5 Young Adult Book Recommendations

by Katie Waits, Amy Layton, Megan Evans, Molly Govus, and Lauren Ryan

Katie Waits recommends The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:

First, Adolf Hitler manipulated the words. Firing his messages of propaganda and hatred into the minds of the German people under his Nazi rule. Then, Liesel Meminger reclaimed the words. Fashioning them into tools for storytelling and hope. She is The Book Thief.

Death is always busy, especially when we meet him in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Not only is he collecting the souls of the victims of World War Two’s horrors, but he is also narrating the intriguing story of a young, German girl. At such a young age, Liesel has had to adapt to many drastic and often painful changes – loss, adoption, new friendships, and war. However, she copes with these changes through her relations with the people in her life. Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Rudy Steiner, and Max Vandenburg are each unique characters with deep personalities and their own story to tell. And they each aid Liesel’s quest in stealing books and claiming the words as her own.

The Book Thief is bittersweet and accurately captures what it is to be human. Zusak’s references to real, historical events adds to the rawness of the story, and also inspires reflection upon what we, as a human race, are truly capable of. The Book Thief provides a relevant reminder that although we can adapt to change, whether personal or societal, we should also speak up for what we believe in. 

Ultimately, it is definitely worth sitting down with The Book Thief and listening to what Death has to say. 


Amy Layton suggests The Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold:

Susie Salmon, in the midst of her teenage years, was tasting the fruit of her life to come, falling in love and discovering passions for photography. Unexpectedly, this life is cut short as she is murdered, leaving behind a loving, yet complicated family. The Lovely Bones recounts the next eight years of the world Susie left behind, narrated from her own personal Heaven. Sebold endeavors to investigate how such tragedies can break or unite families in their adaption to a stark new world without a daughter, a sister, a friend. 

The Lovely Bones is an especially recommended read to anyone who may be suffering from the grief of loss. Sebold offers a comforting outlook to death, suggesting the dead never really leave us. They look over us and guide us in small unbeknownst ways, also giving hopes for our own futures. The pain and coping mechanisms of each family member are diverse, showing there is no right or a certain way to adapt to loss. However, even when the family seems to be broken beyond repair, the love that they remember can be the binding glue that pieces them back together. 

If you are a fan of fast-paced action books then perhaps The Lovely Bones is not for you, however, if you enjoy dramas with meaningful insights then Sebold’s book is a must-read.


Megan Evans loves Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin:

Elsewhere is unlike any book I have ever read, and it really stimulated a lot of emotion at the age of fourteen when I was first presented with it in my local library. I remember the plot as if no time has passed at all because it covered very bold themes for a YA novel such as grief, family and love, whilst focusing tremendously on ‘adapting’ and fulfillment of life; just as a YA novel should do. 

Written by Gabrielle Zevin in 2005, Elsewhere imagines life after death. In the first few pages of the book, a young girl’s life is taken in a hit and run accident and she wakes up on a ship to Elsewhere. In Elsewhere, everyone ages backward until they reach the age of a newborn and are eventually sent back to earth.

Not only does she have to adapt to a new place, but she also has to watch her family grieve and move on from her existence on Earth. Nevertheless, she meets a young man who helps her live again and navigate their unpredictable futures.

The wisdom, humour and moving nature of this book hooked me and I would recommend it to all who are interested in themes of life, death, and re-birth.


Molly Govus adores The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This epistolic tale of love is told through letters between Henry and Clare, two lovers that meet under the strangest of circumstances. In some form of parallel universe, Henry is able to time travel. At 6 years old, Clare grows up around Henry in her own universe whereas Henry constantly changes age and bounds helplessly between decades, which led him to meet Clare in the first place. At the start of the book, they meet in Henry’s present; their time frames finally come together as one. Within this warped time frame, they fall in love, get married and have children – but this is no ordinary love story. Claire spends most of her time waking up to an empty but still-warm bed, a shattered glass where Henry has disappeared and coffee-fueled late nights waiting for her husband whose age she will not know until he walks through the door.

The story is told through diary entries which perfectly encapsulates their abnormal yet beautiful relationship. As Claire’s diary entries run from 6 years old to 80 years old, Henry’s are constantly changing time and place. The level of confusion and inconsistency within Clare’s life is compressed between the lines of this book. Your heart will ache for the woman within the pages, just waiting and hoping that the man she loves will stay in the same place within the present.

Clare is constantly having to adapt, over and over again, which is why this story, in particular, is so interesting when considering the theme of adaptation, because I don’t think the readers should ever expect her to do so fully.


Laura Ryan enjoys How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss:

How Not to Disappear is one of the classic YA Fiction novels that teach you lessons you never thought you needed to learn. It is one of the books that draws you in very quickly and it doesn’t take long before you’re itching to keep turning the pages. 

At first, the storyline appears obvious as we are immediately introduced to Hattie’s (the protagonist) feelings of reaching the end of adolescence. Yet, as a reader, Clare Furniss keeps you guessing as the story takes several different exciting, enthralling and totally unpredictable twists and turns. 

However, it is not the typical YA novel, in which we are simply following a teenage girl through adolescence. Furniss has effortlessly created characters that teach young and elderly readers alike the importance of patience, compassion, and understanding. Furniss creates this undeniable connection between the characters and the readers, that leaves you believing they exist beyond the pages of the book. I felt as though I had a glimpse into other people’s lives who were living somewhere else. 

I enjoyed every minute of this book and there wasn’t a time it didn’t captivate all of my attention. Furniss’ creation of relationships that know no boundaries (especially age) makes the novel a fascinating and brilliant read that you just simply cannot put down.