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Literate Fiction: YA Books That Shouldn't Be Judged By Their Cover

Jondy Macmillan
The list author says: "Young Adult books have a lot of pretty covers. They have a lot of ugly ones too. Sometimes I choose a book solely on how much I like the art on the front, and sometimes I take a risk. I've ended up winning and I've ended up losing, but either way, here's a list of the books I think take the cake."
Peeps
Peeps
"This book about modern age vampires alternates chapters between the gripping story and interesting, often disgusting anecdotes involving parasites. Westerfeld is an amazing author in that he has no problem writing in any POV, however I think this is one of his greatest works."
The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, Book 3)
The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, Book 3)
"This entire trilogy is fabulous, but this final book takes the cake. We get to see all the main characters find out painful it is to grow up, use magic to kick some major butt, and both find and lose love. It's heartbreaking in a hurts-so-good way. Libba Bray is one of my all time favorite authors and this whole series shows a depth of character and range that I think is truly astounding."
Seven Tears into the Sea
Seven Tears into the Sea
"I've already written a product review of this one, so the description's short. The author provides breathtaking imagery evoking California's magnificent coastline (which I've driven along many a time) and combines it with a modern fairytale that's all too believable. It makes a girl really believe magic exists."
Boys that Bite (A Blood Coven Vampire Novel)
Boys that Bite (A Blood Coven Vampire Novel)
"This entire series is full of hilarity. The series follows twins Sunny and Rayne, which the author acknowledges are absolutely horrid names for twins. Mari Mancusi spends half the time making fun of her own writing and the other half parodying Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is part of what makes this series wildly unique."
Wuthering High: A Bard Academy Novel (The Bard Academy)
Wuthering High: A Bard Academy Novel (The Bard Academy)
"Cara Lockwood's books looked like they'd be simple, jaunty romps about delinquent students getting up to no good. Instead, the main character Miranda is a smart, no nonsense girl who doesn't need any saving, and doesn't actually mean to cause trouble...most of the time. Add into that a school that's run by a deep dark mystery and you've got a funny, addictive series."
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Gathering of Faerie)
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Gathering of Faerie)
"Didn't expect this fairy tale to be as good as it was; the cover's kind of...boring. But Lament's main character, Deirdre shows an evolution that is rarely shown to effectiveness in the YA genre. She's a girl who goes from shy and defenseless to knight in shining armor. She's smart, fun, and definitely believable. On top of that there's mischievous, nasty faeries and two very sexy love interests."
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book 1)
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book 1)
"Let me preface this by saying I'm not a Cassandra Clare fan. I never got into her internet fanfiction, and from what I've read of her blog, she's not the kind of person I'd ever like to meet. But she does manage to spin a good tale, and the characters from the City of series spring off the page- even if a couple of lines might remind you of a few pop culture tv shows."
Fire and Hemlock
Fire and Hemlock
"The first time I read this book, I didn't understand what just happened. The second time, I fell in love. True fantasy, the kind I remember from being a kid (think Chronicles of Narnia and The Neverending Story) is hard to find these days. Diana Wynne Jones, however, is a master of it."
Beige
Beige
"When I picked up this book, I didn't think I'd like it. When I began reading it, I didn't think I'd like it. By the end, I was close to tears. The story of a girl lost in the Shangri La that is LA finds a way to bond with her punk rock father and his alternative lifestyle. In doing so, she finds her voice."
Teach Me
Teach Me
"This book is unsettling. The idea of a student teacher relationship isn't widely accepted in society, but it's intriguing to read about. The characters are intensely human, and the book is a fascinating, fantastic read. I also managed to relate to it, even though I've never dated a teacher- the author describes the pain of a person's first breakup with an accuracy that hit close to home."
War for the Oaks: A Novel
War for the Oaks: A Novel
"This is an older fantasy that still applies today. Eddi, the frontwoman in a band finds herself caught up in faerie war. What I like about this is that most faerie books today deal with the main character getting involved with royalty. Eddi only has the Phouka, a slick talking, capricious faerie beast who ends up winning my heart every single time I reread this book."
Elsewhere
Elsewhere
"I'm a big fan of the Borderland series, and both Emma Bull and Will Shetterly have excellent takes on it. Shetterly's books are funny, hip, and full of punk rock pop culture. I definitely recommend them."
How I Live Now
How I Live Now
"I'm going for diversity in this list, so I had to include this book- the tale of cousins who end up surviving on their own in the face of world war three. Even though the enemy is never named, and the love bit is unsettling, this book definitely counts as literate YA fiction."
The Summoning
The Summoning
"Another book that really surprised me. I won't say much, except that the plotline is super exciting, and the main character definitely takes care of herself."
Wasteland
Wasteland
"Francesca Lia Block has always been a favorite author of mine because of her lyrical prose. Wasteland is a beautiful, sometimes disturbing tale of siblings in love; with each other."
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5)
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5)
"These books might be reminiscent of Harry Potter, but they stand alone with their humor and their fantastic re-imagining of Greek mythology."
