11 Great Young Adult Books for the YA Cynic

By now we all know that Divergent and The Hunger Games trilogies are above and beyond great, and that John Green can do no wrong. These books are the breakouts from the YA world, novels that adults can't stop talking about, either. But what about the rest of the genre? (And, oh, it's a huge one.)

There's a ton of incredible YA literature on shelves that would crack even a hardened skeptic — you've just got to do a little digging. Or you can leave that to us. These 11 books are titles you'll want to put in your queue immediately. We promise they'll break open the world of YA for you the way they did for us.

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'A Great and Terrible Beauty' by Libba Bray

A sleeper hit, A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The protagonist is a girl sent to boarding school in 19th century England in order to learn how to be a lady. There, she discovers Kartik, a mysterious gypsy boy, and a whole lot of magic. Despite the fantastical premise, the book reads more maturely than others with similar subject matters (so, if you gave up on Twilight, don’t automatically turn your nose up on this one).

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'Every Day' by David Levithan

Every Day will contend for most unique book you’ve ever read. David Levithan’s an inventive story tells the tale of “A,” a sexless being who wakes up in the body of a new teen every day. Things get complicated when A falls for a teenage girl. Every Day explores what it means to love a person separate from his or her physical identity.

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'Before I Fall' by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall is reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day, only told by a teenage female protagonist. The story retells the events of the same day, during which the protagonist dies. Sure, you know the ending — but Oliver makes each retelling of the events leading up to her death feel fresh.

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'The Spectacular Now' by Tim Tharp

You know the movie was great, but the book is just as good. There are enough differences between the screen’s version and Tharp’s version of Sutter, a teenage goof and budding alcoholic, to get you thinking and talking about the adaptation, too.

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'Sloppy Firsts' by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling’s diary entries will take you right back to high school. In Sloppy Firsts, Jessica navigates a rocky sophomore year without her best friend, who’s just moved away. Equal parts humorous and angst-y, it’s the first book of a series you’ll keep coming back to.

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'This Lullaby' by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is the Nicholas Sparks for teenage girls. Unlike Sparks, though, her novels are romantic without being I-can’t-stand-this cheesy. This Lullaby is one of Dessen’s best efforts.

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'I Am the Messenger' by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger is Zusak’s lesser known book (he’s also the author of The Book Thief). The novel tells the story of Ed Kennedy, a taxi driver who thwarts a robbery. After that evening, he begins receiving playing cards with mysterious clues on them and tasks he must do. It’s a mystery, a comedy, and thoroughly entertaining.

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'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs

The creepy 1920s era child on the cover is enough to tell you that this isn’t your typical YA novel. Miss Peregrine’s home houses peculiar children and the monsters that haunt them. After 16-year-old Jacob’s grandfather is killed by one of these creatures, he returns to the strange place to find out what really went on in the orphanage.

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'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher

It’s always tough to read about suicide — and this tale is no exception. Thirteen Reasons Why starts with Clay Jensen receiving a series of tapes that are being passed along to the 13 people who played a part in Hannah Baker’s suicide. The book is a mystery that’s hard to put down until each reason is uncovered.

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'Warm Bodies' by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies is a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet. In this world, there are tiers of zombies and all are not completely dead yet. It’s a fun story, and an inventive take on the classic tale.

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'Clockwork Angel' by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel is the first book of the Infernal Devices series, a trilogy that serves as a prequel to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. However, the trilogy can be read as a stand alone trio that chronicles the life of Tessa Gray, the 19th century heroine who finds out that magic and demons do exist in our world. It has the darkness and secrets that makes some of YA so rich, and it’s appropriately received raves.

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