When we were younger we had the freedom of picking up lush illustrative picture books and cheesy books with glitter all over the cover without hesitation. Now, as a collage student the acceptable choice of reading would be a page from the New York Times or a compilation of short stories from Kurt Vonnegut. Trolling around the tween section in Barnes and Noble wearing heels and an SVA collage sweatshirt can be a bit... well, embarrassing.
However, lately I've been noticing that the age range of people hanging out at the young adult section has become much wider. Yes, I still feel the need to say things like, "Oh yeah, well the kid that I tutor loves fantasy books" to the Barnes and Noble employees, but now the employees will tell me "Oh really? So do I!".
So for all the college students who haven't given up on Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and Alex Rider, here is a list of MUST read young adult novels:
*List is not in any particular order
1. The Mysterious Benedict Society: (mystery, friendship, witty, comedy, series)
"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?"
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.
2. The Wind Singer: (fantasy, adventure, friendship, Trilogy) **Highly Recommended
Kestrel Hath's schoolroom rebellion against the stifling caste system of Aramanth leads to explosive consequences for her and her family: they are relegated to the city's lowest caste and are ostracized. With nothing left to lose, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, do the unthinkable: they leave the city walls. Their only hope to rescue the rest of their family is to find the key to the wind singer, a now-defunct device in the city's center, which was once the course of happiness and harmony in Aramanth. But the key was given to an evil spirit-lord, the Morah, in exchange for the Morah's calling off its terrible army of Zars. Armed with desperate bravery, wits, and determination, Kestrel, Bowman, and a tagalong classmate set off to find the key. Along the way they meet allies and foes, but in order to succeed in their quest, they must face the most sinister force of all: the powerful Morah.
After Kestrel Hath rebels against the stifling rules of Amaranth society and is forced to flee, she, along with her twin brother and a tagalong classmate, follow an ancient map in quest of the legendary silver voice of the wind singer, in an attempt to heal Amaranth and its people.
3. The Thief Lord: (adventure, mystery, thrilling)
Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord." Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes. Prosper and Bo delight in being part of this colorful new family. But the Thief Lord has secrets of his own. And soon the boys are thrust into circumstances that will lead them to a fantastic, spellbinding conclusion.
4. The Gammage Cup: (adventure, fantasy, friendship) **Highly Recommended
Muggles is an ordinary Minnipin living in Slipper-on-the-Water as generations of Minnipins have ever since their great leader Gammage led them to this valley. She is accustomed to the routine Minnipin life--everyone wears the same clothes, all houses look the same, and society rules are quite rigid. But one morning, Muggles awakes to fires on the distant mountains and knows that her life is about to change dramatically. The only people who believe Muggles' story are Gummy the poet, Walter the Earl, Curley Green and Mingy--who are all outcasts themselves. They are not like other Minnipins--they speak their mind, they wear different colors, and they question rules. When they try to convince the rest of the town that danger is lurking, they are cast out from the city. In a peaceful knoll up the river, the unlikely friends rejoice in their new found freedom and begin a new life. But when the enemy's presence cannot be ignored, this group of outcasts must fight to protect the very people who cast them out. With courage and determination, the five friends save their town and restore the beauty of individualism to their beloved home. Kendall's Newbery Honor fantasy presents readers with the inevitable choice between good and evil, but with an extra twist--before her protagonists can become heroes, they must embrace their individuality in a society that praises conformity.
5. Ender's Game: (sci-fi, adventure, future, action)
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.