I read a lot of Young Adult books. I love the strong storylines, and the passion and honesty of the protagonists. Here are a few of the many YA books I love.
By Joan Steinau Lester
This is a wonderful story of a biracial teen trying to find her place in the world when her parents’ divorce and the racial tensions in her community make her feel isolated and uncertain of where she belongs. I loved the character of Nina, because she seemed like a real teenager, with all of the uncertainty and need for answers that I remember from being that age. She also has a very realistic adolescent lapse in judgment that leads to a harrowing sequence in the book. Her sharp observations of the adults around her are wonderful. I’ve given this one to several young friends.
Ages 13-16 | Publisher: Zondervan | 2012 | ISBN-13: 9780310720003
I’ll read anything written by Katherine Paterson, but if I was only allowed one of her books on my desert island, this would be it. It’s a quiet but impassioned story about 14-year-old Sara Louise (Wheeze), who grows up in a small island community in Chesapeake Bay in the 1940’s. Overshadowed her entire life by her beautiful, admired sister, Louise determinedly makes her own way. She’s both a dreamer (hoping to earn boarding school money through a writing contest she finds on the back of a Captain Marvel comic) and practical (fishing alongside her father when the war in Europe swallows the island’s young men). The family and small town life are perfectly drawn. The writing is so beautiful it makes me shiver. One of the books I read over and over.
Ages 13+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | 1980 | ISBN-13: 978-0064403689
I love all of Tamora Pierce’s heroines, but Kel is my favorite. The Protector of the Small series (First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight) follows Keladry of Mindelan from the age of ten to eighteen. She’s a solid, no-nonsense heroine who is not slender, spunky, or a spitfire. She’s just Kel, who does what she needs to do to achieve her dream of becoming a knight and serving the realm. Pierce never makes war pretty, and the last book has a haunting sequence dealing with the aftermath of violence. I also love how the adults in the book are fully-drawn characters, as are Kel’s animal and human companions. I got to these as an adult but would have gleefully devoured them as a young reader.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Bluefire
Books I can’t wait to read …
By Garth Nix
I love Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom books, and am really looking forward to reading Clariel, which is set six hundred years before Sabriel. Nix has created an original and intricate world in which necromancers known as Abhorsens try to control the threat of the dead who won’t stay dead. I love how the magic in the books follows very clear rules and logic. I also enjoy the tensions between the magical Old Kingdom and the more modern world on the other side of the wall. Nix’s characters are always thoughtful and complex. His young protagonists are heroic, but also realistically in the throes of adolescent doubt and search for identity. Clariel is on the top of my very tall to-read list.
Ages 13+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0061561559
By Kirby Larson
I loved Hattie Big Sky, about sixteen-year-old Hattie trying to prove up her Uncle’s claim in 1918 Montana. Hattie’s voice is completely authentic, and it’s a fascinating look at the life of a young woman in the early 20th Century.
Hattie Ever After is the story of what happens to Hattie after she leaves her uncle’s claim and embarks on a career as a journalist. Somehow I missed this one when it came out, and am looking forward to getting my hands on it.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0375850905
Bonus to read …
Whatever Suzanne Collins writes next. The Hunger Games trilogy is so brilliant and layered that I don’t care what she writes next, I’m waiting for it.
About the Author
Before the wolves barged in the door, demanding that their story be told, Dorothy Hearst was a senior editor at Jossey-Bass, where she published books for nonprofit, public, and social change leaders. She currently lives, writes, and plays with dogs in Berkeley, California. Spirit of the Wolves, the third and final title in the Wolf Chronicles, will be released December 2. For more information, and to download free CCSS-aligned discussion questions for all three novels, visit her website: dorothyhearst.com.
By Dorothy Hearst
The first title in The Wolf Chronicles trilogy brings the imaginative storytelling of a fantasy adventure to years of research on a species that has been revered as mysterious symbols of nature lost.
