The best novels you’ll be excited to share with young adults

Laurel McHargue Author Of Waterwight
By Laurel McHargue

Who am I?

I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, so when a book makes me feel like I’m “there,” I’m hooked! My Waterwight series started with a dream and begged me to remember it. The books on my recommendation list didn’t have to beg me. Their characters and plots grabbed me, shook me, and made me feel it all—the good and the bad. I especially love psychological drama and dark humor, maybe because those elements populate my dreams, maybe because of my years in the Army followed by years of teaching. Life’s too short to waste on books that make you say, “Meh.” Give yourself permission not to finish those.

I wrote...


By Laurel McHargue,

Book cover of Waterwight

What is my book about?

In a post-cataclysmic world threatened by stinking ooze, a brave girl searches for her parents with the help of talking animals and evolving powers. When a mountain spirit challenges her to save the planet, she must overcome a magical, malicious castle of sand and a shapeshifter who wants her dead. “Mustn’t. Just mustn’t. Now run along and be a good girl like the others...”

But Celeste isn’t like the others. She’s done with being shunned by those who refuse to discuss “The Event,” the global catastrophe that changed the planet, left them orphans, and continues to pose a threat to frightened survivors. Kirkus Reviews calls Waterwight "...powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Coraline...."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Fault in Our Stars

Why did I love this book?

I’ve read heaps of books I don’t remember days—even minutes—after reading the last line, and this is not one of them. After subscribing to Green’s CrashCourse on YouTube and listening to many of his pieces from The Anthropocene Reviewed, I had to read The Fault in Our Stars.

After all of the hype surrounding the movie adaptation (“It’s a tearjerker!” “You’ll cry your eyes out!”), I didn’t want to read it, and I certainly didn’t want to love it, but my curiosity got the best of me.  

This novel is brutally honest in presenting “conventions of the cancer kid genre,” and although I experienced some “ouch” moments during verbal interactions, I recognized there’s no time for platitudes when your days are numbered. The dark humor in the two main characters’ banter is delicious.

And although readers may not believe these teens could be so witty, I wish I had friends like them. I smiled a lot while I read. I never “cried my eyes out”—though I did get choked up a bit—because Green is too intelligent to write cloyingly. 

Why won’t I watch the “tearjerker” movie? Because I loved this novel.

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Fault in Our Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beloved, #1 global bestseller by John Green, author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and Turtles All the Way Down

"John Green is one of the best writers alive." -E. Lockhart, #1 bestselling author of We Were Liars

"The greatest romance story of this decade." -Entertainment Weekly

#1 New York Times Bestseller * #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller * #1 USA Today Bestseller * #1 International Bestseller

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters…

Book cover of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Why did I love this book?

Yikes! Kesey wrote this the year I was born and published it a few years later, and its scenes haunt me still. Need a lesson in character development? This novel has it all: the wretched head nurse of the mental institution, Nurse Ratched, the stuttering Billy Bibbit (such a cruel name!), the “Chief,” who narrates and holds secrets, and among many others, our villain, Randle McMurphy, who inspired me to cheer for his acts of defiance while I cringed from the consequences. 

This novel about authority, control, brutal manipulation, and railing against it all will challenge all notions of a happy ending. It’ll stick with you, for sure. As a bonus, the 1975 film adaptation with Jack Nicholson is as memorable as the novel.

By Ken Kesey,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's 1962 novel has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Now in a new deluxe edition with a foreword by Chuck Palahniuk and cover by Joe Sacco, here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them…

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of The Hunger Games

Why did I love this book?

This first book in a trilogy I consumed like it was made of my favorite chocolate, The Hunger Games kept me wanting more. I totally related to Katniss Everdeen, maybe because of my past experiences in the US Army. I understood when she recognized she had to “play the game” in order to survive (and keep her little sister alive), even when it pained her—physically and emotionally—to do so. Told from her first-person perspective, the story pulled me right into each vivid moment and never released me. The characters are believable in an unbelievably cruel world, and the rare moments of tenderness are made all that more profound by the savageness of their circumstances. 

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

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...

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak,

Book cover of The Book Thief

Why did I love this book?

A book narrated from the POV of Death? Yes, please! 

Although I expected a book about a foster child in Nazi Germany to be sad (of course it is!), Death’s dark humor provides moments of relief throughout his narrative, and “his” apparent fondness for young Liesel, the MC, is surprising. Faced with tragic loss from the onset, Liesel nevertheless finds ways to remain hopeful, and her spirit heals those she encounters. The suspense of wondering who would be “next”... and the beautiful development of the various relationships in this beefy novel... kept me turning pages until late at night.

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph


1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


The Giver of Stars

By Jojo Moyes,

Book cover of The Giver of Stars

Why did I love this book?

Books about strong women—and weak women who learn to be strong—have always interested me, so when I heard about this novel based on actual packhorse librarians in Depression Era America, I had to learn about this unusual place in time. Anyone who’s ever had to move to an unfamiliar place will relate to Alice and her challenges of fitting in with people so different from those she’s known. Filled with vivid scenic details, troubled romance, evolving friendships, and ever-lurking danger, this story gave me all of the ”feels” and left me smiling.

By Jojo Moyes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Giver of Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A great narrative about personal strength and really captures how books bring communities together." -Reese Witherspoon

From the author of The Last Letter from Your Lover, now a major motion picture on Netflix, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond in Depression-era America

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve, hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when…

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