YA books everybody should read

I asked you guys on Instagram: what are some classic YA books that everybody should’ve read in their life? I got tons of responses, and compiled a list for you all per genre! I’ve also added whether I myself have read it or note (and please – don’t hate me for it). Use this list for your own TBR 🙂

ya books everybody should read

Romance

Romance books are here to sway you away to a world in which our main character falls in love with a handsome boy/girl who is just out of his/her reach or somebody falls in love with the main character but yet the mc has no clue about that. Or maybe, just maybe, their love is made impossible by evil forces. Here are some of the most romantic books:

  • Anna and the French Kiss (2010) – Stephanie Perkins ✅
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014) – Jenny Han ✅
  • Eleanor & Park (2013) – Rainbow Rowell ✅
  • Fangirl (2013) – Rainbow Rowell ❌
  • Did I Mention I Love You? (2015) – Estelle Maskame ✅
  • After (2014) – Anna Todd ❌

Health (mental)

Books about mental health are important to read for young readers, as books can make them understand that they are not alone in it. But I also believe it is important that adults read those books, so they can understand what young adults (and adults) go through when it comes to mental health. Here are some of the most important books:

  • Wintergirls (2009) – Laurie Halse Anderson ✅
  • Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) – Jay Asher ✅
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes (2015) – Jasmine Warga ✅
  • All the Bright Places (2015) – Jennifer Niven ✅
  • I’ll Give You the Sun (2014) – Jandy Nelson ✅
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2007) – Ned Vizzini ✅
  • Looking for Alaska (2006) – John Green ✅
  • Turtles All the Way Down (2017) – John Green ✅
  • Am I Normal Yet (2015) – Holly Bourne ✅
  • Holding Up the Universe (2016) – Jennifer Niven ❌

Health (physical)

Books about physical health problems usually will get their readers to cry their eyes out. Often, these books are heartbreaking, but also very hopeful, as they show how resilient people can be. What I think is interesting here, is that many of these books have been made into a movie. Here are some of the best physical health books:

  • The Fault in Our Stars (2012) – John Green ✅
  • Everything, everything (2015) – Nicola Yoon ✅
  • Five Feet Apart (2018) – Rachael Lippincott ✅
  • Midnight Sun (2017) – Trish Cook ❌
  • Zac and Mia (2013) – A.J. Betts ❌
  • Extraordinary Means (2015) – Robyn Schneider ❌

High fantasy

I think there are so many amazing YA Fantasy books! Get swept away by fairies, magic, wizards, and other magical creatures in worlds far far away from here. For high fantasy goes: the whole book has to take place in a different world than ours. Here are some amazing fantasy books:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015) – Sarah J. Maas ✅
  • Children of Blood and Bone (2018) – Tomi Adeyemi ✅
  • Rebel of the Sands (2016) – Alwyn Hamilton ❌
  • Shadow and Bone (2012) – Leigh Bardugo ✅
  • Red Queen (2015) – Victoria Aveyard ✅
  • A Darker Shade of Magic (2015) – V.E. Schwab ❌
  • Shatter Me (2011) – Tahereh Mafi ✅
  • An Ember in the Ashes (2015) – Sabaa Tahir ❌
  • The Cruel Prince (2018) – Holly Black ❌
  • Snow Like Ashes (2014) – Sara Raasch ✅

Urban fantasy

I decided to put up another category for urban fantasy, as I believe this is different kind of subject than fantasy. And what is the difference, you might wonder. Well, urban fantasy is described as fantasy that take place in both our world ánd another world. Here are some of the best urban fantasy books:

  • Twilight (2005) – Stephanie Mayer ✅
  • City of Bones (2007) – Cassandra Clare ✅
  • Vampire Academy (2007) – Richelle Mead ✅
  • The Iron King (2010) – Julie Kagawa ✅
  • Alice in Zombieland (2012) – Gena Showalter ✅
  • Shiver (2009) – Maggie Stiefvater ✅
  • Beautiful Creatures (2009) – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl ✅
  • Marked (2007) – P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast ✅
  • Fated (2012) – Alyson Noël ✅

