Young Adult Books Everyone Should Read

Despite the genre’s name, young adult books are not exclusively for teenagers and adolescents. With classic themes and tropes, relatable characters, and plots that often center around a journey of self-discovery, YA novels have something that anyone can enjoy or relate to.

As someone who is technically still considered a young adult, I have read many YA novels and still continue to read more. In fact, many of my favorite books are actually young adult books. While it’s true that some lean a little more on the young side, many are enjoyable and relatable reads regardless of age. I’ve compiled a list of some classic young adult books from different genres that anyone can enjoy. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Harry Potter (fantasy)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone book cover.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Harry Potter books are some of the most popular books of all time, so it should come as no surprise to see it here. If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, and aren’t sure whether to get into the series, I urge you to check it out.

Each new book offers exciting, well-paced adventures set in an expansive, imaginative, and (not to sound too cheesy) truly magical world. The writing is funny, exciting, thoughtful, and immersive.

But the real reason to read is the well developed characters, each with their own unique personalities, voices, and character arcs that see them grow over the course of series. With amazing characters, an immersive world, and exciting adventures, I can’t recommend the series enough.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (fiction)

book cover for It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Fair warning, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is more sad than the title would suggest. Following a teen boy’s experience in a mental hospital after he nearly commits suicide, the subject matter is admittedly dark and at times difficult to read about. However, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is beautifully written, thoughtful, and deeply moving.

Depression and mental health struggles are themes that, unfortunately, many people can relate to. With humor, wit, and an ultimately hopeful tone, Ned Vizzini’s novel wonderfully portrays depression while showing the hopefulness of the journey towards recovery. No matter whether you are a young adult or not, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a must-read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Between Shades of Gray (historical fiction)

Between Shades of Gray book cover
Between Shades of Gray

Ruta Sepetys has become one of my favorite authors. All of her books that I’ve read have been amazing, but my favorite one is definitely Between Shades of Gray.

Taking place in World War II era Lithuania, the book follows the capture and displacement of the main character and thousands of others deemed undesirable by Stalin. This is an aspect of history that I hadn’t learned about before reading this book, and while it is only based on history, it still has a lot of interesting information seamlessly blended with storytelling.

Between Shades of Gray is gripping, moving, and dramatic. If you are a fan of historical fiction, or if you just like entertaining books with great characters, you should check out Ruta Sepetys’ books.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (science fiction)

Book cover for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is wonderfully bizarre in all the best ways. When Earth is destroyed to make way for a freeway, human Arthur Dent is taken on a journey around the universe as his friend, Ford Prefect, does research for the revision of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

With witty writing, a large cast of strange characters, an imaginative world, and the answer to life itself, this novel is the full package. Instead of trying to tell you how funny this book is, I’ve decided that this quote better sums it up: “You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.” “Why, what did she tell you?” “I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

Farewell to Manzanar (non-fiction)

Farewell to Manzanar book cover
Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar is a biography written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, a Japanese-American whose family had been put into an internment camp during World War II. Shedding light on a subject often glossed over or even ignored in schools, Farewell to Manzanar describes what life was like in the American internment camps, and the horrors that those American families were put through.

Both haunting and touching, this is one of the best biographies I’ve read so far. If you are a fan of historical novels, World War II history, or other novels such as The Diary of Anne Frank, Farewell to Manzanar is an excellent book that I highly recommend everyone to read.

As a young adult, I typically find myself enjoying and relating to YA books. However, with many universal themes, well-written characters, and more, young adult books can appeal to anyone, regardless of their age. The five books on my list are ones that I feel not only could appeal to anyone, but that can stand the test of time as well. In fact, several of these books were recommended to by my parents, who read them when they were young adults.

Of course, this list contains only a few of my favorite young adult novels. Also, while I have read a lot, there are of course many I haven’t yet had the chance to read. Have any young adult books you hoped to see on this list, or any recommendations for what I should read next? Let me know in the comments below! And make sure to subscribe to Sweet and Petite to stay updated on my newest posts. Thanks for reading!

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