The best YA books from the 20th century that will give you all the feels

Who am I?

When I was a teen, I had zero aspirations to become a writer. I didn’t discover my passion for writing until I was thirty! But once I started writing, it was these books and the way they made me feel that I drew on. I wanted strong heroines that I wanted to be—and be friends with. I wanted a slow burn, skin-tingling romance with a lot of push and pull. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. To go on a quest. To feel victorious. And it is my hope that I can give my readers all the feels these books gave me.


I wrote...

Keystone

By Katie Delahanty,

Book cover of Keystone

What is my book about?

When Ella Karman debuts on the Social Stock Exchange, she finds out life as a high-profile "Influencer" isn't what she expected. Everyone around her is consumed by their rankings, in creating the smoke and mirrors that make them the envy of the world. But then Ella’s best friend betrays her, her rankings tank, and she loses—everything.

Leaving her old life behind, she joins Keystone, a secret school for thieves, where students are being trained to steal everything analog and original because something—or someone—is changing history to suit their needs. Partnered with the annoyingly hot—and utterly impossible—Garrett Alexander, who has plenty of his own secrets, Ella is forced to return to the Influencer world, while unraveling a conspiracy that began decades ago. One wrong move and she could lose everything—again.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Remember Me

By Christopher Pike,

Book cover of Remember Me

Why this book?

I’ve read this book more times than I can count. A girl has to solve her own murder from beyond the grave with a cute dead boy who was her friend before he passed away? Sign me up! Though I don’t write paranormal, I’ve always had a fascination with “the other side”, and this book more than delivers a big dose of murderous intrigue and belly-dipping romance. And it has a real ghost story behind it! Christopher Pike is quoted as saying that when he wrote the book’s final words, “I just want to be remembered”, he felt a hand on his shoulder and a voice said, “I’ll see you later.” He realized the story had poured out of him, without pre-plotting, like it had been dictated to him. Plus, it was the first story he’d ever written in first person. Is this story really from beyond the grave? We’ll never know…


Roxanne

By Jane Claypool Miner,

Book cover of Roxanne

Why this book?

I have loved many a Sunfire historical Romance. Danielle (pirates!), Caroline (Gold Rush!), Amanda (Oregon Trail!), Nicole (Titanic—way before there was a movie). There’s always a kick-ass heroine and a love triangle and fun outfits (also a must for me—I was a fashion designer before becoming a writer and styling the wardrobe and “sets” is very important to me when crafting a story. I keep a Pinterest board for all my books and unlock it once a book/series is fully published). Anyway, I especially loved Roxanne because I’ve always loved Old Hollywood and old movies (much like Elisha in Keystone). I moved to Orange County, California from Pittsburgh when I was a kid, and on day trips to Los Angeles, I preferred seeing Hollywood through Roxanne’s eyes. It was her story that connected me to my new home. 


Anne of the Island

By L.M. Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of the Island

Why this book?

The best kind of books are books that are your friends, aren’t they? As a reader, I usually feel connected to characters and don’t think much about authors (and I feel this is how it should be. I think once they leave an author’s hands, books belong to the reader!) but in this case, I also feel like Lucy Maude and I are kindred spirits. We both had two imaginary friends growing up, after all. That’s enough to make us BFF’s, right? 😉 Anyway, I have visited with all my Anne book friends many times, but the one I always come back to is Anne of the Island. This is probably because I love a slow-burn romance, and this is the book where Anne and Gilbert finally get together. After three books of will-they-won’t-they banter the payoff is totally worth it! (And on a side note, would this book be considered “new adult” today?)


The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Sweet Valley High)

By Francine Pascal,

Book cover of The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Sweet Valley High)

Why this book?

I devoured everything in the Sweet Valley world as a teen, though I was more into Sweet Valley Twins than Sweet Valley High for some reason. Maybe it’s because I liked the twins’ innocence, and the high school drama was too much (or too relatable!) to me. I like to escape to a happy ending! And in complete seriousness, I debated naming my daughter Lila because I didn’t want her to be associated with mean girl Lila Flower. In the end, I named her Delilah (Lilah—with an h!—for short) and that eased my worries.

At any rate, I’ll read a family saga any day. And we’ve established that I love historical romance and costumes, so give me all the Wakefield history.


The Initiation: The Secret Circle, Vol. 1

By L.J. Smith,

Book cover of The Initiation: The Secret Circle, Vol. 1

Why this book?

I love an underdog. I love a fish out of water. I love a character who discovers a secret power they didn’t know they possessed (be it other-worldly or grounded in reality). I love being on the inside of a secret society (especially a teenage one). The Secret Circle series is all these things and demanded many a re-read! 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murders, Canada, and World War 2?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murders, Canada, and World War 2.

Murders Explore 292 books about murders
Canada Explore 196 books about Canada
World War 2 Explore 866 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Death Going Down, Come from Away, and Alias Grace if you like this list.