Young adult novels can be a source of both entertainment and education for young people today. A significant portion of young people, especially teenagers it has been found, struggle to find pieces of writing that engage them, particularly if they are not naturally avid readers. Fortunately, I have a passion for literature, and, as a young person myself, I strive to inspire fellow young people to share my passion. Therefore, I decided to investigate young adult literature that I feel every young person today should read.  

1. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger 

Young person reading this, I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, this one is a must. The novel was published in 1951 but is not so outdated as you may think. The story was initially intended for adults but is often read by teenagers because it is a story about, wait for it: a teenager. This particular seventeen-year-old goes by the name of Holden Caulfield. This story is honest and realistic in that it details truly what it is to be a teenager; to have a roommate whom you hate and a girl who you wish you were cool enough to go out with. The reason young people find themselves in this novel is because they find pieces of themselves in Holden. Perhaps you don’t really like English like he does, or maybe you don’t go to boarding school, but all young people have felt alienated and alone at some point in their lives; if you haven’t, can you really say you’ve been an angsty teen? Perhaps not, but this book will make you wish you had been. 

2. Looking for Alaska, John Green 

This list would not be complete without at least one John Green novel. This book is a little more modern, having been published in 2005. This book was in fact John Green’s first published novel, but that does not subtract from its brilliance. Green based this novel on his experience of school, as he wanted to create a piece of truly meaningful young adult fiction. This story is hilarious and heart-breaking all in one. It details themes of sex, suffering and friendship, all things that teenagers delight in reading about.  

3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli 

I doubt this is a book you have not heard the title of before; the film adaptation of this book, Love, Simon, was released in 2018, and was hugely popular. I must admit, this book is one of my favourites, so I had to include it in this list. Simon Spier is a sixteen-year-old student who loves iced coffee almost more than he loves his friends, and is funny, sweet and painfully innocent. The story offers themes of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as friendship and trust. This novel is about discovering who you are while discovering who your true friends are, in an age of social media; in this way, this novel may inspire you to think about who you truly are. If not, it is still a wonderful read, with a sequel, Leah On the Offbeat, and further novels that take place in the ‘Simonverse’: The Upside of Unrequited and Love, Creekwood, all of which are fantastic books.  

4. Carry On, Rainbow Rowell 

This is admittedly another of my all-time favourites; this book is my addition for those of you who delight in fantasy novels. In this story there are dragons, goblins and magicians, along with a healthy dose of love-story. This novel would certainly be one for fans of Harry Potter; it follows the life of Simon Snow, a boy whose power is immense but doesn’t know how to control it. This story is full of twists and turns where the expected becomes the unexpected; I will leave it up to you to discover the multitude of plot twists for yourself. The prequel to this story is Fangirl, another wonderful piece of young adult fiction, with a further sequel, Wayward Son, with a fourth book coming in 2021.  

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz 

A bit of a mouthful, I know, but I believe I have saved the best until last with this coming-of-age novel. The story follows the adolescence of two boys named Aristotle and Dante. This book reads like poetry, with beautiful descriptions that on occasion brought a tear to my eye. The ups and downs of life and friendship are discovered within this book, and beautifully so. Aristotle and Dante are two boys who are desperately trying to find out who they are in the world, and when the world will belong to them. They go through trauma, pain, and joy, both together and apart. The journey that the two boys take to discover the secrets of the universe is one that is so beautifully dictated from the perspective of Aristotle and is unmissable.  

I hope these recommendations find their way into your reading list, or perhaps inspire you to start one. Happy reading.  

BY Charlotte Richardson