Best 2012 books for teens

Year-end top books of 2012 lists are out. Here’s the New York Times top young adult novels:

BITTERBLUE. By Kristin Cashore. (Dial, $19.99.) The companion to “Graceling” and “Fire,” this beautiful, haunting and thrilling high fantasy about a young queen and her troubled kingdom stands on its own.

CODE NAME VERITY. By Elizabeth Wein. (Hyperion, $16.99.) This tale of a spy and a fighter pilot during World War II is at heart a story about female ­friendship.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. By John Green. (Dutton, $17.99.) An improbable but predictably wrenching love story about two teenage cancer patients, written in Green’s signature tone, humorous yet heart-filled.

JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS. By Katherine Marsh. (Hyperion, $16.99.) A dwarf at court in 16th-century Denmark is the surprising hero in this novel, which also features the real-life astronomer Tycho Brahe, an eccentric Danish nobleman.

NEVER FALL DOWN. By Patricia McCormick. (Balzer & Bray/Harper­Collins, $17.99.) This novelized memoir tells the tragic but inspiring life story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a boy who was 9 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.

SON. By Lois Lowry. (Houghton Mifflin, $17.99.) In the conclusion to the dystopian “Giver” quartet, Lowry returns to the story of a mother searching for her lost son. “A quiet, sorrowful, deeply moving exploration of the powers of empathy and the obligations of love,” our reviewer said.

What are your favorite novels for teens? What did you read and re-read as a kid?

We’re talking about young adult books at 10:20.

— Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Martha

    Anything by John Green, especially Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars

  • Ray

    I am 24 and I loved “A River Runs Through It”

    The descriptions of nature seemed poetic to me and I still love re-reading the book.

  • Charli

    I read “Tuesdays With Morrie” when I was 16; I cried buckets. I am now 20 and have been giving the book to people for birthdays, graduations, and Christmas. These people have always contacted me to tell me how much it changed their lives. Also, the Glass Palace by Amitov Ghosh was a heavy and moving book that I read at age 17. Again, I cried throughout the whole book.

  • Rebecca

    Where the Red Fern Grows

    Great story about a beautiful friendship.

  • Bec

    Anything by George Macdonald. An old author, but he inspired some of the great writer’s (Madeleine L’Engel, CS Lewis, and Tolkein)

    On the surface may seem simple but full of depth and great meaning.

  • Erin

    Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series about a female knight was extremely important to me in my early teens. It has a strong female protagonist in a world of action and adventure that is usually dominated by male characters. I’m 25 now and I can’t wait to share these books with my niece.

  • Jess

    Loved “Among the Brave” series and Scott Westerfiled Uglies, Pretties etc. series

  • Bec

    till we have faces by CS Lewis

  • David

    “The Human Apes” by Dale Carlson, wow.

  • june

    Please be sure to repeat the phoned in suggestions (title and author). I have trouble understanding what is said sometimes by the phone in people.

  • Sarah

    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I read it in college my freshman year. It turned me into a reader. It was such an eye-opener to my sheltered white, suburbia upbringing, it gave me such pause at a young age.

  • june

    13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

  • Emma

    I’m 15, and I absolutely love ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor. The sequel, ‘Days of Blood and Starlight’, just came out. Not only are they absolutely beautifully written, I just love the characters, and the story probably is the most original fantasy story I’ve ever read.

  • Mary Caroline Henry

    For readers who have outgrown Harry Potter and want literary quality and character development with their fantasy, try the e-book, Ember of Dreams, by Minnesota author Steven Henry.

  • Dylan Kvasnicka

    Call of the Wild. I read it first when I was about 12 and have read it several times since then. I am now 26 and upon each read, Buck’s adventure has offered something new for me and changed my life for the better.

  • Suzanne

    Phillip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” — Book 1 is “The Golden Compass.” Read as an adult, but great for teens — incredibly profound, a la Narnia for the spiritual but not overtly Christian reader!

  • Kristin Boeshans

    I read, re-read, and re-re-read THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES by PATRICIA C. WREDE. Fun books about dragons, spunky characters, and quircky magic. Entertaining for kids and adults.

    JUNIPER by MONICA FURLONG is another that I went back to again and again, a coming of age story about finding your place in the world, even if it isn’t the place you planned on.

  • Beth Frykman

    For younger teens – The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Fabulous book!

  • Laura

    Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are a perfect satirical compliment to any fantasy-loving teen. There are enough of them to last into your 20’s!

  • Andy

    I want to second the caller’s recommendation of the Ender’s Game series. I’d also like to recommend In Her Name by Michael R. Hicks. A great coming of age for teen boys. Its also a great book for adults and touches on a lot of gender role topics and philosophy. My last recommendation is Wool by Hugh Howey.

  • Scott Brazil

    As a 39-year old, I had resisted the temptation to read Young Adult novels until one of my favorite mystery writers, Harlan Coben, decided to cross-over and do a YA novel. It is interesting to see how many adult writers are crossing over to do YA books: John Grisham, James Patterson and even Stephen King.

