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19 Truly Brilliant Young Adult Books You Can Enjoy At Any Age

You don’t have to be a teen to love YA.

1. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Goodreads Rating: 4.18/5 stars

Released as Jellicoe Road in the US, this is a masterful story from one of Australia’s most popular YA authors. It weaves together the past and present wonderfully, as its protagonist, Taylor Markham, tries to figure out the secret of who she is, where she comes from and where she fits in. Marchetta is currently in the process of adapting it for the big screen.

2. Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Pan MacMillan

Goodreads Rating: 4.13/5 stars

Wildlife is about two very different girls living at an outdoor education camp for the school term, having to deal with their own problems. Sibylla is in her first real relationship and is just trying to fit in, while Lou is grieving over the death of her first love. It’s an incredibly raw and realistic exploration of what it’s like to be a teen girl, and something you can relate to even if you’re not the same age as the characters any more.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Egmont Press

Goodreads Rating: 4.12/5 stars

This is a remarkable book about two girls from different worlds who forge a friendship in the chaos of World War II. The narrator, Verity, is a spy that’s been captured by the Germans and forced to write down all her secrets. It’s a memorable story told in an evocative voice.

4. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Simon and Schuster

Goodreads Rating: 4.07/5 stars

Amy is getting in a car for the first time since her dad died in a car crash, and it’s not a small trip - she’s driving from California to Connecticut with a boy she hasn’t seen since she was a kid. While she works through her grief and anxiety, she gets to know Roger and is surprised to have a lot of fun along the way. Guaranteed, this book will make you want to take your own roadtrip around the US.

5. Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

Little, Brown

Goodreads Rating: 4.06/5 stars

During the day, Lucky lives with a dysfunctional family and constant bullying, but at night he becomes a hero in the war-ridden jungles of his dreams. Unfolding in a non-linear timeframe, Everybody Sees the Ants is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

6. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Penguin

Goodreads Rating: 4.05/5 stars

Molly Gibson has grown up without a mother, but being extremely close to her father she has never felt the loss. As Molly becomes a woman, her father sees the need for a female figure in her life, and remarries. Molly’s peaceful world is turned upside down by the entrance of her vain and selfish new stepmother and stepsister. While it’s been over a century since this was first published, the characters and relationships remain as vibrant and engaging as ever.

7. Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

Pan Macmillan

Goodreads Rating: 4.02/5 stars

Sky is 15, has an alcoholic father whose business is failing, an absent mother and a little brother who refuses to take off a pig mask. Then there’s her charismatic best friend who she has a bit of a crush on, and the quiet boy she’s drawn to, who searches for a missing girl. The characters are all unique, flawed and real, and the plot is driven by their relationships, in all their loveliness and messiness.

8. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Allen & Unwin

Goodreads Rating: 4.02/5 stars

It’s the summer of 1965 and 13-year-old Charlie befriends the town outcast Jasper Jones as he draws him into the case of a missing girl. While the mystery forms the basis of the plot, Jasper Jones explores larger themes of friendship, racism, identity, sport, love, family and freedom, all wrapped up in outstanding characters and beautiful writing.

9. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Delacorte Press

Goodreads Rating: 4.01/5 stars

When Cady was 15, she had an accident on her family’s private island that has left her with memory loss and migraines. Two years later, she returns determined to find out what really happened. The mystery and beautiful writing makes this book incredibly hard to put down.

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Goodreads Rating: 3.99/5 stars

It doesn’t get much more “young adult” than Little Women, but this coming-of-age classic has been loved by people of all ages for nearly 150 years. With four individual sisters at the centre of the novel, there’s someone everyone can see themselves in.

11. All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

Viking

Goodreads Rating: 3.99/5 stars

Judith has not spoken in two years, since she returned home after being kidnapped, held captive and mutilated. Her town treats her as an outcast and a simpleton, but her inner life is complex and powerful. What she has to say may change the fate of the whole town, if they can only find a way to listen. Told in the second person, All the Truth That’s in Me is a compelling and unique page-turner.

12. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Vintage Classics

Goodreads Rating: 3.99/5 stars

This is a lovely, witty and clever book that perfectly captures the teen voice of its charismatic narrator Cassandra. Her family lives in a “castle” but are struggling to make ends meet, and two dashing Americans further complicate the situation. Told in the form of Cassandra’s diary, I Capture the Castle is just a delight to read.

13. The Diviners by Libba Bray

Allen & Unwin

Goodreads Rating: 3.98/5 stars

Set in 1920s New York, The Diviners follows clairvoyant Evie as she investigates a series of murders with her occult-obsessed uncle. With an interesting plot and strong and eccentric cast of characters, it’s a wonderfully written and fresh take on paranormal YA.

14. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Text Publishing

Goodreads Rating: 3.97/5 stars

When two of the top YA authors come together in one book, magic happens. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about two very different teen boys, who both happen to be named - you guessed it - Will Grayson. When the two Wills meet their lives change forever, with hilarious and moving results.

15. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Walker

Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5 stars

In a world where all females have died and all males can hear each other’s thoughts, Todd escapes the menace of his home town and stumbles upon Viola, a girl who is completely silent. This book is full of action but also richly explores bigger issues like what it means to be human. It’s the first in a series you’ll want to continue.

16. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

St Martin’s Griffin

Goodreads Rating: 3.93/5 stars

Sloane has been abused her whole life and has reached rock bottom on the day the zombie apocalypse begins. She holes up in her school with a bunch of other teens, and her survival instinct kicks in while she struggles over whether she actually wants to survive at all. Summers has described this book as The Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead which is pretty accurate (and also awesome).

17. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Pan Macmillan

Goodreads Rating: 3.88/5 stars

If you like stories that happen over 24 hours, this book is for you. A group of teenagers explore the streets of Melbourne one night, hunting for an elusive street artist named Shadow. It’s the kind of night you dream about experiencing, but it’s very much grounded in reality, and despite the short time period the events take place in, the character development is strong.

18. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Vintage Books

Goodreads Rating: 3.81/5 stars

Christopher, an autistic teen boy who lives with his dad, sets out to investigate the death of his neighbour’s dog, but what he discovers will rock his world. What sets this book apart is the well-constructed, smart and touching first person perspective of Christopher. A quick but memorable read.

19. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Penguin

Goodreads Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Austen was writing YA long before YA was ever a thing. At 17, Catherine has left her family for the first time to go on a trip with her neighbours to Bath, which is basically PARTY CENTRAL of Regency England. She makes new friends, both good and bad, embarrasses herself, endears herself and obsesses over a book so much it begins to affect her real life. Look past the empire waist dresses and marriage proposals and Northanger Abbey is still just as relevant today.

Do you have a YA book that you absolutely love? Add your own in the comments below!

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