• Fantastical plot based on science: Inspired by the theory that it was wolves, and later dogs, that made humans the dominant species on earth by teaching mankind to hunt cooperatively and form complex societies, The Wolf Chronicles begins 14,000 years ago with Promise of the Wolves. It is engagingly told from the point of view of lovable Kaala—an outcast young wolf who has been charged with watching over humans in order to prevent them from losing touch with nature and thus destroying the world.
• An international sensation with tremendous commercial appeal: Hearst’s tale has generated exceptional international interest, with rights sold in more than ten countries. Fans are eager to hear more from Kaala and her pack about their vivid, elaborate world of mythology, peril, and adventure.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Simon & Schuster | 2008 | ISBN-13: 978-1416569992
By Dorothy Hearst
14,000 years ago, wolves and humans shared a destiny.
The rules of the Wide Valley wolves were clear: Never consort with humans; never kill a human unprovoked; never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live.
When she was little more than a pup, Kaala, born of mixed blood and nearly killed for it, found herself irresistibly drawn to the forbidden humans. She shattered the rules of the valley, exposing the lies hidden beneath. Now, responsibility for the consequences rests with her. In part two of The Wolf Chronicles, Kaala and the human girl she has befriended must find a way for the wolves and humans of the valley to live in harmony. If they succeed, Kaala will finally prove herself worthy of her pack. If they fail, every wolf and human in the valley will die.
Then Kaala learns that much more than the Wide Valley is at stake. Humans—and their relationship to the world around them—are changing. Kaala’s choices may affect not only her pack, but the survival of all wolfkind.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Simon & Schuster | 2012 | ISBN-13: 978-1416570011
By Dorothy Hearst
The third and final title in The Wolf Chronicles: Kaala the young wolf fulfills her destiny—to either help humans and wolves to live in peace, or bring war that will destroy them all.
Fourteen thousand years ago in southern Europe, a wolf cub named Kaala discovers that she alone can link wolves and humans, thus keeping humans from growing distant from and destroying the world around them. In Promise of the Wolves and Secrets of the Wolves, Kaala came to understand her role. Born of a forbidden, mixed blood litter, and alone after her mother’s exile, Kaala struggled to earn her place in the Swift River pack. When she saved the life of a human girl, she put her hard-won place in the pack at risk, and responsibility for keeping peace between wolf and humankind fell to her. So far, she has failed.
Now, in Spirit of the Wolves, Kaala has one last chance. She leaves her home in the Wide Valley with her packmates, the human girl she loves, and an obnoxious raven. Together, they travel to the land outside the valley, only to discover that new challenges await them. Kaala’s mother has no answers, a faction of ruthless Greatwolves will stop at nothing to maintain control, odd little wolves seek to take Kaala’s place, and, in the mysterious village of Kaar, humans are undergoing a transformation that could destroy everything she is working for. Only by calling on all of her strength and on the bonds of love with her human, raven, and wolf companions can Kaala hope to succeed. But it might not be enough.
In this satisfying conclusion to The Wolf Chronicles, Kaala will have to fight and sacrifice in ways she never imagined, and she must decide how far she is willing to go for peace…when every step she takes leads wolfkind and humankind toward war.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Simon & Schuster | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1416570028
Follow all the stops on the Wolf Chronicles blog tour!
Mon, Dec 1: Novel Novice
Tues, Dec 2: The Book Monsters
Wed, Dec 3: SLJ Teen
Thurs, Dec 4: I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
Fri, Dec 5: I Read Banned Books
Mon, Dec 8: Library Fanatic
Tues, Dec 9: YA Book Nerd
Wed, Dec 10: Read Now, Sleep Later
Thurs, Dec 11: The Brain Lair
Fri, Dec 12: Unleashing Readers
If you loved Dorothy Hearst’s excellent list of young adult books, you can discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review just like this one by perusing our articles tagged with Best Young Adult Books.