    By the way, I actually loved the Coben novel (actually, he is now two books into the series, and they were both really fun to read!).

  • Stephanie Curtis

    First batch of books mentioned on air:

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

    The Book Thief

    Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

    The Alchemist

    Jane Eyre

    The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

    What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell


    The Mortal Instruments series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays

    Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series

    Where the Red Fern Grows

    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    The Scott Westerfeld series

    Uglies series.

    The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver. “A world where love is outlawed.”

  • Beth Frykman

    For younger teens – The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Fabulous book!

    Also, the Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher.

  • Elizabeth Foy Larsen

    “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

    “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

    This year I loved “Lovely, Dark, and Deep” by St. Paul native Amy McNamara and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

  • Bryn

    I am a former high school English teacher in my 30s, and I just read a YA novel that I LOVED and think many teens would love, as well. It’s called Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. It’s the story of Wren, a high school graduate who has just survived a car accident that killed her boyfriend. In her grief, she no longer feels she can pursue her original college plans and instead heads North to Maine, where her artist dad lives, to try to figure out herself and life. There she meets Cal, a young man also struggling with some of his own issues, and as they forge a connection, Wren must decide if she can reconnect with others or will remain in isolation. The author was trained as a poet, and that is clear–BEAUTIFUL writing. I know several young women who’ve read this and said it spoke to them intensely and immediately. Gorgeous novel that will engage many readers, especially those who identify as artistic or literary themselves, but not exclusively those readers, either.

  • Deb

    Anne McCaffrey, the Pern series, start with the Dragonriders of Pern.

  • RJ

    As a Minnesotan I think reading Hatchet, Dogsong, Woodsong, etc. and any of the other Gary Paulsen books was great. He used to live near my family in Northern Minnesota and his books were required reading for many classes throughout school.

  • KSKarshna

    I am a local YA author of Dog Days at the Weir Farm. My writing is inspired by novels that teach something about the natural world, along with presenting a compelling human story. I think this quality is more important now than ever with our growing disconnect from nature. Anyone know of good current books in this vein?


  • Julia

    I read Anna Karenina when I was 16 and thought it was the most amazing novel ever. I was so engrossed in it. Rereading it as an adult, I had a completely different take on it. But I enjoyed my 16 year old reading more.

  • Julie

    My book club read Peter Bognanni’s House of tomorrow and I immediately gave it to my teen age grandson. Great plot about quirky teens and a hippie grandma.

  • Cyndi

    Keeping Safe the Stars by Sheila O’Connor, a Minnesota writer.

  • Jessica Yoakum

    I read the Ishmael series by Daniel Quinn at the end of college (I think I was 20), and it was life altering. I was studying revolutionary Latin America, and the book starts with a newspaper ad: “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” Of course I was fascinated immediately. Wikipedia says, “It posits that human supremacy is a cultural myth, and asserts that modern civilization is enacting that myth with dangerous consequences.” It was so intense to read it at that time in my life, I’m kind of afraid to pick it up again! But, I know it was very formative!

  • Cameron

    I failed my first attempt at English in High School when I had to read Huck Finn, Gatsby, and Scarlet Letter, but then later earned an ‘A’ with books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice & Men, and Catcher in the Rye. As a teen boy, the latter books really spoke to me, and I still highly recommend them to teen boys today.

  • Sarah

    Holly Black’s Curse Workers series.

    Kristen Cashore’s “Graceling,” also “Fire” and “Bitterblue.”

    ANYTHING by Melina Marchetta, contemporary & fantasy alike.

    ANYTHING by John Green

    Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series. This series is very violent and appropriate, I think, only for older teens and adults. Still, incredibly gripping.

  • Stephanie Curtis

    I am Jay

    Anna Dressed in Blood

    What Can’t Wait

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


    An Episode of Sparrows


    Call of the Wild

    The Old Man and the Sea

    The Maze Runner series

    Daughter of Smoke and Bone series

    Girl Genius, graphic books

    Drama by Raina Telgemeier

    Smile by Telgemeier

    The Diviners by Libba Bray

    Going Bovine

  • Theresa

    Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books and the follow-up series are fantasy books with four young protagonists from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They are set in a different universe from her Song of the Lioness and other Tortall books.

    Also, the ElfQuest series of graphic novels are amazing.

  • Barbara E. Sanderson

    I loved The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George. It is her first foray into YA. As a longtime fan of hers, I couldn’t resist reading this one, too. When I was a teen myself I loved Thomas Hardy.

  • Mara

    I loved the Wolf Brother series by Michelle Paver. “Wolf Brother takes place 6000 years ago during the New Stone Age, and tells the story of twelve-year-old Torak, a boy of the Wolf Clan.”

    My boys started when they were 8 and are now 13. They loved them as did my mom and girlfriend. The story of a hero’s journey along with the bonding with a Wolf cub and navigating your way to your true destiny through harrowing paths.

