Why Everyone Should Read Young Adult Books

What book do you remember reading in your teenage years? Perhaps it was Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery? Or Lord of the Flies by William Golding? How about Are You There God, it’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume? For me, it was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Certainly, the books you read in those teenage years can leave a lasting impression.

Often referred to as ‘coming-of-age’ novels, Young Adult (YA) books are aimed at the teenage market, generally aged 14 – 18 years. They are characterised by a teenage protagonist who will navigate several difficulties and crises and consequently their character will grow and develop throughout the story. These days, the content of Young Adult fiction is as diverse as the teenagers they represent. Indeed, Young Adult fiction is responsible for leading important conversations around topics such as friendship, love, identity, mental health, gender, racism and family.

Interestingly, over half of the Young Adult market are adults, aged 18 – 60. So what attracts adults who already have a plethora of fiction available to them to Young Adult novels?

Firstly, Young Adult books are highly consumable. They pack a big emotional punch and are highly engaging without being overly heavy or distressing. Further, Young Adult books tend to blur the boundaries of genres. After all, teenagers are never dealing with one incident in isolation – they are navigating friendships, love, relationships, school and family whilst opening their eyes to the world and finding their place in it. Such multi-layered story-telling makes for really interesting reading.

Finally, Young Adult novels are so diverse. From fantasy to psychological thrillers, suspense to romantic comedy, drama and mystery. Check out the diversity in this list of 10 Must Read Young Adult Novels.

10 Must Read Young Adult Novels

1. Honeybee by Craig Silvey
In Honeybee, author Craig Silvey presents a truly unique perspective on teenagers in modern Australian society. The story starts late at night, fourteen-year-old Sam steps onto a quiet overpass and notices an old man at the other end of the same bridge, smoking his last cigarette. It’s a chance encounter that ultimately changes both their lives forever – one offering hope, the other offering redemption.

2. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Thirteen-year-old Charlie Bucktin is startled late one hot summer night by an urgent knock on his window. It’s Jasper Jones, a teenage outcast in the mining town of Corrigan, begging for Charlie’s help. What Jasper will lead Charlie to discover must remain a secret, one which Charlie will carry like a brick in his belly throughout a simmering summer when everything changes. Jasper Jones is a quintessential Australian coming-of-age story made all the better for the hilarious banter between Charlie and his stoic, ever-smiling, cheeky, cricket-mad, Vietnamese best friend, Jeffrey Lu.

3. The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov. Kiva earns herself the privileged position of working as the prison healer and dreams of one day being free of Zalindov to reunite with her family. But first she must undergo the Trial by Ordeal – a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water and earth. With an incurable plague sweeping the prison, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva is all too aware that her trials have only just begun.

4. 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze by Clayton Zane Comber
Xander Maze loves lists. Then one day, from the palliative care ward at the hospital, Xander Maze’s beloved Nana asks him to write a list of 100 remarkable feats that he can achieve by the end of the school year. But can this list of 100 remarkable feats really save Nana’s life? A thoroughly heart-warming read about never accepting the unacceptable, the power of lists and one boy’s unconditional love for his Nana.

5. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Challenger Deep is a moving and compelling journey of a teenager grappling with his mental health through increased paranoia, anxiety and depression. This story is so cleverly written by Neal Shusterman. Constantly moving between two worlds – Caden’s increasingly detched version of reality, and life onboard an imagined pirate ship journeying to the deep. The startling connections between the two worlds becomes apparent as the story unfolds and it serves to convey what it would be like to sail the dark, unpredictable waters of mental illness. 

6. Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller
Ghost Bird is a wonderfully original and frightening suspenseful novel by First Nations author, Lisa Fuller. Stacey and Laney are twins. When Laney disappears one night, Stacey can’t believe she’s just run off without telling her. As the days pass and Laney doesn’t return, Stacey begins dreaming of her twin. The dreams are dark and terrifying and Stacey can’t tell what’s real and what’s imagined. All she knows for sure is that Laney needs her help. Will Stacey find her sister in time?

7. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
This is an entertaining whodunnit! The investigator is teenager Pippa Fitz-Amobi, an A-grade student with a shameless love for homework and an obsession with the closed-case murder of schoolgirl Andie Bell from five years ago. Pip aspires to be an investigative journalist so when it comes time to apply for her English extension project, she proposes to use Andie Bell as a case study. But Pip’s investigations soon start to uncover secrets that someone in the town desperately wants to remain hidden. Could the real killer still be out there? And do they now have Pip in their sights?

8. Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein
A psychological thriller from Australian author Sarah Epstein. Tash Carmody has been traumatized since childhood when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time, nobody believed Tash and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory has never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash, who struggles with severe anxiety, starts to see Sparrow again. And she realizes Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she knows?

9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A teenage perspective on the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 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 witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. After the incident, what Starr says could not only destroy her community, it could also get her killed.

10. All the Bright Places by by Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places is a tear-jerking romantic drama that will leave you sobbing. Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. As their friendship grows, Finch knows that it’s only with Violet that he can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

Top 5 Tips for How to Read More Books

Do you wish you had more time to read? Life is hectic and most of us feel as though we could do with more downtime in our days. The all too easy distractions of social media and streaming services mean that even with the best intentions, many of us don’t read as much as we’d like too. Reading is great for broadening the mind, entertainment, relaxation and practicing mindfulness. Here are the top five tips to read more books.

