The best “OG” YA fantasy and dystopian novels

Why am I passionate about this?

Since finishing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at ten years old I’ve been drawn to inspiring and unforgettable stories whether through music, film, or in print. I’m a storyteller at heart who is fortunate to have built a career through capturing compelling stories, including those that have swirled in my imagination. From espionage thrillers to YA fantasy, I’m drawn to great characters and epic adventures. Now that I’m writing my own YA fantasy series, Beacon Hill, I have a firsthand glimpse of the commitment to world building within the pages that stand the test of time. It’s been a great challenge, inspired by even greater storytellers.

I wrote...

Hunt for Eden's Star

By D. J. Williams,

Book cover of Hunt for Eden's Star

What is my book about?

A coming-of-age teen is thrown into a world of ancient secrets when he discovers a supernatural artifact that protects a weapon of mass destruction. With the help of a diverse group of friends, he embarks on a global adventure, seeking the truth about his sister’s death, and uncovers two clandestine, supernatural societies waging an epic, hidden war that threatens the future of civilization.

As Jack races to collect ancient artifacts critical to the survival of the world, readers are transported to incredible locales across Asia, including the lush jungles of the Philippines and the high-energy streets of Hong Kong. Themes of addiction, revenge, faith, and friendship emerge as Jack battles literal and psychological demons on his quest to thwart the forces of evil.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

D. J. Williams Why did I love this book?

I boarded a plane in Los Angeles the day after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows released.

Before we were airborne, I opened the pages to the epic conclusion of the HP series. When I glanced to my left and right, I realized the passengers in my row were all doing the same.

What struck me in that moment was how Harry Potter transcended from a series for young adults to one for YA fans of all ages—a remarkable feat by one of the greatest YA storytellers in history.

If you haven’t read the books but have seen the films, I would highly recommend diving into the HP series as you will not be disappointed.

So many themes are woven throughout Deathly Hallows rooted in the value of love and friendship from all ages.

By J.K. Rowling,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

It's time to PASS THE MAGIC ON - with brand new children's editions of the classic and internationally bestselling series The seventh and final book in the global phenomenon series that changed the world of books forever As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is now broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves,…

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings

D. J. Williams Why did I love this book?

The Lord of the Rings is a deep dive into the expansive world of Middle-earth in unwavering great detail.

While it can be a challenge to read the entire volume all at once, it is well worth the effort as JRR Tolkien brings Frodo, the Shire, orcs, elves, dwarves, and the Fellowship vividly to life. It is one of the greatest epic tales of all time, both within the pages and on the screen.

For me, I was captured by the themes of friendship, sacrifice, love, loss, redemption, and the darkness of envy and power. As an author, it was also a masterclass in world building that has stood the test of time.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

52 authors picked The Lord of the Rings 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?

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of…

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

D. J. Williams Why did I love this book?

At ten years old, my passion for storytelling sparked when I read the Narnia series. I remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and my imagination exploded.

It was the first time I read a fantasy novel that whisked me away into another world. So, this book is filled with nostalgia for me as I’m in the midst of writing my own YA fantasy series, Beacon Hill. C.S. Lewis created strong themes of faith, hope, and love woven throughout the pages.

And perhaps the greatest takeaway from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is there is a greater story and purpose for each one of us in this world than ourselves.

I also believe the Narnia series is a good series for parents and their children to read together.

By C. S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Lucy steps into the Professor's wardrobe - but steps out again into a snowy forest. She's stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns... and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the country's creatures are ever going to be free again...

Book cover of The Hunger Games

D. J. Williams Why did I love this book?

The Hunger Games was a game changer in the world of dystopian YA novels.

From the moment Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place, the stage is set for readers to be immersed in major social themes including the inequality between Panem and the districts as Katniss is thrown into the games as a tribute—a fight she never wanted but one where she refuses to back down when pushed by Snow.

Of course, there is the love story between Katniss and Peeta—which is evolving and complicated but keeps readers flipping the pages.

Suzanne Collins had a unique approach with one of the standout takeaways from The Hunger Games being society and culture are influenced by what we are exposed to through entertainment.

Positive and negative. It’s a valuable lesson for all of us.

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

47 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...

Book cover of Divergent

D. J. Williams Why did I love this book?

Divergent may not be on some YA reader’s list, but I believe the story pushes the limits in a unique way.

Veronica Roth takes a fresh approach to a dystopian world rooted in themes such as segregation and choice—which are issues facing today’s culture. Determining ones values involves decisions which set the course for one’s future.

Choosing honesty, bravery, kindness, selflessness, envy, revenge, or selfish control define who we will become.

In Divergent, Tris, Tobias, Caleb, and others will have to make choices for themselves. Each will face moments of selflessness and courage when they follow their heart—with good and bad outcomes.

A big takeaway from Divergent is that this world is not black and white—more shades of gray where our choices dictate our path forward.

By Veronica Roth, Nicolas Delort (photographer),

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Divergent 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 explosive debut by No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth.

DIVERGENT - a major motion picture series.

For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs.

Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead....

A debut novel that will leave you breathless.

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Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

Book cover of Lightning Strike Blues

Gayleen Froese Author Of Lightning Strike Blues

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Communications officer Singer-songwriter Fan of all animals Role-playing geek Nature photographer

Gayleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

One summer night in a small prairie city, 18-year-old Gabriel Reece accidentally outs himself to his redneck brother Colin, flees on his motorcycle, and gets struck by lightning on his way out of town.

He’s strangely fine, walking away from his melted pile of bike without a scratch. There’s no time to consider his new inhuman durability before his brother disappears and his childhood home burns down. He’s become popular, too—local cops and a weird private eye are after him, wanting to know if his brother is behind a recent murder.

Answers might be in the ashes of the house where Gabe and Colin grew up, if Gabe and his friends can stay alive and out of jail long enough to find them.

Lightning Strike Blues

By Gayleen Froese,

What is this book about?

On Friday, Gabriel Reece gets struck by lightning while riding his motorcycle.

It's not the worst thing that happens to him that week.

Gabe walks away from a smoldering pile of metal without a scratch-or any clothes, which seem to have been vaporized. And that's weird, but he's more worried about the sudden disappearance of his brother, Colin, who ditched town the second Gabe accidentally outed himself as gay.

Gabe tries to sift through fragmented memories of his crummy childhood for clues to his sudden invincibility, but he barely has time to think before people around town start turning up…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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