Hey, everyone! Recently I wrote a post listing middle grade novels that I recommend. As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that I could also offer some good picks for younger YA readers. Young teens, around the thirteen/fourteen age, are often overlooked in the publishing world, but it is super important for them to have good books to read as they transition from middle grade to young adult literature.
For me, this transition was a really big deal. I wasn't ready for older teen books that had sexual content or that delved into darker issues, so I struggled at first. I'm really grateful for all the softer/younger books that helped me get into reading YA lit. Without them, I may have never had the chance to fall in love with the category!
With that in mind, I present to you my picks for transitioning young YA readers. Don't forget to also check out that middle grade post! I included a few book series there that transition from middle grade to YA as the story progresses, and they would also be good picks for this age group.
1) The Giver by Lois Lowry. People don't really seem to be sure whether this one is MG or YA, which makes it a good pick for this post. It does star an MG-aged character, but it also addresses many serious topics that may push it towards YA. As the series progresses, it quickly moves into definitive YA territory. Wherever you choose to categorize it, this sci-fi/fantasy series about a a broken, multi-dystopian future is both thought-provoking and beautiful. I've loved it for years and years, and I absolutely recommend it for young teens.
2) Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. As a young teen, I was a big fan of Anthony Horowitz's work. I first discovered him through the Alex Rider series, a YA thriller about a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes a spy for the UK after his uncle's suspicious death. It's an intelligent and fascinating series--I even wrote a post here about similar books that fans might like. I also loved Horowitz for The Gatekeepers, a YA fantasy series about five gifted teens who have to take on a horde of ancient, eldritch monsters to save the world. Though these books have some intense and violent parts, they're well-suited to a young YA audience.
3) The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable. I consider this to be the YA fantasy series that got me into YA literature. Though it has an older teen as a protagonist, it's written in a clean and simplistic style that welcomes young teen readers. The trilogy follows a young woman who escapes her cloistered life to explore a broken world where singing creates and controls magic. She travels alongside the first man near her age she's ever met, which leads to a romance. I adored this trilogy as a young teen.
4) The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer. Okay, first I have to admit to y'all that I have never been able to get into Colfer's popular Artemis Fowl series. It wasn't my thing! But this YA sci-fi book definitely was. I enjoyed it so much it that I kept reading all the way into my seventh grade science class--and got in trouble for it, too. The Supernaturalist is about a young teen orphan who escapes a terrible situation to join a crew fighting monsters only they can see.
5) The Clique by Lisi Harrison. This YA contemporary series was my guilty pleasure in middle school and early high school. It's all about a clique of popular girls whose lives are disrupted by the entrance of a much less cool girl. While it comes off as very surface-level, this story actually delves into a lot of important social concepts for young teens--and the characters are really well-done.
6) Avalon by Meg Cabot. Meg Cabot is a powerhouse across multiple genres and categories, but one area where she especially excels is in young YA books. I have many favorites from her repertoire, but the top one is probably Avalon, a contemporary YA fantasy retelling of Arthurian legend. It's fun and simple but has a great twist that got me more interested in the original mythology. Cabot is also great at romantic subplots, which we all know I'm into!
7) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Zusak has written a lot of genius stories, and this YA historical fiction novel is his crown jewel. It's written from the POV of Death himself and follows a young teen girl living in Nazi Germany who steals banned books as she gets pulled deeper and deeper into the tragedies of the time. This story obviously addresses a lot of dark and tragic topics, but I think it would work well for many young teen readers.
8) Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. Though Levine primarily writes middle grade books, she sometimes reaches into the younger YA fantasy territory. Fairest is one example of this. It retells Snow White in the vein of Levine's classic MG Ella Enchanted but does so with a bit more maturity. Readers transitioning between MG and YA could absolutely do well reading her works!
9) Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Haddix is one of my more low-key favorites. She's written many different books that fall into the liminal space between MG and YA, and I've especially enjoyed her sci-fi. My favorite by her so far is The Missing series, a sci-fi story about a group of young teens who find out they were kidnapped from key moments in history.
That's it! It's a short list, but there are some series and authors there to work with. Hopefully it can help some of those younger teens on their journey between MG and YA literature. Thank you for reading!
If you have any young YA to recommend, please comment! I'll see you all next week with some thoughts on ableist othering.
Images via Goodreads.
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