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Essential Books for Young Adults
Hand-picked and highly rated, the Essential Books for Young Adults Store highlights timeless, quality fiction that young adults will find appealing.
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book Thief, the astounding story of nine-year-old Liesel Meminger. As the Nazis take hold of Europe she is sent to live with foster parents in a small German town--where her book stealing career begins. Along the way she touches the lives of many, including a politician's wife, Rudy, a boy around her age, her new guardians, and Max, a Jewish refugee who for a time hides out in her basement. Called "brilliant and hugely ambitious" by The New York Times, School Library Journal said, "Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward." Amazon customers agree emphatically, describing The Book Thief as "beautiful, poignant, and captivating" as well as a "modern classic." Recognized with awards from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, among others, this 2006 Printz Honor book is truly a masterpiece.
The Giver by Lois LowryThe Giver, Jonas is a model citizen of the Community, a place of order and tranquility, a place free from hunger and pain; a place of Sameness. On his eleventh birthday, Jonas is given his job assignment, alongside all other Elevens in the Community: he will be the next Receiver of Memory, a mysterious and honored role held by only one person in each generation. As his job training begins, Jonas becomes aware of the sacrifices he and his fellow citizens have made in exchange for peace and predictability: the joy of sledding down a snowy hill and the comfort of coming home to a warm fire in the hearth, the relief brought by a sip of water after the agony of thirst, the love of a family. This 1994 Newbery Medal winner from Lois Lowry has been hailed by Kirkus as "a richly provocative novel" that School Library Journal promises "will stay with readers for a long time."
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Called "eerie, beautiful, and devastating" by The Chicago Tribune, Thirteen Reasons Why centers on high school student Hannah Baker and her classmate Clay Jenson. Before committing suicide Hannah recorded a series of tapes and sent them to the 13 people she believes contributed to her death--including Clay. Told through Hannah's tapes and Clay's thoughts as he listens to her voice from beyond the grave, Jay Asher's novel is a "a stealthy hit with staying power" exclaimed The New York Times, with an Amazon customer noting that, "Even if we’re not on the list, we feel the same horror, frustration, and powerlessness as Hannah’s listeners do, all thirteen steps of the way.” Both brilliant and devastating, Thirteen Reasons Why is a powerful novel about the ways in which people hurt, help, and love one another.
Parental Advisory: suicide.
Monster by Walter Dean MyersMonster, the 2000 Printz Award winner and 1999 National Book Award nominee, an addictive read from start to finish. Called "riveting" with "an emotionally gripping story line" by Amazon customers, Booklist praised Walter Dean Myers's "innovative format, complex moral issues, and an intriguingly sympathetic but flawed protagonist." At the heart of Monster is a teenager caught up in an adult world, a situation to which many young adults can relate.
Parental Advisory: physical abuse.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
In what Publishers Weekly named a "stunning debut," Melinda Sordino gives up talking before her freshman year of high school. Shunned by her classmates, who misunderstand why she called the cops after a party over the summer, Melinda's grades plummet and she becomes withdrawn. She is not without her reasons: Melinda is trying to cope with being raped by an upperclassman who still taunts her in the new school year. Hailed as a book "all teens should read" by one Amazon customer, Speak is about "a horrible event dealt with using lyrical prose, humor, and deep honesty" says another. A 2000 Printz Honor Book, 1999 National Book Award finalist, and 1999 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, Kirkus concluded that Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is "hard for readers to forget."
Parental Advisory: rape.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
"Fluid narration deftly mingles raw feelings with funny, sardonic insight" explained Kirkus in their review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie's semi-autobiographical novel. Disappointed with his education on the Spokane Indian Reservation and tired of being tormented for his physical problems, Arnold Spirit decides to attend an all-white high school in town. Immediately Arnold feels out of place, but as one Amazon customer cheers, he handles the challenges "using humor where it would seemingly appear that there is none, humor in the face of tragedy and melancholy, humor as an escape." Laughing aside, this "Native American equivalent of Angela's Ashes" (Publishers Weekly) is about one teenager's quest to do his best in the face of serious obstacles. Told with heart and featuring Ellen Forney's illustrations that will hook reluctant readers, it's no surprise that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Parental Advisory: physical abuse.
Crank by Ellen HopkinsCrank, Kristina Snow is a good student and a good daughter... until she’s introduced to crystal meth (a.k.a. crank). The drug transforms her into her alter-ego Bree, who pulls her deeper into a dangerous addiction. Eventually Kristina is raped by her drug dealer, but even violence and her pregnancy can't stop her from seeking out another high. A page-turner in every sense of the phrase, an Amazon customer noted, "I started reading it and found myself sucked into the story to the point where I could not put this book down," while another adds that "the sparse poetry conveys the power of the addiction so much more intensely than prose ever could." As the reader follows Kristina/Bree's drug-influenced choices, we enter what Publishers Weekly calls, "a world nearly as consuming and disturbing as the titular drug." A Go Ask Alice for the 21st century, Booklist promises that "readers won’t soon forget smart, sardonic Kristina."
Parental Advisory: heavy drug use, rape, teenage pregnancy.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson, the brainchild of superstar teen authors David Levithan and John Green. Told through an alternating narrative between the two Graysons before and after their lives intersect for the first time, this touching and funny novel is "complete with honest language, interesting characters, and a heartfelt, gritty edge" (School Library Journal). Proving that they are masters at creating "fully fleshed out and interesting" characters (said one Amazon customer), the Graysons are only part of the story. Enter one Will Grayson BFF Tiny Cooper, the "world's largest person who is really, really gay." In a book where the characters take the stage, both figuratively and literally, the reader can't help but be touched by how they're, "engaged in figuring out what’s important and shot through with strong feelings, smart-mouthed dialogue, and uncommon insight" (Booklist).
The Golden Compass by Philip PullmanPhilip Pullman's The Golden Compass certainly doesn't lack an imaginative setting. But the real heart of the story is Lyra Belacqua, an orphan and ward of Oxford University who like everyone else in her world has a daemon, a living manifestation of her own soul. After the simultaneous arrival of her uncle Asriel and a mysterious woman named Mrs. Coulter, Lyra finds herself in the middle of a world of intrigue that involves kidnappings, something called intercision, and a plan to undo the very foundations of her world. She's carried all the way to the Arctic Circle by boat, balloon, and bear, where she discovers that she's had it all wrong--and that she might not be a mere pawn, but the key to saving not just her parallel universe but our own as well. Called "a totally involving, intricately plotted fantasy that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels" by Booklist, The Golden Compass dares to challenge readers' deepest convictions, expand their imaginations, and leave them at turns exhilarated, heartbroken, and ultimately spellbound by this unforgettable book.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower embodies everything a coming-of-age novel should.
Parental Advisory: abuse, drug use, sex, suicide.