead use only as many words as he thinks each moment needs.
3. Highly Illogical Behavior, by John Corey Whaley
This is a terrific young adult novel that treats its subject matter with dignity and great attention to detail, and features three-dimensional teenage characters with necessary flaws and dreams for the future. This is the third young adult novel Whaley has written, and he infuses his work with a genuine YA voice and engaging, realistic teen dialogue. Sometimes teenage characters can sound like adults in young adult fiction, but not in Whaley’s work, which not only sounds appropriate to the age of the characters but is also specific to each of the characters.
4. Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare, by Darren Shaw
This is a great series to read for any aspiring YA horror writer. There’s a lot here that works well, and I was legitimately surprised by some of the twists along the way. I also responded to the use of the double-I POV in this novel, as it turns out Darren Shaw himself wrote the book we’re reading, and therefore he’s looking back over his life and trying to recreate these important moments on the page (Darren Shaw is the actual author of the book, too, making the double-I almost meta in a way).
5. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
Rainbow Boys is an absorbing young adult novel that is grim and realistic, showing the aches and pains gay teens have to go through to find acceptance with their friends and family. Despite being more realistic than some other LGBTQ YA novels I’ve discussed in these lists, though, it absolutely has the same level of romanticism. None of the three characters hates that he is gay; from the first page on, they all want to find love, and by the end, they do. The entire Rainbow Boys trilogy is well worth a look!