The best literary fantasies for young adults

Adina Rishe Gewirtz Author Of Blue Window
By Adina Rishe Gewirtz

The Books I Picked & Why


By Ursula K. Le Guin

Book cover of Tehanu

Why this book?

Ursula K. LeGuin was the first writer who taught me that words can transport you not just into other worlds, but into other people. In this book, she continues the story of Tenar, the escaped priestess of the Wizard of Earthsea series, as she adopts and cares for a brutalized child. Of all the Earthsea books, this one is my favorite for the way in which LeGuin takes the seemingly mundane details of Tenar’s life as she struggles to protect Tehanu and turns them into something deeper and more profound than even the magic her companion Ged wielded as the great wizard leader in the earlier books in the series. 

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The Goose Girl

By Shannon Hale

Book cover of The Goose Girl

Why this book?

What happens when the legends of the past turn out to be true? The Goose Girl is Shannon Hale’s take on the fairytale of the same name, but Hale takes the old story to new levels, by putting her princess, Ani, in a world where the forces of nature have their own language. Learn to speak that language, and you can be powerful, but those powers are dangerous and come at a cost. I loved this book for the beauty of the world Hale creates and the rich journey she takes each of her characters on as they learn to accept even their most challenging gifts. 

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The Great Good Thing

By Roderick Townley

Book cover of The Great Good Thing

Why this book?

“Slyvie had an amazing life, but she didn’t get to live it very often . . .” There are several fantasies about fictional characters breaking out of their books, but Roderick Townley’s is my favorite because it’s the most surprising. I loved this book because of the way it expresses the beauty and joy of reading and because of its exploration of what it means to break out of the outlines that other people draw for you and discover in yourself something completely new. 

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The Scorpio Races

By Maggie Stiefvater

Book cover of The Scorpio Races

Why this book?

The Scorpio Races is the story of Puck and Sean, residents of the fictional island of Thisby, where each November is marked by the Scorpio Races – horse races with a twist. On Thisby, the racers ride magical, man-eating water horses, and do so at the risk of their lives. This is not on some other world, it’s on ours, if reality shifted just enough to make way for the terrifying magic that accounts for the existence of the cappaill uisce. I love this book for the lyrical descriptions of the island and for the non-stop suspense that grabs you from the first page and takes you to the last.  

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January

By Alix E. Harrow

Book cover of The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Why this book?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is my newest favorite portal book, a historical fantasy that explores what it means to open doors, and what effect the strange and new have on the seemingly settled world of our everyday. I love this book for January’s bold, lyrical voice and for its vision of a world that dies without the vibrance of new ideas and open doors. 

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