I’d like to dedicate this list of “hidden gems” to the people who suffer Twilightitis. You all know it, that strange condition some people suffer where they hear the phrase ‘Young Adult books’ and immediately shout “Twilight!” despite the fact that Twilight a) was published twelve years ago and b) isn’t – brace yourselves – the only book for teenagers that’s ever been written. I know! It’s not even one of the best. Let that sink in.
If you or someone you know suffers from Twilightitis, rejoice! I’ve got ten books for you to educate yourselves with. None of them feature sparkly vampires and none of them have lengthy scenes where the main character thinks she might as well just stop living as now that her boyfriend, who her entire life and purpose revolved around, has gone away. Enjoy!
(All blurbs are from Goodreads – links are included.)
Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot
‘You’re not Mia Thermopolis any more, honey,’ Dad said. I raised my head. ‘I’m not?’ I said, blinking. ‘Then who am I?’ He went, kind of sadly, ‘You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.’
One minute Mia’s totally normal. Next minute she’s heir to the throne of Genovia.
Well, her dad can lecture her until he’s royal-blue in the face, but no way is Mia going to behave like some posh princess. And they think she’s moving to Genovia? Er, hello?
The Chronicles of Pellinor – Alison Croggon
Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child after her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now she and her new teacher must survive a journey through a time and place where the forces they battle stem from the deepest recesses of otherworldly terror.
The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?
What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows – Nora Raleigh Baskin
Twelve-year-old Gabby Weiss is in the market for a stepmother. If only her father would cooperate, Gabby would have someone to tell her what is and isn’ t happening to her body. For awhile her father’ s girlfriend, Cleo, forms a bond with Gabby. But when the adults break up, Gabby’ s hopes for a stepmother are shattered. Still, sharing feelings with a woman has awakened Gabby’ s curiosity about her own mother’ s mysterious death. Once and for all, Gabby is determined to discover the truth.
Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
Guitar Girl – Sara Manning
Seventeen-year-old Molly Montgomery never planned on becoming famous. Molly’s band, The Hormones, was just supposed to be about mucking around with her best mates, Jane and Tara, and having fun. But when the deliciously dangerous Dean and his friend T join the band, things start happening fast. Soon The Hormones are front-page news, and their debut album is rocketing up the charts. Molly is the force behind the band, but the hazards of fame, first love, screaming fans, and sleazy managers are forcing the newly crowned teen queen of grrl angst close to the edge. Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale – Holly Black
Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms – a struggle that could very well mean her death.
Now repeat after me: there’s more to YA fiction than Twilight.