You choose: The best young adult book of all time

Next week we’ll be featuring three great young adult authors on The Daily Circuit. Matt de la Pena, Gene Luen Yang and local author Carrie Mesrobian exemplify the kind of smart, insightful writing coming out of the genre today – they feature great writing and interesting characters that appeal to adult and young readers, alike.

The discovery of their books got us thinking: What other great YA books are out there? What do you think is the best YA book, new or old? We’ll compile your suggestions, create a poll grouping the top 10 suggestions and then ask you to vote for The Daily Circuit’s best YA book of all time.

Leave your choice in the comments section below and let the best book win!

  • Can I weigh in Maddy? Can I nominate 2?

    I nominate A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

  • Oh a Wrinkle in Time might be my favorite as well, however I’d also nominate A Ring of Endless Light – just Madeleine L’Engle all around

    • I was just talking about the Austin family this weekend. I heard a piece by Thomas Tallis. Which made me think of the Tallis Canon. Which made me think of Canon Tallis.

  • John

    The Golden Compass (and resulting trilogy, His Dark Materials) by Phillip Pullman

  • Jackie Lea Sommers

    Harry Potter for cultural impact
    Chronicles of Narnia for timelessness
    Jellicoe Road for my favorite today 🙂

  • Kyle

    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

  • Richard Gehrke

    Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars and The Giver
    Gary Paulson’s Hatchet
    and the obvioius “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games”

  • Vicki Marlowe

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Alexie Sherman, it’s an awesome book.

  • Julie

    I have a special place in my heart for “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin. It won the Newberry Medal in 1979 and it was my first non “kids” book. That meant it was my first experience with unsympathetic characters, a complicated plot, dark themes, and hiding a flashlight under the covers so I could stay up until 4:00 am to finish it. You never forget your first…

  • Monica

    I absolutely adore Nancy Farmer and her classic YA novel “The House of the Scorpion” is, I think, the first great dystopian-society-themed novel (there have been many, many others that followed). The sequel, “The Lord of Opium”, was just published this fall and though not quite as good as it’s predecessor, the two together make a great read.

  • Jan M Russell

    “The Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen is a favorite in our house. The follow up books are equally as good.

  • Scott Brazil

    Harry Potter. I actually just read the series this summer, prompted by my daughter’s interest in the movies and the questions she was asking about the story, and found it to be a very moving story to enter into, even at the age of 40.

  • Matt

    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This book grasps adolescence so brilliantly and will make everyone want to be a writer.

  • Mark Zwolenski

    “The Giver”

  • Tam

    Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time

  • Mike Stromenger

    While I absolutely love The Westing Game, I have to say The Chocolate War by Richard Cormier really opened my eyes to the fact that the world can be a harsh, unfair place, especially for those that choose to make a stand for something. Uncompromising and brutal in parts but ultimately relatable to everyone, it’s a novel that is frequently challenged by parents in many schools but should be required reading for those junior high and up. My favorite quote from the book: “Do I dare disturb the universe?” The answer given in the end may be depressing, but it certainly opened my eyes at a young age.

  • ellie

    A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan
    The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler
    Swallows and Amazons
    Caddie Woodlawn
    My Side of the Mountain
    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    The Wheel on the School
    Little Britches
    Betsy and the Great World
    Anne of Green Gables
    To Kill a Mockingbird

  • More from Twitter:

    @karipetrie: I was all about the Little House series! It got me interested in Minnesota history.

    @ColemanCarrie My 14 yr old John Green fan girl would kill me if I didn’t suggest The Fault In Our Stars. I loved it too.

    @amycrea Eleanor & Park on my best list, period–no need to qualify with YA.

    @mhenderson33 As a youngin in So. Ill. I recall Laura Ingalls Wilder books being some first read fast forward 40 years later & I now live in MN!

    @The_Feral_Lady “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”

    @steventurous Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. Amazing

    @RedSofaLiterary The Chocolate War.

    @KrisBigalk Into the Beautiful North by Luis Urrea.

    @pkhorn THE GARDENER by @sabodeen is a top YA favorite for me and my book club kids always love it.


