It is often said that teens don’t read, and instead that they spend all their time browsing social media, watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out with friends. But the reality is that young adults are readers too—and there is no shortage of bestselling books written just for them.

These days, teenagers have access to a vast catalog of books tailored to young people who read them in hard copy or in digital format on a variety of today’s electronic devices. This has certainly contributed to the rising popularity of young adult literature in recent years, shaping a new golden age for the genre, which is also commonly known as YA fiction.

Key Facts

  • Alongside literature written specifically for children, books for young adults have experienced a golden age in the last few years. From horror and science fiction to topics such as LGBTQ and romance, almost every theme can be found in this genre of literature. Nonetheless, the distinct features of young adult literature remain hard to define.
  • YA books cover a wide range of themes and their influence stretches to other media forms, such as film and TV. Additionally, they have adapted especially well to modern times, dealing with topics that were once rarely found in young adult literature, such as bullying and terminal diseases.
  • The huge range of titles available for teenagers can make it particularly difficult to choose the best option for the reader you have in mind. Among the considerations that you should take into account when choosing a book are the specific topics addressed by the writer; the likes and interests of the reader; whether that person is a boy or a girl; and if you would prefer to get a bestseller or something less well-known.

Ranking: 5 teen books to introduce you to the genre

Below we have provided a selection of five best-selling teen books in 2019. There is a huge number of titles for young adults published each year, covering a variety of genres. From science fiction and fantasy to romantic novels, you’ll find nearly every genre has a place in teen literature.

No. 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is renowned world-wide, and remains one of the most popular series for young adults years after its release and subsequent adaptation into blockbuster films. A seven-part series that follows the journey of an orphaned teen who discovers he has magical powers, Harry Potter is bound to please any young reader.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first of the series, setting the scene for a gripping story that will make readers laugh and cry as they excitedly turn page after page.

No. 2: The Upside of Falling Down

This novel by Rebekah Crane is perfect for teens interested in themes of independence, first love and self-discovery.

The Upside of Falling Down follows the story of Clementine Haas, a girl who wakes up in an Irish hospital with complete amnesia. As Clementine takes on a new identity, readers will sympathize with her struggle to shape a new life and also cope with the complications of the past.

No. 3: Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is an iconic novel widely considered to be one of the greatest books written for young adults. Its compelling story about a group of schoolboys marooned on an uncharted island is masterfully written and hard to forget.

This new edition of William Golding’s 1954 novel features a foreword by Louis Lowry, the award-winning author of a number of numerous young adult novels.

No. 4: The Book Thief

This #1 New York Times bestseller by author Markus Zusak is one of America’s most-loved stories, portraying the power of books themselves through the tale of a foster girl who lives in Nazi Germany and steals books that she can’t resist reading.

The Book Thief has been widely described as life-changing, moving and important by critics and authors alike.

No. 5: Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven

This fantasy series about a rogue 19-year-old with mysterious powers will be a hit among teens who enjoyed the Harry Potter novels and are looking for a new world in which to immerse themselves.

Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven is just one in an array of fantasy, romance, and mystery novels by popular author Bella Forrest, who has sold millions of novels in recent years.

Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about books for young adults

Books always make a superb gift, especially when the recipient is a teen. However, because of the large number of available books for young people, it is not always easy to decide which one is the best or most appropriate. Here, we will answer some important questions that you may have regarding this literary genre.

One of the defining features of a young adult book is the age of its main characters.
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What defines a young adult book?

Literary experts have often sought to define the genre of youth literature. However, trying to distinguish between a book written for an adult reader and another one written for a teen is no easy task. One of the distinctions that can qualify a book as YA fiction is the age of the main characters, who are usually somewhere between 13 and 20 years old.

Youth literature doesn’t shy away from any one topic. Writers can tailor all subjects, even controversial ones, to a young audience by presenting that subject—be it bullying in school, homophobia or first love and sex—in a way that helps the teen to grasp and understand it.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Another feature typical of young adult literature is that it’s relatively easy to read. YA books aim not only to entertain a teen reader but also to encourage them to develop a habit of reading. They often have simple plots meant to engage those who are just starting to read more seriously.

Which young adult books have been adapted into films?

Alongside superhero comics, young adult books have been a consistent source of inspiration for Hollywood films in recent years. Movie studios recognize the value of these novels and commission various films from them each year. Some go on to top the box office charts.

Among the most successful movie franchises in recent years is The Hunger Games, which was based on a trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins. The three original books became a four-part film saga that was released from 2012 to 2015 and grossed almost three billion dollars worldwide.

One of the joys of reading is that the reader feels they are experiencing faraway places, achieving impossible feats, and living through extraordinary events.
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Some other young adult books that have recently been adapted for cinema include The Maze Runner by James Dasher, Nightmares by R. L. Stine, The Host by Stephanie Meyer, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and City of Bones: Shadowhunters by Cassandra Clare, to mention just a few.

Can young adult books be thought-provoking?

Even though youth fiction is generally tailored to the experiences and feelings of teenagers, that doesn’t mean the genre avoids deeper and more complex topics entirely. A perfect example of this can be seen in John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, which largely focuses on the matter of terminal illness.

Another novel that veers away from the topics traditionally present in young adult fiction is On the Other Side of Truth by Shía Arbulú, which tackles issues like corruption and economic crisis. A final example is Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a book about racism and political violence in modern-day America.

What LGBTQ-themed young adult books are available?

