Throughout the holiday season, we’re gathering books that make the perfect gifts for everyone on your list—from your mother and the teen in your life to your foodie friend and the coworker who loves Harry Potter. Need more ideas? Check out all of our amazing gift guides!
What J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins started, John Green finished: The Fault in Our Stars made young adult readers of us all. And, like Rowling before him, Green and his band of nerdfighters have made reading cool again for a legion of teens. So whether Green has left you hungry for more funny, down-to-earth YA reads without a hint of the paranormal, or whether you’re looking to capitalize on the newfound love for reading that he’s given the YA lover in your life, then this list is for you:
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. This book is perfection, spinning a heart-lifting, nail-bitingly high stakes love story between two high school misfits in 1980s Omaha. They fall for each other via comic books, Smiths songs, a stolen phone call, and the most epic hand-holding scene you’ll ever read (top that, E.L. James). It seems cheesy to talk about the life-saving power of love in the context of a book starring two high-school kids, but you’ll understand after you’ve read it. Which you absolutely must.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. I think John Green’s Hazel Grace and high school sophomore Frankie could’ve been good friends. Frankie arrives at her father’s alma mater, boarding school Alabaster Prep, with a chip on her shoulder and brand-new, post-adolescent good looks she’s not yet sure what to do with. But this isn’t a story of a mouse’s transformation into a pretty girl, but a pretty girl’s transformation into a highly self-aware feminist mastermind of boarding-school mischief. Sure, she gets the guy, but that’s just where the story starts, before moving into weirder, more wonderful territory. Give it to the teen who needs reminding that romance isn’t always the endgame.
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler. This tenderhearted tale of high-school lust, from the author sometimes known as Lemony Snicket, is told through the objects accrued by sensitive cinephile Min Green, a high school junior, throughout her brief, doomed relationship with senior jock Ed Slaterton. The objects—including bottle caps, a Polaroid, and a movie ticket—are depicted in drawings by Maira Kalman, and somehow capture exactly the feeling of teen love, where everything your crush object touches becomes a totem. Handler’s Min is smart, ever-so-slightly pretentious, and prone to fits of melancholy—just like, ya know, every actual teen girl reading the book. Bonus: Min’s movie love is explored through multiple references to invented films that I’m dying to see, rivaling Green’s creation, in The Fault in Our Stars, of sadly nonexistent book An Imperial Affliction. Invented pop culture FTW!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. Regardless of your feelings on “sick lit” (both the genre and the rather squicky phrase), The Fault in our Stars isn’t the only worthwhile read that could technically sit on that shelf (that’s assuming the “heartbreakers,” “awesome female protagonists,” “laugh, cry, laugh reads,” and “give it to the kid who says he hates books” shelves are already full). Except Me and Earl is less the story of the dying girl, and more about, well, Me (protagonist Greg) and Earl, two high school friends brought together by their mutual inability to befriend anyone else. After Greg’s mom forces him to hang with Rachel, a girl who’s recently been diagnosed with cancer, lessons are learned, relationships are forged, and everyone grows a little bit wiser. Just kidding! As Greg tells it, “This book contains precisely zero Important Life Lessons.” Read this if your tear ducts prefer to be exercised via laughter.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin. After taking a fateful spill on the steps of her high school, Naomi loses four years’ worth of memories, including those of her mother’s betrayal, her parents’ subsequent divorce, and her complicated relationship with her best friend, Will (not to mention her athlete boyfriend, Ace). What she does remember is James, the brooding bad boy who was on the scene after her accident. Zevin’s wonderful fiction seems to exist in a cliché-free world, filled with utterly normal characters responding to extraordinary circumstances. No Mary Sues or heartthrobs here, just characters your teen will relate to.
What’s your favorite contemporary YA?