    @karivanderveen The Witch of Blackbird Pond. First book I remember finishing, then immediately turning back to page one to begin rereading.

  • Sara

    Some of my favorites. I know some have already been mentioned but deserve mentioning again….The Witch of Blackbird Pond and the Bronze Bow, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, Then Again, Maybe I won’t (Judy Blume), Where the Red Fern Grows, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and of course the SE Hinton books: The Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now, and Rumble Fish.

    • Chris

      The Witch of Blackbird Pond is my favoritel. It won the Newberry Medal in 1959. Also, the Winter Room. I’m not a huge fan of most of Paulsen’s books, but this is really good. His memoir, Eastern Sun, Winter Moon is not to be missed, although it isn’t YA literature.

  • Andy

    A handful I’ve really enjoyed in recent years (as a 5th grade teacher):
    Stargirl and Love, Stargirl both by Jerry Spinelli
    Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
    The Book Thief by Martin Zusak
    Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
    Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
    Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  • J F Hanson

    For those old enough to know–books by Henry Gregor Felsen–notably, Hot Rod. That I discovered when I was eleven or so–but Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet was thrust upon me when I was a Junior High English Sub as I was approaching fifty.

    • Charlie

      I read almost all of those hot rod and racing books for teenagers. Especially one about a French race car, which I’ve since found is a landmark classic, the Gobron Brillie. Been hooked on French cars ever since.

    • I have never heard of Hot Rod! I was a girl, so I was supposed to like all the horse books. “Stormy: Misty’s Foal,” etc. I never liked em. I wish I had been exposed to race car books.

      • J F Hanson

        I googled Felsen out and see that Hot Rod must not be in print–the prices were pricey, so to speak, at Amazon.

        When I was fifteen, I got to choose:

        I could buy a ’40 Ford coupe powered by an early Cadillac OHV and c/w a LaSalle 3-speed (the good swap of the early Fifties; this was about 1961), or I could ‘go away to school’ to get a better education.

        I choose the latter. You’re too young, Stephanie.

        The car, BTW, was built and owned by Dick Lewis–Sinclair Lewis’ nephew. I never did build a hot rod later–and now I wished I had.

  • Charlie

    When I was a HS student, I read many Zane Grey, many Erle Stanley Gardner, many Nevil Shute books, a few Wodehouse books. My favorite Shute books, which I have reread several times since were “Pastoral”, and “An Old Captivity”.
    I even read some Harold Bell Wright books off my grandfather’s shelf. One I reread several times: “The Winning of Barbara Worth”.
    In college, my reading was greatly reduced due to class work, but I remember going through the Ian Fleming books, including “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang”.
    Soon after my student days, I remember reading the most hilarious book: “Catch 22”.

  • Betsy

    To Kill a Mockingbird- best book of all time for any age- but especially for young adults. The writing is fantastic, the characters suburb, and the take away- well if only we all were a little more like Atticus Finch, Scout, and Boo, just imagine…

  • From Twitter:


    @Chapter2Books How do I pick one? A Separate Peace, The Chocolate War,The Outsiders,All Judy Blume,Paul Zindel,Tree Grows In Bklyn etc.Too Hard!

  • Dan Mueller

    One book or books I can never get out of my head after 30+ years is the Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and the Pool of Fire) by John Christopher. Great Sci-Fi reading.

  • Loves books

    “The Avion My Uncle Flew” by Cyrus Fisher. Best coming of age story that will have you reading French along with the Johnny Littlehorn as he earns a red bike and discovers hiding soldiers. Newbery Honor winner (1947). We frequently gave this novel as a gift for birthday parties with every child loving the book. Many an adult has commented on how much they loved it also. Read it…fabulous.

  • Maria

    Krabat by Ottfried Preussler
    Swallows and Amazons

    Frightful’s Mountain by Jean Craighead George
    Ronia the Robber’s Daughter and anything else by Astrid Lindgren
    The Children of Noisy Village also by Astrid Lindgren

    Three Tales of my Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

  • Andrew Karre

    A Clockwork Orange–one of the most interesting books ever written about teenagers and adult anxiety about them.