LGBTQ+

One of the most amazing things about YA books, is that they discuss anything and everything. An important subject is of course LGBTQ+ – inclusive writing. And this is something where YA books really stand out. Here are some of the most important LGBTQ+ books:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2016) – Becky Albertalli ✅
  • The Upside of Unrequited Love (2017) – Becky Albertalli ✅
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) – Benjamin Alire Sáenz ✅
  • They Both Die at the End (2017) – Adam Silvera ❌
  • What If It’s Us (2018) – Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera ❌
  • Red, White and Royal Blue (2019) – Casey McQuiston ❌

Contemporary

Books about everyday life discussing everyday problems. This can range from school, to friends, to sports, to racism, to identity, to any other subject that you can discuss, that is not otherwise specified above in any of the other subject categories. Here are some of the most important contemporary books:

  • The Hate You Give (2017) – Angie Thomas ✅
  • This Is Where it Ends (2016) – Marieke Nijkamp ✅
  • The Sun Is Also a Star (2016) – Nicola Yoon ✅
  • If I Stay (2009) – Gayle Forman ✅
  • Pretty Little Liars (2008) – Sara Shepard ❌
  • Paper Towns (2008) – John Green ✅
  • The Exact Opposite of Okay (2018) – Laura Steven ✅

Dystopian

Wow – making a whole categorie for the dystopian subject? Yes, for sure. It think we all know how many amazing YA books have been written about a speculative world that explore social and political structures. Most of the time, in these books, the characters live in a not so fun world and have to fight for their lives. Here are some of the best dystopian books:

  • The Hunger Games (2008) – Suzanne Collins ✅
  • Divergent (2011) – Veronica Roth ✅
  • The Maze Runner (2009) – James Dashner ✅
  • The Selection (2012) – Kiera Cass ✅
  • The 5th Wave (2013) – Rick Yancey ✅
  • Legend (2011) – Marie Lu ✅
  • Uglies (2005) – Scott Westerfeld ❌
  • Matched (2010) – Ally Condie ❌
  • The Darkest Minds (2012) – Alexandra Bracken ❌
  • Wither (2011) – Lauren Destefano ❌
  • Under the Never Sky (2012) – Veronica Rossi ✅

Scifi

And then there’s the general scifi genre, science fiction in full. YA scifi focuses on our (future) world and whatever can happen with things like technology, science, space and time. Think: space ships, time travel and robots. Here are some of the most amazing scifi books:

  • A Thousand Pieces of You (2014) – Claudia Gray ✅
  • Illuminae (2015) – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ✅
  • Warcross (2017) – Mari Lu ✅
  • Cinder (2012) – Marissa Mayer ❌
  • These Broken Stars (2013) – Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner ❌
  • Starflight (2016) – Melissa Landers ❌
  • Alienated (2014) – Melissa Landers ❌

Historical fiction

YA books don’t only take place in the future, but also in the past. There are many amazing historical YA books. Whether the events have happened for real, or are made up, these books will transport you to the past. Here are the most amazing ones:

  • The Book Thief (2006) – Markus Zusak ❌
  • Code Name Verity (2012) – Elizabeth Wein ❌
  • My Lady Jane (2016) – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodie Meadows ❌
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017) – Mackenzie Lee ❌ (also very much LGBTQ)

Other

And then there’s the category of books that can now be considered YA-books but were released before YA was actually a thing. Or books that are somewhere in between Middle Grade and YA but are totally worth mentioning! This is the category of all books that are not considered just YA, but are read by many YA readers!

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) – J.K. Rowling ✅
  • Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief (2005) – Rick Riordan ❌
  • Wonder (2012) – P.J. Palacio ❌
  • Gossip Girl (2002) – Cecily von Ziegestar ❌
  • Gone (2008)Michael Grant ✅

Please, if you feel like I am missing a very important title (or I’ve misplaced a book), please comment down below or hit me up via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or e-mail!

Nanouk Meijer

Nanouk is the founder and owner of the website. She runs the website, takes care of the lay-out, give-aways, social media, book reviews and events. She is 25 years old and graduated from 'Comparative Literature' at Utrecht University. She is Digital Product Manager at HarperCollins Holland and staff reviewer at YA Books Central. She breaths books.

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