  • Bruce

    “Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein. About a female “artificial person,” genetically engineered to be stronger, faster, smarter, and generally better than normal humans.

  • Bruce

    I loved Robert Heinlein as a teen though not all of his later novels might be appropriate.

    I would also recommend Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Lots of fun and some good moral situations.

  • erin

    Hey now, I loved Faulkner when I was a teen! I am 26 now and turned out OK 🙂

  • Stephanie Curtis

    Does anyone read the Xanth books anymore? I loved The Source of Magic as a teen.

  • Lauren

    The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson is the most recent YA book I have fallen so in love with. It’s great high fantasy fun.

  • Bruce

    Wow – total coincidence – I was not posting in response to the other Bruce…

  • W.K. Hoover

    I’ve recently written a novel about 2 teenage girls who discover their high school hatred towards one another was nothing compared to the werewolf they need to bring down before he makes one of them his queen. They are forced to work together. It’s titled. “In the Wake of a Crimson Moon: Return of the Queen” and should hopefully be out in paperback later this week.

  • He’s

    Wingshooters was a great recommendation from Brisn at Chapter Two Books. A hunting related book for my nephew – great Thanksgiving conversation starter that touched everyone at the table.

  • Jess Banks

    There’s a fantastic blog called Reads4Tweens that gives in-depth reviews of YA books for parents of precocious readers. It’s got a strong bent toward sci-fi/fantasy, and the reviews specifically give spoilers for issues that the books are likely to bring up for younger readers. It’s a wonderful resource.

  • Madalynn

    The Tomorrow series by John Marsden. The first book is titled “Tomorrow when the War Began.” It follows a group of teenage friends who go camping in a remote area of the Australian outback and while they are gone, their country is occupied by a foreign military. Throughout the series, you watch the characters go from scared teenagers to guerrilla warriors.

    Also, I second the recommendation for this His Dark Materials trilogy.

    Also, Catcher in the Rye and 1984 were the two books that got me thinking the most as a teenager.

  • Rebecca

    11,000 Years Lost, by Penni R. Griffin.

  • Jason Kuehl

    First when I was in 9th grade I was handed a copy of 1984 by Orson Wells. I have read it at least five times and will probably read it again soon. It to me was a great book about what happens when government has too much power. It scares me more and more every time I read it. His fiction is not that far from reality.

    Second, for an American Racial Minorities class we were given a book called “Black Like Me” by John Griffen. It is about a White Journalist from Texas who undergoes medication to change the pigment of his skin, and after shaving his “white hair” off becomes in all appearance a black man. He does not change how he talks or acts, just the color of his skin. The reason he does this is to take a trip through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia as a black man during the height of the Jim Crow Laws in the south. He states it is impossible as a white man to understand what a black man must do just to survive Jim Crow, unless you could be black and walk a mile in their shoes. Me as a 28yr old white man can understand this resoning, no matter how much I want to understand I probably never will, I loved this book. This actually gives me a window to what it could be like to deal with the racism and discrimination during a dark part of this nations history. An eye opener to say the least. Both of these books can be a little ugly, but so can our world. I don’t think we should hide it.

  • Patrice

    I would have to say The White Dragon. I loved all the Pern books but this one was my favorite. I have read this book multiple times which is true of any of the books I really love. I have always loved the story of the underdog, the one who survives against all odds! I spent most of my pocket money on books then and I have a four large bookcases full of my collections over the years.

    I had several authors I loved Andre Norton (pretty much anything she wrote), Anne McCaffrey (for her Pern Books), and Marion Zimmer Bradley (for her Darkover Series). Of course C.S. Lewis for the Narnia books and the Dune series. In fact when I was in high school my English Teacher was so amazed I had read Dune he upped one of my grades. I am now very interested in Steampunk and was very happy to hear you mention some titles in that area!

  • stephanie

    The two Bruces recommending Heinlein kind of blows my mind.

  • Verne

    I recently read Zebra by Chaim Potok. These short stories are set in the recent past, but are really modern fables. They really resonated for me. Each character is fully developed, but not a wasted word. Understated, yet beautifully and straightforwardly told.

  • Robb

    I loved A Seperate Peace by John Knowles. I read it again a few years ago and it still holds up as a great story of growing up and facing life’s challenges

  • Sue H.

    My 14-year old daughter is really enjoying the “Maze Runner” series by James Dashner.

  • Missy H.

    The Raft by Stephanie Bodeen

  • Bruce L

    The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs

    It is a fantasy set around a King to marry his daughter off by a contest to all princes to rid the

    kingdom of a witch, dragon and a band of thieves.

    It is fun adventure as the Princess Meg sets out

    to undermine her father’s contest. Great, well developed characters and a story with surprises.

    I have enjoyed sharing it with my daughter.

    Great for tweens, but story is solid enough that even an adult can enjoy as this story builds momentum.