  • Andrew Karre

    What about great YA novels never written? I nominate the novel about Rabbit Angstrom in high school, preceding Rabbit, Run.

  • Laura
  • Sara

    I wonder if Mayor Rybek was thinking of the Matt Christopher books?

  • Sara

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

  • More from Twitter:

    @colleenmmahoney Where the Red Fern Grows
    @mattbuechner Also, I haven’t seen any live for Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is a must-read.
    @mattbuechner My fave YA titles definitely have to include The Westing Game. I’ve read it probably 50 times.
    @carnalartistryThe Samurai’s Tale by Eric Christian Haugaard… Magnificent story of perseverance and tenderness, historically accurate, poetic
    @BuffingtonMB The Hatchet

  • Jorg Lueke

    I’m not sure where you cut-off and start young adult, to me it means the same as teens. So I’ll give you what I remember making an impression on me.
    Early teens: David Eddings Belgariad, Fred Saberhagen Book of Swords, and of course Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
    Late teens: Jack Kerouac On the Road, Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  • Maggie

    If I had to choose one that most influenced & delighted my kids as readers, it would be hands-down, The Harry Potter series. Other front runners: A Wrinkle in Time. Birchbark House Trilogy by Louise Erdrich. And…The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly is amazing: strong, funny female protagonist; exciting story about science; a fresh alternative to all the dark dystopic fiction for young adults.

  • Kathy Magnusson

    My favorites as a young adult were all the Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry books. I was very much one of those young girls that were in love with horses. I also really found the Judy Blume books that are for teens.

  • Jean

    Susan Cooper’s series The Dark is Rising, Patricia MacLachlan’s series that begins with Sarah, Plain and Tall, and Marion Dane Bauer’s award winning On My Honor. (Marion Dane Bauer is a local and long published YA and middle grade author)

  • Justine Wettschreck

    The entire Narnia series, the Book Thief, and my two personal favorites as a teen, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Day No Pigs Would Die.

  • psh

    Of the classics, I’d say My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George led a remarkable life and coincidentally died just last year) and A Wrinkle in Time. Of more recent vintage, Pullman’s Golden Compass and the rest of the His Dark Materials trilogy is an extraordinary achievement (one of the trilogy was the only YA book to ever win the Whitbread award and it did so by way of an unprecedented unanimous ballot). Were I to have a daughter, it would be an A-1 priority to introduce her to it.

  • Elizabeth Karre

    For those with elementary age kids who can decipher longer words and more complicated sentences (ie “reading above grade level”), there is plenty of sophisticated language in some “middle grade” (publishing industry category about mid/late elementary experience) books if you ask a librarian to help you find it. Also as Carrie pointed out, lots of “young adult” (adolescent experience) novels are pretty “tame.” You can also always look to older books (published before you were born 🙂 which will have plenty of vocabulary that stretches your child. However, you’ll also find older attitudes toward gender roles, racial diversity, etc. Ultimately, I don’t know what books you can satisfy a voracious reader with that won’t occasionally cause your child to ask you a tricky question. But I guess I always thought having those discussions with your child was the point of parenting…

  • Kiri Namtvedt

    Surprised that Charlotte’s Web didn’t make the list – but maybe that’s not YA, but rather “Middle Readers” (category seen at bookstore recently). And how about Where The Red Fern Grows? Also not YA?

  • Katie K

    Lois Lowry’s The Giver and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders were two of my favorites as a child. Amongst newer books, I was blown away by A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

  • John Coy

    I am reluctant on these Best Books ever lists because what is the best book for one person isn’t the best for another. With so many great YA books out there, we have lots to choose from to match a particular reader. That said, I will pick three favorites from the authors you are featuring.

    Carrie Mesrobian, SEX AND VIOLENCE
    Matt de la Peña, BALL DON’T LIE
    Gene Luen Yang, BOXERS AND SAINTS

    I know the last one is two, but they need to be read together.

    Another show on the differences between young adult and middle grade fiction looks like it would be helpful to all kinds of people. Thank you for featuring this.

  • JainDo

    Anything by Tamora Pierce, even though that’s for middle grade I guess. Still kicks ass a decade and a half after I first read them