The best books for young adults that will make you laugh and cry

Why am I passionate about this?

The topic of mental health, which is prominent in all the books I’ve recommended, including my own, is one I am passionate about. As a neurodivergent person, I know first-hand how difficult the teen years can be. Not only are you dealing with the issues like friends, family, and school, but you are working with other factors that can make learning and socializing especially difficult. When I was a teen, I did not have books like these to guide me and let me know I was not alone in my feelings and struggles. It is my deepest wish that all kids have books, tools, and guides to help them.

I wrote...

List of Ten

By Halli Gomez,

Book cover of List of Ten

What is my book about?

Ten: three little letters, one ordinary number. For Troy Hayes, a sixteen-year-old suffering from Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the number dictates his life. Fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis—culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a classmate with her own troubled history who unwittingly helps him cross off items on his list. He moves ever closer to his grand finale, even as Khory shows him that life may have more possibilities than he imagined. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Turtles All the Way Down

Halli Gomez Why did I love this book?

Turtles All the Way Down was the first fiction book I read where I saw myself, the neurodivergent, insecure person living one day at a time. And I’m talking books in all age categories and genres. I remember saying out loud, and later to anyone who would listen, “he gets it. The feelings, the thoughts, the interactions with others. Everything!” And then I went on to tell everyone what a genius John Green is. What makes this book special, and why I recommend it, is that this is a story all readers will love. It is about individuality and miscommunication all tied together in a mystery.

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Turtles All the Way Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The critically acclaimed, instant #1 bestseller by John Green, author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and The Fault in Our Stars

"A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control." -People

"A sometimes heartbreaking, always illuminating, glimpse into how it feels to live with mental illness." - NPR

John Green, the award-winning, international bestselling author of The Anthropocene Reviewed, returns with a story of shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Aza Holmes never intended to pursue the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there's a…

Book cover of All the Bright Places

Halli Gomez Why did I love this book?

For me, All the Bright Places accurately represents the joys and sorrows of life. This book is so full of depth, heart, and incredible characters, when I read it, I forgot it was a book. I was excited for every chapter when Finch and Violet would take me on their adventure. These characters are relatable and true to life. Even if you’ve never been through the situations they have, you can imagine them as kids in your neighborhood, workplace, or school. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that I will reread every year and always experience the excitement.

By Jennifer Niven,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked All the Bright Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Now a major film starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith on Netflix.

A compelling and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

Theodore Finch constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself, but each time something good stops him.

Violet Markey exists for the future, counting the days until she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief for her late sister.

When they meet on the ledge of a tower, what might have been their end turns into their beginning.

It's only with Violet that Finch can truly be…

Book cover of The Way I Used to Be

Halli Gomez Why did I love this book?

I always say that you never know what goes on behind someone else’s closed door. How they appear physically and/or mentally in public doesn’t tell their whole story. It’s like social media. We only share the good parts of our lives. Everyone has secrets and fears and reasons they keep parts of their lives to themselves. The Way I Used to Be is a perfect example of why we should never judge a person without knowing them and why we should take the time to get to know a person, pay attention to changes in personality, and let them know you are a friend. We are all guilty of not taking the time and this book is a reminder to myself that I must be better than that.

By Amber Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way I Used to Be as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller.

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel “is a poignant book that realistically looks at the lasting effects of trauma on love, relationships, and life” (School Library Journal, starred review).

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed…

Book cover of Kind of Sort of Fine

Halli Gomez Why did I love this book?

There may be other young adult books written about high school seniors who have no idea what they want to do when they grow up, but there aren’t many. That is one aspect I love about this book. There are many high schoolers, and adults, who have no idea what career they want. It’s important for them to know that is normal, especially in this high-pressure world. One of the two main characters, Lewis Holbrook, is that kid. He’s also a great friend, hiding a crush, and learning to be adventurous. I love books that show it’s okay to not have your life planned. I fear for the kids who are under so much pressure, and any book to help them gets a recommendation from me.

By Spencer Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kind of Sort of Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

Senior year changes everything for two teens in this poignant, funny coming-of-age story that looks at what happens when the image everyone has of us no longer matches who we really are.

Senior year of high school is full of changes.

For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.…

Book cover of The (Un)Popular Vote

Halli Gomez Why did I love this book?

This book hits all the right points for me. A diverse cast, teens figuring out who they are, and the problem of obstacles thrown in their way. That’s real life. In this divisive climate, we see and hear a lot of arguments played out on the news. Parents arguing against this, teachers and librarians fighting for that. What we don’t see and hear enough of are the kids, the ones who are truly affected by these disagreements. What I love about this book is that we get to hear their points of views, their feelings. We see what happens when a parent refuses to accept their child for who they are and puts limitations on their love. I love this book because it gives me that perspective.

By Jasper Sanchez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The (Un)Popular Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Red, White, & Royal Blue meets The West Wing in Jasper Sanchez's electric and insightful #ownvoices YA debut, chronicling a transmasculine student's foray into a no-holds-barred student body president election against the wishes of his politician father.

Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son.

Mark has promised to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous…

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A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…

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