Audrey, Wait!
Audrey, Wait!
"I was not going to pick up this book simply because one of the reviews compared it to Juno. I hate Juno. But I took a risk, and loved it. Audrey is smart, sassy, and completely lovable. She has to deal with an ex who wrote a breakup song all about her that sweeps the nation. It gives the reader an inside look about publicity and what it does to a person's life; but it's very upbeat."
Un Lun Dun
Un Lun Dun
"A new twist on the Alice and Wonderland story, Un Lun Dun tells the story of two girls- the Chosen One and her best friend Deeba, who isn't Chosen for anything. Deeba ends up having to take over for her best friend and save the world when she finds out that being Chosen doesn't necessarily imply being a hero. GREAT fantasy."
The Dream of the Stone
The Dream of the Stone
"Another book I almost didn't pick up because of the sucky cover. This story is a beautiful fantasy with love, danger, and everything a girl could desire out of a book."
Night World No. 2: Dark Angel; The Chosen; Soulmate
Night World No. 2: Dark Angel; The Chosen; Soulmate
"LJ Smith is one of the authors who really got me into fantasy, and nothing says fantasy like forbidden vampire/human/shifter/witch lurve. Sexy, heroic girls, and dark, sensitive, brooding guys. These books are some of the best vampire tales out there as far as YA goes."
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)
"I was not going to pick up this book because the cover looked boring. On a recommendation from someone I trust, I did- I finished the whole thing in a day. The action is fast paced, the plot line is unique and interesting, and I promise, you'll fall in love with the characters."
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
"I picked this up at a bookstore's liquidation sale. Now I'm terrified of zombies, and must have misread the cover because I so did NOT understand that zombies would be a big part of this book. BUT I'm glad I read it. Despite having a rather simple plot, this book evokes a lot of rather complicated emotions. It's a story about growing up, even if that's the last thing you want to do."
Sabriel
Sabriel
"All of Garth Nix's books that I've read are wonderful, but I really fell in love with Sabriel. Again, it's a zombie book and I'm not the fondest of the undead- but Sabriel is a spunky heroine, and she makes the entire fantasy worthwhile."
The Immortal
The Immortal
"This is one of my favorite books from when I was a kid, and I still like it even in my twenties. There's a blend of dreamlike Greek mythology (Pike pulls off mythology so well; all kinds) and a bit of the scariness I always associate with Pike. The ending is sad, but filled with hope."
My Fair Godmother (Godmother, Book 1)
My Fair Godmother (Godmother, Book 1)
"This book is hilarious. I picked it up expecting light chick lit, and it is, but Rallison also has a bit of a sarcastic voice thrown in there that definitely comes as a surprise. Worth a read or two or three."
North of Beautiful (A Justina Chen Novel)
North of Beautiful (A Justina Chen Novel)
"I didn't want to get this book because it sounded boring, and the first few chapters definitely are. But once you get past the main character's control freak tendencies and slightly whiny voice, the book begins to evolve into this story that is more than just Terra's, but encompasses everyone she knows. It's the kind of story that inspires wanderlust, which is always okay with me."
Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands
Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands
"Another Borderlands book that is just fantastic. This is actually the book that introduced me to the whole Borderlands world, and it's perfect as a stand alone or as an addition to your other Borderland books."
Hero
Hero
"At first, I thought I wouldn't like this book very much. The main character seemed a little obnoxious. But just like North of Beautiful, Hero evolved into a story that took into account all the characters, minor and major. It was a fantastic read."
Wildwood Dancing
Wildwood Dancing
"I adore this book. I've read it tons of times; the spin on the fairytale is unique and just draws you in."
Snow: A Retelling of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (Once upon a Time)
Snow: A Retelling of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (Once upon a Time)
"I'm not huge on the whole Once Upon A Time franchise they've created, but I got this book back when it was first published and I really enjoyed it. It's my favorite of the five or so Once Upon A Time books I read because Lynn's voice is wonderful, and Snow is simply a fantastic heroine who doesn't need to be saved from anything. Plus, the romance makes my heart melt, every time."
Demon in My View (Den of Shadows)
Demon in My View (Den of Shadows)
"This was the first Atwater-Rhodes book I read back in high school, and is still my favorite of the bunch. Aubrey is the kind of vampire I've always found interesting; arrogant, full of himself, and a total softie at heart. Jessica is a great heroine; fiery and sure of herself."
Girl v. Boy
Girl v. Boy
"I read The Black Sheep by these authors and expected the same of this; an okay read. I was surprised. Luisa is a great heroine; flawed, but confident in her convictions. The male lead (I won't give away the surprise) is funny, endearing, and dreamy. Even though the plot doesn't sound like much, it definitely kept me enthralled throughout the entire novel."
Born Confused
Born Confused
"This novel is absolutely fantastic. I've reread it probably a thousand times. The heroine goes from meek and hesitant to wise and confident in a completely believable transformation. The side characters are all equally amazing- from her best friend to her cousin to her parents. This story hits home, in a hurts-so-good, beautiful way."