16 YA Gateway Reads, Genre by Genre

NimonaYou’re stuck in a funk. You’re tired of reading the same old rehashed storyline, but you’re scared to break out of your comfort genre and give something else a shot—after all, you never know what kind of horrors you could encounter. Unless, of course, you take our advice and get started with these choice reads, hand-picked to get you hooked on something new.

Fantasy: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
Have you shied away from reading much in the way of fantasy? Start with Graceling. Katsa lives in a world where certain people are born with special gifts called Graces. Katsa’s Grace happens to be killing people—which is why she’s spent her entire life serving her tyrant uncle as a glorified executioner. But when she meets Po, the prince of a neighboring kingdom, everything changes. This is a fun but deep read with strong characters and a really cool, well-built world you can keep reading about for two more books (Fire and Bitterblue), and perfect for your first foray into high fantasy.
Then read: A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

Thriller/Horror: Famous Last Words, by Katie Alender
If, like me, you’re terrified of everything, the thriller genre can be a difficult one to step into…but it’s totally, completely worth it. Famous Last Words makes for a great segue into the genre because it’s got all the murder and mystery, plus a few great distractions. Willa just moved to L.A., and she thinks she might be going crazy. She’s seeing things—dead bodies, freaky messages, strange images—and there just happens to be a serial killer on the loose in her new neighborhood. Are the two related?  Maybe.
Then read: Jackabyby William Ritter

Contemporary: Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
If the title of this book makes it sound like exactly the type of contemporary romance you’d like to avoid, tape a piece of paper over it and ignore it, because Anna and the French Kiss is lovely. Really. When Anna’s shipped off to boarding school in Paris, she’s dreading spending her senior year in a a strange place where she doesn’t speak the language. Then she meets Étienne St. Clair. They hit it off immediately, but are they just friends or something more? Charming and adorable and funny, this book will take your skepticism and bludgeon it to death with relatable characters and amazing writing. Trust me.
Then read: We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

LGBTQ: I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
At age 13, twins Noah and Jude were total opposites and the best of friends. Three years later, they’re barely speaking. What happened in between? With the early years told from Noah’s perspective and the later ones told from Jude’s, we start to figure out why the twins fell apart, and whether or not they can get back to the way they were. With some excellent romance (if Brian and Noah don’t make you swoon, you’re reading it wrong) and a lot of lessons about family and grief, I’ll Give You the Sun is a definite must-read.
Then read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universeby Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Historical: Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepetys
For a foray into historical fiction that’s not too historical, check out Out of the Easy. Josie is ready to leave New Orleans’ French Quarter (and her reputation as the daughter of a local prostitute) behind. She’s got a plan to get out, but a murder investigation gets in her way. Before long, she’s questioning how far she’s willing to go to protect the home she’s always wanted to escape. The writing is gorgeous and driven by Sepetys’ fantastic characters, and the glimpse of life in 1950s New Orleans will make you fall in love—with this book, and with historical fiction.
Then read: Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

Sci-Fi/Dystopian: Legendby Marie Lu
The western United States is no longer the United States; it’s now called the Republic, and its constant state of war means elite people like June are born and bred for the purpose of becoming military leaders. But then June’s brother is murdered, and she starts chasing down the chief suspect for the crime—a slum-born criminal who might help her uncover some of the truths behind the Republic’s politics. Immersed in Lu’s engaging writing, you’ll be ready to read the rest of the series…and stick around in the Dystopian genre for quite a while.
Then read: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Paranormal: The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
If you’re scared of clichés in paranormal YA, this book will help you overcome your fears. Blue is the only non-psychic in a family of clairvoyants, so when she sees the soon-to-be-dead spirit of a boy from a local private school, she knows she’ll end up somehow involved in his life. But when she actually meets doomed Gansey and his crew of Raven boys, it doesn’t take much for her to get involved in their strange search for a long-lost Welsh king—and their tight friendship. Part romance, part supernatural mystery, all awesome, The Raven Boys will blow your mind and make you reconsider everything you’ve ever thought paranormal could be.
Then read: Daughter of Smoke and Boneby Laini Taylor

Graphic Novel: Lumberjanesby Noelle Stevenson
Meet Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley, five friends spending the summer at camp together. There’s the regular camp stuff—survival skills, poison ivy—and then there’s the weird—woodland creatures with too many eyes, talking statues, and giant riddles. With a fast-paced, slightly ridiculous plot, great friendships, and amazing artwork, you’ll be hooked on this graphic novel before you can say “What the junk!” And then you’ll be reading all the Noelle Stevenson you can get your grubby little hands on.
Then read: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

What’s your favorite genre book?

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