Tip #5 Join a Book Club

Book clubs are a fantastic way for people who share a love of books and reading to get together, share insights and compare reads on a regular basis. The added bonus is that the structure of book club and the expectation that everyone will have read the book by the next meeting is a great motivator to prioritise your reading. Starting a book club can be as easy as getting a group of friends together who have a shared interest in reading and agreeing to get together once a month or every six weeks – whatever timeframe is realistic for everyone. Set some ground rules and be prepared that like anything worthwhile, book clubs require some work and a level of commitment from everyone in the group in order to be successful.  The benefits are that you are reading more regularly, extending your reading interests and have a great excuse for regular, social catch ups with a group of like-minded people.

Funny meme which reads 'At my book club we drink so much that nobody has noticed I'm completely illiterate'. Image of a lady holding a cocktail and looking to one side. Meme accompanies tip on joining a book club as a way to read more books.

Tip #4 What to Read

Sometimes just finding a book you want to read is half the battle. Subscribe to a book blog (such as The Reading Edit http://www.thereadingedit.com) and follow The Reading Edit and other #bookstagrammers on social media (@the.reading.edit). Search Instagram using popular tags to find a Bookstagrammer with similar reading interests to you and follow them for recommendations:

#newrelease
#whattoreadnext
#bookstagramaustralia
#fiction
#thriller

Pop into a bookshop and support independent book sellers! As well as loving to chat all things books, independent book sellers often have a wall of best sellers or popular fiction in store. Alternatively, you can browse their websites for details on new releases and sign up to receive their newsletter. Don’t forget your local library is a great resource too.

Tip #3 Eliminate Distractions

Be prepared to put the phone down and turn the TV off. Leave your phone in a different room if you have too. At night, use the Settings app on your phone and set a regular, pre-determined time for the Do Not Disturb function. On the subject of eliminating distractions, it’s important to acknowledge that there will rarely be a time when there are no distractions at all, so don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect or you’ll never get to that book. Try to unwind at regular intervals of 10 – 20minutes throughout the day (or even longer if you can). Think of all the times during the day when you are scrolling through your phone. What if you picked up a book at some of those times instead? What a great example we would set for our children if they saw us picking up a book instead of picking up our phone.

A funny meme to accompany an article on how to read more books. The meme features a lady relaxing on a couch with the words 'The quickest way for a mother to get her children's attention is to sit down and look comfortable'.

Tip #2 Try to fit some reading into every day – and don’t wait until bed time!

Do you get into bed exhausted at the end of the day, pick up your book, read two paragraphs and fall asleep? Time to move that book off the bedside table, take it out into the world and show it a good time! Carry a book with you throughout the day and you’ll be surprised how many opportunities present to do some reading. Even a 10minute window can be an opportunity for a few quick pages. Don’t begrudge only reading two or three pages at a sitting. Each time your brain switches into reading mode, you are also switching it into mindfulness mode and the more you practise this, not only will you get better at reading, but you’ll reap the benefits of mindfulness practise. In addition, taking the opportunity to read several times throughout the day is also great for keeping you engaged with the story. Try these tips to get more reading into every day:

  • Set the alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning, make yourself a tea or coffee and enjoy the serenity of sitting outside with the birds and a book to start your day.
  • Go to bed half an hour earlier, make sure you phone is on Do Not Disturb and enjoy unwinding with a book. You’ll sleep much better and have better engagement with the story.

Reading is like running. It might seem hard at first – you can’t concentrate, you have trouble finding the time, there’s too many distractions – but like running, the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

Tip #1 It’s a Matter of Priorities

How do some people get up at 5am to go to the gym before work? How do people find time to volunteer? To play club sport? To study as well as work a full-time job? It must be because they’re not as busy as the rest of us, right? They must have help – grandparents, cleaners, a better boss etc.
WRONG.
Everyone is busy. And yes, some people are busier than others, but how we spend our time each day is a matter of PRIORITIES. You get up an hour earlier to go to the gym because exercise and good health is a PRIORITY for you. You study while working full time with a young family because obtaining that qualification to get a better job, earn more money and potentially have a more successful career is a PRIORITY to you.
It’s the same with reading. People who read a lot of books do so because reading and the escapism, relaxation, broadening of the mind and the entertainment they get from reading is important to them.
So, if you want to make more time for reading in your life, it has to be a priority over other things, such as scrolling through your phone, mindlessly watching tv for hours and doing boring chores like cleaning the house. We are always told to make time for ourselves and the things we love and the various benefits that result when we do so such as improved mental health, better sleep and increased productivity. It can be as simple as picking up a book.

A funny meme to accompany an article on how to read more books. The meme features an image of a woman relaxing in an armchair and reading a book with the words 'I was going to clean the house, but then I realized...this book isn't going to read itself.

So there you have the top five tips to read more books. Now, if only I could get up at 5am to go to the gym….
Happy reading!

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