Top Ten Tuesdays – Recommendations for People Who Have Never Tried YA

Today’s TTT prompt is books you’d recommend to people who’ve never read blah, since I’m such a huge fan of the young adult genre, that’s my topic of choice. Taking a page from the girls of the Broke and Bookish, I’ve separated the list into reading styles. There’s this misconception by people that haven’t read YA that all the books are the same. That’s like saying that all books written for Adults are exactly the same. No one would ever say that. YA writing is the same. The author writes for a genre style, just within a specific age bracket. Not all YA books are good. And not everyone will like every style. I would never recommend a dark, gritty, depressing book for someone who likes happy, light hearted romances or a straight forward coming of age story to someone who only reads hard sci-fi. It has nothing to do with YA writing; it’s about finding your genre.

Here’s my list:

For people who like their books reality based and a little dark:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


This is the story of a boy who receives a package containing 13 cassette tapes – yes, cassette tapes they make a point that this is strange and he has to find a way to play them – containing 13 reasons why one of his classmates has killed herself. Each tape is about a specific person and their role in her decision. The tapes are moving from person to person so that they know their part. As the story unfolds, Hannah’s reasons begin to come together. I will never agree with her decision, but the book is amazingly well crafted. There’s a rape scene (not hers) in the book that makes my heart hurt.

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert


This book is painful to read, because it’s so well written you can fall right into the story. It might resonate more with me because I was that age at that time and understand the pop culture influences of that time. It was easy to put myself back in that mindset. These kids are messing up their lives, and enjoying every moment of it. The drugs run more than rampant. There’s sex, drugs, music, depression, death. This is the dark side of being a teen. Sure, they get themselves into these situations, but sometimes, at that age, all you can do is find a place to fit and hold on.


For people who like LGBTQ coming of age stories:

Far From You by Tess Sharpe


I wrote a review of this one over here. It’s got a good mystery. It’s got the intrigue. It represents bisexuality in a way other books haven’t.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan


The story of two boys, with the same name, growing up near each other, with no awareness that the other exists. Each one is struggling with figuring out who they are. They accidentally meet in an incredibly entertaining way and blossom into fully developed characters. It’s not the strongest representation of the genre, but it has such a unique voice that it’s worth a recommendation.


For people who like historical fiction:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


I’m not a fan of historical fiction. I’ve tried many times, but I’m rarely able to become immersed in the story. I get easily distracted and my thoughts drift while I’m reading. This one was different. It’s the right characters in the right story at the right time. Also, I do find WWII stories more interesting than most historic fiction. My full review is posted here.

The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley


Totally different from the last suggestion. This one is a girl detective in the 1950s style story. It’s charming and delightful and makes fun of the genre without being disrespectful or silly. Flavia is one hell of a girl. It’s the first in a series with clever, entertaining titles. Give it a shot if you want something totally outside the mainstream.


For people who like quirky, tongue in cheek stories:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray


I did not want to read this story. A story about beauty queens who get stranded on a deserted island. Could this story be anything more than a ‘learning there’s more to life than looks’ rant? Well, yes. Yes, it can be. I finally caved because I needed an audiobook to get through the workday and this was the only one easily available. It won me over almost immediately. It is hilarious. Like actually exceptionally funny. And a complete barrage against consumerism and capitalism. The author’s footnotes are charming as hell. I really think this book is one that should be consumed in the audio format.


For people who like ghost stories with a romantic subplot:

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb


A ghost who’s been haunting an English classroom realizes a boy in the class can see her. She’s able to possess one of girls and realizes the boy is being possessed by another ghost. They’ve both been suffering from loneliness and pain for so long that they instantly bond. Together, they’re finally able to do more than just watch people grow up. There’s a subplot about the families their bodies belong to that actually adds to the story. Typical ghost love stories are lame, but this one is totally different.


For people who like political commentaries and dystopian fiction:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins


A pretty obvious suggestion, I know. It’s popular. People are always recommending it. But I’m making it to the people who are still all ‘why would I want to read a book about kids killing kids’. That’s the story on the surface, but these books are super political. It’s a condemnation against a society obsessed with image and celebrity – a message that has gotten lost in the hype and fandom of the books and movies. But at its heart, this book is against exactly what it has become. A society so obsessed with the next shocking form of entertainment and control that they’ve started routing for kids killing each other.


For people who like science fiction:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


Set in the not too distant future, kids are sent off to schools to learn to become soldiers to help protect Earth from another invasion. Ender is exceptional. He supersedes all expectations and quickly advances through the ranks. This is a science fiction book. It involves many of the tropes of the genre, but it is also coming of age story. It includes no romance. It is all about growing up and contributing to the greater good, whatever the cost. One of my top five favourite books.


What books would you recommend? Genre choices? What do you think more people should be reading?


4 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesdays – Recommendations for People Who Have Never Tried YA

  1. You’ve hit on many genres in this recommendation list. I’m kind of with you in the preference (well, I’m assuming you prefer at least) of “darker” themes in YA as opposed to the same (in my belief) romance tropes and school drama and the like. But then again, I could be just jaded by a narrow scope of YA contemporaries. Okay now I’m making unnecessary tangents. BUT, I do need to read Asher’s 13 Reasons. I’ve found myself enjoying most books with multiple perspectives and I’m sure this would be no exception!

    joey via. thoughts and afterthoughts

    • Nope, you’re right. I do tend to like the darker themes in YA, but I think that can be done well and still utilize the high school drama – cause let’s be honest, high school is generally pretty dark for a lot of people.
      I prefer my books with multiple perspectives. The use of first person pov as the prevalent perspective in YA makes me a crazy person. It’s responsible for a lot of the lack of depth in the vomit pile (the section of books that are just people jumping on the bandwagon not understanding how to write good YA). Written well, it’s good, but I’ll always prefer third person omniscient.

  2. Great list! I love YA reads as well. I recommend the one that I finished by James Larranaga called Blood Orange Soda. I thought I might have been over Vampires, but this book caught my eye and it turned out to be really good. His site is He has a few other books as well, I will be reading some of those as well.

    • I’ll add that too my Goodreads list! I’m in the same boat about the vampire thing, but a good book is a good book. And it’s been so long since I read one that I might be in the mood for a nice fanciful read soon.

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