The best YA books to change your life

Who am I?

For many years I have enjoyed a grass roots lifestyle. I have lived my research as a beekeeper, milking cows, making cheese and growing food. I am a simple living advocate, and the cottage industry—its slower pace—resonates with me. I create bespoke yarns at the spinning wheel, but for as long as I can recall, I have been wrapped in the arms of stories. Childhood is a dandelion clock, here then gone on a breath of wind. A time of life that’s fleeting. Young hearts can conjure exploration and magic. They are alive to bright possibilities, and this is what makes YA literature so exciting. 


I wrote...

Wish Me Gone

By D.J. Blackmore,

Book cover of Wish Me Gone

What is my book about?

A heritage listed home in the Riverina is up for grabs and Isabella’s Mum falls hopelessly in love. Isabella feels the pinch of new shoes in another school and feels she the only one in town who’s being stepped upon. Yet it seems the new immigrant family who come to pick oranges at the orchard become a target for intolerance too. But when her brother Abel takes leave from the Army barracks to disappear without a trace, the family’s tree-change plummets them into their worst fears. As the hours march irrevocably on, hope is the only weapon they posses, as each of them learn that a hero is made, not born.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

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

Jean Louise Finch is the magnifying glass that sees and understands more than her eight years would first suggest. Her nickname ‘Scout’ not only tells us something about her curiosity for life in her small-town world but is also a flag that signals the change in a single minded and racist world. 

While Lee lulls us with twilight motes filtering through the Dogwood trees lining southern sidewalks, she slowly allows us to understand that it is the innocent who live by the grace of others, and that it is most often the innocent who suffer at their hands as well. Most importantly that we are the change in our own environment if only we can look around us.

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…


Book cover of Ordinary Grace

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

Sometimes words are little more than broken eggshell, lifeless shards from where a chick once hatched. But then there are sweet notes like this which are golden for far more reasons than the sweetness of the tune. Somewhere in this story, William Kent Krueger’s words showed me what it might be like to have the wings to fly.

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ordinary Grace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013

From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger, a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

"That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word."

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their…


Book cover of The Last Sin Eater: A Novel

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

There’s a spookiness to this historical story that pulled me in straight away. But the adventure of children soon exposes a deeper chasm of heartbreak, and the vulnerability in young lives. Here in the mountain village superstition houses fear, crippling a community at large. That parents are the guidepost for how a child perceives themselves, and how they function and see the world as adults is something to think on. The Last Sin Eater teaches us all another way to live that is filled with goodness and grace.

By Francine Rivers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Sin Eater as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind pens a captivating tale of suffering, seeking, and redemption set in Appalachia in the 1850s.

In the misty peaks and valleys of Appalachia roams the sin eater—a myth as much as a man, burdened with absolving the sins of villagers passing from this life to the next. But when a young girl uncovers the dark secret behind the tradition, she vows to show her village the truth.

All that matters for young Cadi Forbes is finding the one man who can set her free from…


Book cover of Peace Like a River

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

There is something golden in the innocence of childhood. It is a cradle of poetry as ephemeral as the years themselves, yet Enger unfolds the story with the patience of a innocent listening child. Some see faith as a weakness, an absence of reason. But for believers, it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Only in understanding its essence can we attempt to see the beauty Enger shows. Here is the guidepost for the good life, reflected on by Jeremiah Land’s son.

By Leif Enger,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Peace Like a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Israel Finch and Tommy Basca, the town bullies, break into the home of school caretaker Jeremiah Land, wielding a baseball bat and looking for trouble, they find more of it than even they expected. For seventeen-year-old Davey is sitting up in bed waiting for them with a Winchester rifle. His younger brother Reuben has seen their father perform miracles, but Jeremiah now seems as powerless to prevent Davey from being arrested for manslaughter, as he has always been to ease Reuben's daily spungy struggle to breathe. Nor does brave and brilliant nine-year-old Swede, obsessed as she is with the…


Book cover of This Tender Land

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

What I love about Young Adult books like these is that we all become children again. We are the young explorer, finding the meaning of life in all its richness. There’s a freedom to believe in something beautiful that is made up of all the experiences along the way.

By William Kent Krueger,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked This Tender Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1932, Minnesota-the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O'Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent's wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will fly into the unknown and cross paths with others…


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The Emerald Necklace

By Linda Rosen,

Book cover of The Emerald Necklace

Linda Rosen Author Of The Emerald Necklace

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Novelist Swimmer Public Speaker Reader Lover of gardens

Linda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It’s 1969. Women are fighting for equality. Rosalee, an insecure sculptor, and Fran, a best-selling novelist, have their issues. Will their bitter envy of each other and long-held secrets destroy their tenuous friendship? Or will Jill, Rosalee’s granddaughter, and the story behind her emerald necklace bind them together?

A multi-generational novel of friendship and frenemies, envy, and long-held secrets that explores current issues through a historical lens. The Emerald Necklace sheds light on that inevitable time when lovers, family, friends, and circumstances change and force you to reinvent yourself whether you want to or not.

The Emerald Necklace

By Linda Rosen,

What is this book about?

"Engaging and mysterious, The Emerald Necklace sheds light on that inevitable time when lovers, family, friends and circumstances change and force you to reinvent yourself whether you want to or not." –Rebecca Rosenberg, award-winning Champagne Widows series

Three months after her husband's death in 1969, Rosalee Linoff is determined to jump back into life.

For her, that means returning to her art. She desperately wants to be accepted as a talented sculptor, but that requires she dig up the courage to submit her work again - and be judged. Her paralyzing insecurity mounts when she meets her new neighbor, best-selling…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Minnesota, coming of age, and bildungsroman?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Minnesota, coming of age, and bildungsroman.

Minnesota Explore 68 books about Minnesota
Coming Of Age Explore 1,177 books about coming of age
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