The teenage years are a part of life during which many define their sexuality identity. The theme of sexual identity is therefore found in many young adult novels such as Benjamin Alire’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a story that addresses the challenge of coming out as gay.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is another young adult title that explores the search for sexual identity, as is Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman. Aciman’s novel, which was recently adapted into an award-winning film, tells the story of two young men exploring their sexuality while spending a summer in rural Italy during the late 1980s.

When a reader is submerged in the pages of a book, they cannot be torn away. 
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Which classic young adult books are best-sellers?

Although young adult literature has seen a strong link to cinema and television in recent years, we shouldn’t forget that the genre itself has existed for centuries. Most of us read literary classics in our youth, such as Jules Verne’s adventure stories, The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton,  or the action/thriller novels written by Australian author John Marsden.

Another young adult classic is The Three Musketeers by Alejandro Dumas, an adventure novel that was first published in the 19th century as installments in a French newspaper but still retains its charm and originality to this day. One more classic that is considered to be essential youth reading is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a coming-of-age story that takes place in the background of the American Civil War.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

“Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh, cry and find meaning in life.”

You will often find literary classics like these on the bestseller lists alongside more recent titles. Publishers continue to release new versions of the classics, sometimes adding annotations and illustrations or abridging the stories for a younger audience. As we have seen, classics are as popular as ever.

Which young adult novels have been adapted for TV?

Amid the rise of streaming services that are widely used in American homes, TV series have become increasingly prevalent and popular. Many of these series’ most loyal fans are young adults, pushing publishers to launch YA book series based on beloved TV shows.

This is not a new phenomenon. Shows targeted at adolescents were made into book series long before streaming, including the 1990s hits Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Beverly Hills 90210. More recently, young adult novels like The Vampire Diaries and The 100, the latter an apocalyptic science fiction story, have been adapted into TV shows.

Modern-day readers have the choice to open a physical book or a virtual copy, using an electronic device like an iPad or Kindle.
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Which young adult novels have less than 200 pages?

Getting into reading isn’t the same process for every young adult. Some teens are eager to tackle books that are 500 pages or longer, while others prefer to begin with something a bit less daunting. There are many classic young adult stories that don’t top 200 pages, such as Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness or S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

Many of the more recent young adult novels are under 200 pages, including Gensis by Bernard Beckett, the anonymously written Go Ask Alice, or The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky, to name just a few. Books like these are an ideal way to inspire an enduring love of reading in any teen.

There days, there are many young adult books that have been adapted for TV.
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What are the most popular thriller and mystery novels for young adults?

The thriller and mystery genres also have many fans among young readers. Although the most horrific and confronting elements of these genres are often toned down, mystery novels for youth can be just as entertaining as those targeted at adults. One good example of this is One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, a whodunit story with a twist.

The thriller genre, a youth favorite, has been treated with mastery by authors like Maureen Johnson. In her award-winning novel Truly Devious: A Mystery, Johnson tells the fictional tale of a teen who seeks to solve one of America’s great unsolved crimes.

Shopping criteria

While adult readers may be fairly certain about their favorite genre of literature, adolescents are usually still exploring the variety of themes, genres, and narrative styles available to them. That being the case, it is important for us to take into account these various factors when purchasing books for young readers, since they are less experienced with reading and yet very demanding nonetheless.

  • The reader’s personal favorites and interests
  • Is the reader a boy or a girl?
  • Themes
  • Bestsellers or unknown titles?
  • Realistic or imaginative?

The reader’s personal favorites and interests

Frequent readers who are 12 years old or above often develop a fondness for particular themes and genres. So if we’re hoping to give them a book, it would therefore make sense to figure out what types of books they are most excited about. Similarly, the reader’s personality is a crucial factor to consider when it comes to selecting the best reading material.

André GideFrench writer

“Before writing a book, you should ask: who will read them? And for people you should ask: what do they read? And finally, the books and people meet.”

Is the reader a boy or a girl?

In many cases, young adult books are intended for readers of both sexes, even though some that deal with romance are generally more popular among girls. Nonetheless, the difference between stories for girls versus those for boys has become increasingly blurred, with most themes transcending gender lines.

Themes

Many publishers suggest appropriate age ranges for their young adult books. For other books, however, it can be difficult to ascertain which age group is most appropriate. You should therefore be careful to review each book to see what themes arise and how they’re treated by the author.

Bestsellers or unknown titles?

A bestseller will generally be a safe choice for any young adult. However, this means we may fail to take note of lesser-known literary works that don’t appear on the bestseller lists. Checking the comments and reviews left by other readers can help you find a good book that isn’t necessarily a bestseller.

A wide range of themes appear in young adult literature, so you are bound to find something that’s just right for you.
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Realistic or imaginative?

YA fiction, although often seeking to enhance the imagination and creativity of teen readers, will almost always contain some level of realism. Some young adult novels have a plot that aims to teach teens a particular lesson, while others are purely escapist in nature. Regardless, the ideal story will possess a balance between being entertaining and instructive.

Summary

It can be a challenge to choose just five suitable titles from the vast number of YA books that have been released by publishers over the years. However, we believe that these choices will please most young readers. We have also provided you with answers to a handful of questions that you might have encountered regarding this genre of literature.

Finally, to help you face the tough task of picking a book for a teen, we have created a simple guide outlining five key questions you should ask before making a final selection.

If you’ve found it useful, we hope that you’ll share our article on social media and let us know what you think in the comments section.

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