Just to put it out there: I’m not a huge fan of young adult (YA) novels. In some sort of arrogant and/or naïve fit, I convinced myself that I outgrew YA around age 9. A recent revival of YA (which I will blame on John Green’s The Fault in our Stars) has caused me to rethink my position.
Well, I’m back from rethinking and I still don’t really like YA as a genre. However, after some thought, I can now claim one exception: popular YA series, such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I will share some of my favorite with you now…
5. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
I used to read Meg Cabot’s blog religiously. She cracked me up. I read as many of her books as I could get my hands on (All-American Girl was a big favorite). I know you’ve seen the movie with Anne Hathaway (or at least heard of it), but have you ever read the books? They’re completely different. For one thing, Mia’s father is still alive, and her grandmother is anything but Julie Andrews. Michael Moscovitz is also a very big deal. While I love the movies (yes, both of them), the books also have a special place in my bookish heart. (Or… at least the first five or six do. I haven’t actually read all of them… I will eventually. I just have to catch up on the rest of my reading first.) They’re hilarious, snarky, and a little bit edgy. One of my favorite things about them is the silly lists and mini-essays that included in Mia’s diary (the books are, in fact, written in diary form).
4. Winnie the Horse Gentler series by Dani Daley Mackall
In late elementary and middle school, I was a connoisseur of horse books. I read every late 90′s/early 00′s published YA horse book I could get my hands on. Even after cleaning out my bookshelf a few years ago (something I will never do again), I still have enough that it makes you double take. (Seeing “Thoroughbred” titled books beside Jane Austen is a little off-putting, or at least I think so.) Winnie the Horse Gentler was my absolute favorite series. They’re Christian YA horse novels– you just don’t get better than that. On top of that, little Winnie is basically everything I wanted to be, while still being enough like me that she was relatable. Mackall recently started a new horsey series, for which I will definitely set aside my un-love of YA.
3. Warriors series by Erin Hunter
Don’t judge me. Like The Princess Diaries, I haven’t read all of these. In fact, I’ve only read three or four. But these have been on my to-purchase list for, literally, years. (Somehow, buying a long-ago-lemmed copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary beat it out; I’m just learning to prioritize.) There are actually several different series within the Warriors universe, and I’m not going to kid around with you– I want to read every last one of them. I mean, the original series is about warrior cats. Warrior cats. That’s really all I have to say, isn’t it?
2. Felicity: An American Girl series by Valerie Tripp
I loved American Girl when I was younger. I mean, really loved it. I wanted nothing more than to visit the Chicago American Girl store and own every doll and– most especially– every book. While I never quite met those expectations, I do have several of the books, a DVD movie, and three of the dolls (Felicity, Josephina, and Kit, if you must know). One of the books I own is a gorgeous hardback complete collection of the Felicity stories, with gilded pages, a transparent dust cover, and full color pages. You know who my favorite American Girl was? You know which American Girl’s story took place during my favorite period of American history? You know what I want to name one of my kids (or at least a future pet)? That’s right– Felicity Merriman! Felicity’s story takes place during the American Revolution (my favorite period of American history); her father is a Patriot, but her best friend’s family are Loyalists (my original understanding of awkward); and Felicity has a horse named Penny (and, later on, Patriot… sorry– spoilers). Best American Girl? I think Felicity.
1. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
If I had to recommend any of these series universally (as in, one series for them all), it would be A Series of Unfortunate Events. This series is seriously one of the greatest YA creations ever, in my (hardly esteemed) opinion. They’re dark and a little bit twisted and occasionally frightening. Plus, there’s a great movie adaptation starring Jim Carrey. (Seriously, watch the movie. It’s incredible.) Once again, I haven’t read all of these. (If only because I was reading these in middle school and the library never had all of them at the same time and then I was ready to move on but they were all checked out and it was a big mess and reason #35762 that I don’t use libraries anymore.) So, this is the series I universally recommend (mostly, what that actually means is that this series is as good for adults as for young adults, and as good for girls as for boys).